Key starters return for RU?offense
After ending the season on a four-game losing streak, any positivity surrounding the Rutgers women’s lacrosse team is directed toward its future.
With a young attack and an experienced returning defense, the Scarlet Knights have much to look forward to.
But their work in the offseason may be the determining factor of the team’s success.
“[The players] need to recognize the things they need to change and do a better job of, as do we as a staff,” Brand-Sias said. “[We need to] be prepared to work extremely hard to improve in the areas that we need to improve in and really hit the ground running in the fall.”
All signs point to midfielder Katrina Martinelli to lead the offense her senior year, a role she is ready to embrace after scoring a team-leading 47 points this season.
Martinelli will not have to carry the offensive pressure on her own, as she will play alongside current-junior midfielder Amanda Trendell and current-junior attack Megan Clements. Both players combined to score 35 goals and have thrived when on the field playing together.
“We’re losing a couple of seniors, that’s going to have an impact on us,” Martinelli said. “But we have a lot of starters coming back, the freshman class is a great class, and our whole [junior] class is coming back.”
A trio of freshman attackers began to show their potential this season to help balance the attack.
Attack Halley Barnes, one of the Knights’ more promising younger players, displayed her ability to score this season as she found the back of the net 18 times. A number of early-season injuries allowed midfielder Chrissy Schreiber and attack Kim Kolodny to gain experience in early action.
That included a knee injury to senior midfielder Stephanie Anderson, who went down against Temple Feb. 20 and missed the rest of the season
While injuries did nothing to help the team, especially in conference play, Brand-Sias said it will benefit the offense going forward as they have already learned to adjust.
While some younger players stepped up, Rutgers will still have to deal with the loss of some major contributors to graduation.
It will be without the production of senior attack Annie McGinley. Despite battling the effects of a severe knee injury suffered early in her collegiate career, McGinley was the team’s third-leading scorer with 22 points.
But in losing one of their main contributors on offense, the Knights will have another back on the active roster.
Junior midfielder Lauren Sbrilli, who redshirted this season because of injury, ranked second on the team in 2011 with 33 goals.
“She was our offensive leader in the fall,” Brand-Sias said. “She probably was one of the most powerful, effective offensive players we had all fall season. Having her back is going to make a huge difference.”
On the defensive side, Rutgers will adjust to life without Lily Kalata.
The senior goalkeeper has started each game in net for the past four seasons and was the ninth-ranked goalkeeper in the nation this season with an average of eight goals per game allowed.
But the Knights maintain two goalies on the roster.
“We have two outstanding options in [sophomore] Candace Dandridge and [sophomore] Amanda Currell,” Brand-Sias said, “so they’re going to have a very healthy competition from day one in the fall.”
Currell led Moorestown (N.J.) High School to a 26-0 season and a No. 2 national ranking in 2012. Dandridge was a two-sport athlete at West Cherry Hill (N.J.) High School. She started three years of lacrosse and field hockey.
Whoever gets the nod in goal next season will have the benefit of standing behind an elite defense.
Rutgers finished the season ranked sixth in the nation in scoring defense. While Kalata played a major role in the feat, the chemistry of its upperclassmen defenders was arguably the team’s greatest strength.
“This team has a lot of potential, most of our starters are in the junior class,” Kalata said. “Losing me I think will teach them a lot, so that when I leave, they’re able to stay pretty strong. They just need to get a goalkeeper in there and I really think they’re going to do extremely well.”
Redshirt sophomore defender Hollie DiMuro was a standout among a highly consistent defense. She paced the team in caused turnovers and groundballs.
Having been a Knight for three years, DiMuro has experience playing with juniors Chelsea Intrabartola, Claire MacDougall and Sarah Mahon.