Knights clinch playoff seed in tight victory
On a day with emotions riding high and the season on the line, the Rutgers women’s lacrosse team pulled out a tight 11-10 win Friday night against Temple at High Point Solutions Stadium.
It was senior day for the Scarlet Knights (9-8, 3-4) and potentially the last game for many of the players that have been relied upon to carry Rutgers all season.
There were a number of playoff scenarios possible for the fourth and final spot in the Big East Tournament. Friday’s win ensured that the Knights would get into the postseason with some help from another Big East rival, Connecticut.
They got the help they needed.
The Huskies (10-6, 5-2) defeated Villanova (8-8, 3-4) Saturday afternoon, 15-4. After UConn’s victory, Rutgers clinched the fourth seed with the leading goal differential in a three-way tie and will return to the playoffs for the first time since 2008.
Rutgers and Temple (6-10, 3-4) traded goals late, with the Knights down by one tally with seven minutes left in the game.
Realizing the Knights needed to push, sophomore attacker Kim Kolodny scored the tying goal for Rutgers off an assist from senior attacker Megan Clements with 6:15 remaining.
Head coach Laura Brand-Sias then called a timeout at 3:46 to set up the team’s offense.
Rutgers executed with precision and Kolodny netted the game winner off a feed from junior midfielder Lauren Sbrilli with 2:39 left in the second half.
After struggling much of the game, Kolodny proved to be the difference-maker the Knights needed to come away with a win.
“We were waiting for Kim to hit her stride, she’s someone we rely on to come up with some big finishes in games,” Brand-Sias said. “She had a little bit of a rough start to the game but got her legs back under her for the end and come up with those huge goals at the end.”
The contest was full of momentum swings.
Rutgers scored the first goal of the second half off junior midfielder Jenny Vlahos’s shot. The Owls quickly responded, though, scoring three unanswered goals to give them the first lead of the game at 16:06 in the second half.
The Knights jumped out to an early 3-0 lead behind goals from senior attackers Katrina Martinelli, Clements and Sbrilli.
The Owls fought back to even the score at 3, and the scoring went back and forth for the rest of the half. The Knights scored a crucial goal with 1:12 left in the first half from Martinelli to gain the upper hand, 6-5, before halftime.
“It was all momentum,” Sbrilli said. “We wanted that going into the second half and having that positive attitude coming out of halftime.”
Rutgers knew the game was going to be tightly contested with a number of ups and downs, much like its entire season had gone up to this point.
One of the main areas that the Knights were focused on shutting down on Temple was its transition offense. With the Owls a dangerous team in the fast break, the Knights kept their defense back much of the game to prevent the Owls any easy opportunities to score.
“We knew that they were going to be fast on offense,” said senior defender Chelsea Intrabartola. “We just did our best to stay in front of them and slow them down so they wouldn’t get any fast break chances on us.”
On the stat sheet, the numbers were just as close as the final score.
Rutgers had the advantage in one key area — draw controls. A part of their game that they knew needed to improve, the Knights had a 13-10 advantage in faceoffs. This allowed them to set up their offense and dictate how the game was played.
The key player for the Knights on draw control was freshman defender Sara Kramer, who registered two important draw controls while also collecting three ground balls.
“It was huge,” Brand-Sias said. “We used her [Kramer] sporadically in the beginning of the season with her being a freshman, but we’ve been using her more in the past few games and she’s really stepping up into the role and came up huge today.”
With the season riding on this game, the Knights came out and played with the intensity necessary to earn a win.
“It was our senior game and last chance to get into the Big East [Tournament],” Intrabartola said. “My entire heart and the team’s entire heart were in this game.”
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