Goalie steps up during late-season playoff push
The Rutgers women’s lacrosse team has had problems with consistency all season.
That was evident in the Scarlet Knights’ last game against Loyola (Md.), when the Knights failed to capitalize on strong play in the first half.
Though the Greyhounds scored 15 goals in their victory, head coach Laura Brand-Sias believes junior goalkeeper Lily Kalata’s dependable play this season has been her biggest improvement.
“That’s definitely been something that has been up and down for her in the past and is something that we always discussed,” Brand-Sias said. “So to see her maturing into the role and to take control of that aspect of her game is a nice thing to have.”
That consistency was on display two weekends ago, when Rutgers played Big East teams Louisville and Cincinnati in back-to-back games.
With their playoff lives in the balance, the Knights secured victories against both teams in large part because of the play between the pipes.
Kalata allowed 11 goals against Louisville, but registered a career-high 14 saves in the win. She was also reliable in goal in the following game, when she stopped three shots in the Knights’ 13-10 victory against Cincinnati.
“She’s making a lot more of the saves that she should be making,” Brand-Sias said. “So it allows our defense to play with more confidence because they know she is going to be solid behind them.”
Kalata’s performance in both contests earned her recognition on the Big East Weekly Honor Roll, something the Nesconset, N.Y., native credits to the team and new coach Lisa Staedt Ojea, who joined the staff this season after coaching at Louisville.
“Her help and pushing us the whole time is good,” Kalata said. “Her coaching style never lets us get down on ourselves and pushes us that much harder every day.”
She also believes her success this season has been possible by the way she approaches games.
“I’m playing with more confidence,” Kalata said. “I’ve been playing since freshman year, and I’ve always been nervous before games. So I just think not letting myself get down too much, and just knowing that I can beat these girls and stop anyone shots on any given day makes me confident in myself.”
As the Knights await their regular season finale against Georgetown, Kalata’s recent play is more valuable than ever.
Both teams play in a win-or-go-home matchup where the winner takes the fourth and final spot in the Big East Tournament.
The Hoyas enter the game with a No. 15 ranking and lead the Big East with 33.71 shots per game. Georgetown also ranks third in the conference with 13.71 goals per game, so Kalata’s play in Friday’s game will have a significant effect on if Rutgers’ season extends beyond the regular seaosn.
“It’s extremely important,” Brand-Sias said. “We have some of the best shooting teams against us from here on out. So we definitely need her to be on her game and ready to step up.”