Junior returns from injury on torrid pace
In the Rutgers women’s lacrosse team’s loss to Syracuse on Saturday, midfielder Stephanie Anderson registered her team-leading 30th goal of the season on a pass from junior attack Annie McGinley.
The goal also led to Anderson’s sixth hat trick. But for the junior, being the team’s leading scorer did not cross her mind entering this season.
Injuries tend to keep things in perspective, and Anderson is happy with taking the field.
“I came into the season just hoping that I could play after coming off of a major injury last year and hoping that I was going to have a major role,” Anderson said.
The injury occurred midway through her sophomore campaign, when Anderson tore her ACL against Hofstra.
Anderson came off of a rookie season in which she played in all 16 games for the Scarlet Knights while registering 16 goals and 20 points.
The knee injury put a halt to her on-field progression. Anderson found the back of the net nine times in six games before suffering her season-ending injury. But Anderson turned her time away into a learning experience.
“I had a lot of time to watch the games and be on the sideline and just seeing my team,” Anderson said. “So just being on the sideline, I could make adjustments to my game by seeing them work as a team.”
Her improvement is evident in Rutgers’ 7-5 record this season. Not only has she led the Knights in goals, but she has accumulated back-to-back Big East Honor Roll selections — the most on the team.
Being recognized by the conference was an honor, the Wading River, N.Y. native said. Anderson credits the work put in during the summer and fall to rejoin her teammates as a reason why she has played so well this season.
“I just think I’m a lot more focused this year and more confident with myself,” Anderson said. “I know the injury took a lot out of me, and it motivated me more to be a team player. I love this team, and I want to be there for my teammates, so that has pushed me to be a better player.”
If there is anyone happy to see her healthy and back on the field, it is head coach Laura Brand-Sias. Anderson enters Friday’s matchup against Louisville scoring on 55.6 percent of her shots and accounting for 22 percent of the team’s goals scored.
She also brings an energy Brand-Sias believes is invaluable to the Knights’ success in their remaining games.
“It’s great to have her back and to have her performing well this season,” Brand-Sias said. “She’s very intense and passionate about the sport and about us being successful, so it’s always great to have a kid like that.”
The midfielder has turned up her play recently, notching 11 goals this month in three games. And with three Big East games remaining — including two at home — her offensive surge arrived at the right time for Rutgers.
“The games for us are obviously Big East games, so for me to get my sixth straight hat trick is awesome, and I’m super excited,” Anderson said. “Just the momentum that has helped carry me through those past six games is really helpful.”