Head coach emphasizes trust, mentality with postseason at stake
For the Rutgers women’s lacrosse team, to say its season has had its fair share of ups and downs is putting it lightly.
The Scarlet Knights (7-7, 1-3) have experienced a three-game losing streak, a three-game winning streak and a back-and-forth fight in their last three games, going 1-2 in that stretch.
With the season coming down to the final three games, a renewed emphasis has been placed on team unity and focus in order to make the Big East Tournament.
Head coach Laura Brand-Sias has rallied the Knights to put the rest of the season behind them and focus on the task at hand, which is winning their last three games to make the postseason.
For Rutgers, the theme of the entire season has been trust.
Trusting in one another on and off the field, along with helping each other out through the season’s turns has been a point of emphasis for Brand-Sias, and it has rubbed off on her players.
“Just coming together after these tough losses and seeing how we can help each other off the field is where the trust factor comes in,” said senior midfielder Amanda Trendell, “and how we need to rely on each other and push everyone to know that we can, and should be in the Big East [Tournament] this season.”
The bonds that Brand-Sias tried to create among the team early on in the season have played a large role in keeping Rutgers together through the year.
The messages Brand-Sias has stressed to her team have influenced how the players view their head coach.
“She is great at getting the team together when things aren’t going our way,” said senior defender Chelsea Intrabartola. “Whether it’s during games, at practice or in the locker room, she’s really about making sure we all stay united as a team through thick and thin.”
The personal level that Brand-Sias reaches with her players has also been a key to the development of each individual on the team. The confidence and trust she imparts on everyone, Intrabartola says, makes a larger difference than it may appear.
“She’s always had confidence in my ability since my freshman year, and it has helped me grow as a player and make me feel like a leader on the team,” Intrabartola said.
Brand-Sias has stated her goal through all of the team activities, film sessions and post-game talks is to improve the mental toughness of her team, first and foremost.
“It’s definitely been a work in progress to keep everyone mentally tough,” Brand-Sias said. “The coaching staff has tried to be as transparent as possible with who is in a position to play, and while it’s not the easiest thing to do, we try to communicate with the team as much as we can.”
Mental toughness is a characteristic that Brand-Sias believes is the difference between winning and losing games. It translates into focus on and off the field, along with keeping a level state of mind in games where the Knights are down by a large margin.
Rutgers has lacked the necessary toughness recently to win close games. Despite this, Brand-Sias has delivered the same message to her team.
“This time of year, it is definitely harder to keep everyone focused because we have a tough road ahead of us, but it’s important stressing to them that we still have opportunities to make the Big East Tournament,” Brand-Sias said.
The road to the Big East Tournament starts again on Thursday against Cincinnati.
Despite sitting three games behind first place, Rutgers controls its own destiny and will qualify for the Tournament if it wins out in the regular season.
The Knights know how important the match is for the postseason chances, thanks to the reinforcement given by Brand-Sias.
“She’s constantly reminding us that we’re still in this, and we still have a shot if we work hard over these next three games and don’t put our heads down and give up,” Intrabartola said.
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