Rutgers overcomes first half lapse in home win
The Rutgers women’s lacrosse team put together a timely three-goal run halfway through the first period Saturday, giving it a spark against in-state foe Monmouth in its 13-7 victory.
But the two-goal lead at the break was not satisfying for head coach Laura Brand-Sias or the squad.
“We were playing terribly,” said junior attack Annie McGinley of the team’s first half performance. “No matter how many goals we scored, we were just awful.”
Exchanging goals with Monmouth, the Scarlet Knights found themselves struggling from the start.
“We weren’t catching, throwing or getting after ground balls the way Monmouth was,” McGinley said.
Despite the poor start, Brand-Sias found a way to counteract her squad’s woes with the visiting Hawks.
“There were some miscues in the midfield,” the 10th-year head coach said. “It gave them wide-open opportunities.”
The second-half turnaround was about being patient for senior co-captain Ali Steinberg, who recorded five goals and two assists on the day.
“We didn’t want to force anything,” Steinberg said. “We were waiting for the other team to make their mistakes.”
Steinberg and the Knights did so by forcing seven Monmouth turnovers in the second half.
Rutgers also limited its turnovers, committing three less giveaways in the second period.
Holding a 12-6 cushion with six minutes to play, Brand-Sias substituted in junior goalie Aimee Chotikul for junior starter Lily Kalata.
Kalata recorded nine saves in her 54 minutes of play, and her classmate tacked on two stops in her closing stint between the pipes.
Senior defender Rebecca Alley won three draw controls and limited Monmouth’s leading goal scorer, Sam Lillo, scoreless in the second half.
Control was the team’s second-half theme.
Outscoring the Hawks 7-3 in the second half, the Knights eliminated their costly mistakes.
Backed by four second-half scores from Steinberg, Rutgers dictated the pace.
Brand-Sias’ halftime pep talk became the turning point for the team.
“Coach laid out all of our obvious mistakes to us,” McGinley said. “Our halftime talk really turned it around.”
Brand-Sias made the defensive adjustment to keep the Hawks offense in check.
The second-half performance helped to null two quick strikes and a 2-1 Monmouth (1-6) lead.
The Knights will also try to control Wednesday’s home matchup against St. Joseph’s (4-4), which arrives in Piscataway with a loss against Monmouth.
“We need to make sure [that] mentally, we’re not looking past St. Joe’s,” McGinley said. “We can’t think it’s an easy game for us because every time we do that, we end up not playing as well.”
With momentum building and a two-game win streak, the opportunity provides a final surge before diving into the Big East season.