Road trip tests Rutgers' intensity
With the season coming down to the final stretch, the Rutgers women’s lacrosse team is determined to finish the rest of the season 3-0.
The Scarlet Knights (7-7, 1-3) know that if they win out in the regular season, a Big East Tournament berth is likely.
The Knights currently sit in sixth place in the conference, one game behind the qualifying top four. Villanova, one of the teams tied for fourth, holds the tiebreaker over the Knights with a 14-11 win March 29.
Rutgers’ march to the postseason continues tonight when they face Cincinnati on the road. The Bearcats (6-8, 0-4) are last in the AAC.
While this contest has large implications for the postseason, the Knights have placed a special emphasis on their game against the Bearcats.
Last season, Cincinnati ended the Knights playoff hopes with a 9-8 upset.
This time around, Rutgers is determined to settle the score with their Big East rival.
“The Cincinnati game is bigger for us than the Big East Tournament,” said head coach Laura Brand-Sias. “It’s a game that we got upset in last year so we need to come in ready to avenge last year’s loss and put ourselves in a better position for the Big East Tournament.”
The Bearcats have been inconsistent this season but feature a number of talented players. Sophomore Courtney Curtis has registered 25 goals on the season with 32 total points, while junior Ashley Helmrath has also accumulated 32 points.
Locking down both players will be critical for the Knights, as their defense has struggled in the second half of the season.
“We need to improve our one-on-one defense, stay with dodgers and slide when someone gets beat if we want to put together a better defensive performance,” said senior defender Chelsea Intrabartola.
The Knights have allowed their opponents to register double-digit goal totals in four of the last five games. Improving on this side of the ball will be a critical factor in the Knights’ postseason run.
Another area the Knights admitted needs improvement is on the draw.
The faceoff is a pivotal part in every game, and the team with the advantage in draw controls has the ability to set up its offense and dictate the flow of the game.
“We need to win on the draw,” said senior midfielder Amanda Trendell. “It was a huge factor in Sunday’s game and once we get the draw we’re able to get our attack going and possess the ball, which is important in helping our defense.”
With its next two games coming on the road, Rutgers’ focus and mental toughness will be tested. Cincinnati and Louisville — Rutgers’ opponent on Saturday — will pose different problems. But the Knights seem prepared for the challenges ahead.
“It’s definitely hard to stay focused on the road,” Trendell said. “We just need to stick to our game plan and not get distracted from all the outside factors, and study our film to find the weaknesses in our opponents.”
The Knights’ competitive fire has been lacking lately, which both the coaching staff and players have noticed.
But the opportunity is still present for Rutgers to turn it around and reach its ultimate goal of making the postseason.
“Our intensity is so important. A lot of games so far we haven’t been able to put together a complete game because we start out slow in the first half,” Intrabartola said. “If we come in with that fire in the first half against Cincinnati, then we can stay ahead of them the whole game and not have to climb out of a hole in the second half.”
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