Lacrosse: RU prepares for conference slate
With its next victory, the Rutgers women’s lacrosse team will tie its season total in wins from a year ago.
As Big East action is upon them, the Knights have set themselves up for a successful second half with their play in the early months.
Rutgers is undefeated at home, where it will play its next five conference games.
But the level of competition Rutgers faced with its non-conference schedule acts as a primer for what lies ahead.
The Knights’ most recent victory came last Sunday against Marquette — a future Big East member.
In what stands as a marquee victory so far this season, Rutgers knocked off No. 20 Penn on March 6 in a gritty, 6-5 effort.
But its success has not come without a variety of challenges through the first 10 games, including injuries to key players and difficult weather conditions.
A plethora of midfielders and attackers stepped up to provide offense in the absence of senior midfielder Stephanie Anderson, who is sidelined with an injury.
Junior midfielder Katrina Martinelli has scored from the outset and leads the team with 25 goals.
She was followed by the emergence of classmates, junior attack Megan Clements and junior midfielder Amanda Trendell, as they both have become reliable scorers with more than 10 goals each.
On the defensive end, senior goalkeeper Lily Kalata has taken control with a save percentage greater than .500 and a top-five ranking among goalies nationally.
She is supported by: returning junior defenders Chelsea Intrabartola, Claire MacDougall and redshirt sophomore Jenny Vlahos.
The chemistry developed by the defense has produced strong numbers. The team allowed just more than six goals per game, good for third best in the nation.
“There are so many really good teams in the Big East,” Kalata said. “Their offenses are amazing, so we’ve been able to get into a good system now, but in conference we’re going to have to bring it that much more.”
With five games in a row decided by three goals or less, the Knights have had to play a full 60 minutes to come away with wins.
Even after an 8-7 loss to Temple in the second game of the season on Feb. 20 — a defeat very similar to one a year ago — the team was able to bounce back.
But with meetings against highly ranked teams such as Syracuse and Loyola on the horizon, the Knights understand the toughest games are yet to come.
“The teams are going to get a lot more challenging, we know that we need to work together and communicate together,” Vlahos said. “We just know it’s going to be a lot harder.”