Veteran experience gives Rutgers Big East playoff hopes
Coming into its final year in the Big East conference, the Rutgers women’s lacrosse team has kept one goal in mind: make the postseason.
Despite the Scarlet Knights’ (6-5, 0-1) inconsistencies this year, the goal has remained the same due in large part to the veteran presence that surrounds the team in every unit.
There is no greater example of this than in the Knights’ defense.
Rutgers features a defensive unit comprised of senior starters Sara Mahon, Chelsea Intrabartola and Claire MacDougall, junior Hollie DiMuro and sophomore Taylor Pennell.
They have been the guiding force for Rutgers all season long, which many of the players have noted.
“When you have your entire starting defense returning from last season, it definitely helps,” said senior midfielder Amanda Trendell.
The development of redshirt freshman goalkeeper Amanda Currell is one of the many benefits the defense has had on the team.
Before this season, Currell had never seen playing time at the collegiate level. Now, she is an experienced starter that has been named to the Big East Weekly Honor Roll three times this season.
“They’ve been really supportive and shown excitement for me when I go into games,” Currell said. “And their support makes me want to play for them just as hard as they do.”
Other freshmen spoke on how important the defense’s leadership has been in their development.
“Whenever I have questions I know I can come to them, and they’ve really helped me get a feel for what the program is like here,” said freshman attacker Amanda Turturro.
The defense has had its share of ups and downs this season. After starting the season 3-1 and allowing only 6.5 goals per game, the Knights’ defense has given up seven or more goals in its past six games.
Despite its recent struggles, the unit has remained focused on the season as a whole and is working to get back into a groove.
“We have a nice chemistry that we’ve gotten away from and are trying to get back this week,” Mahon said. “And once we have that we can just vibe off of each other.”
Head coach Laura Brand-Sias explained how important the defense is for the team as a whole, along with its current state at this point in the season.
“We’re spending this week to really reinvent our defense and fix what hasn’t been working,” Brand-Sias said.
Of all the units for the Knights, Brand-Sias said she has the most confidence in her defense.
“It takes a weight off of my shoulder knowing we have that staple defense back there, and we expect more leadership to come from the defense,” Brand-Sias said.
With the wealth of experience on the back end of the team, rebounding from its recent struggles is expected. The team as a whole, along with the coaching staff, knows how important capturing a Big East title would mean for the veterans.
Brand-Sias, who played at midfield for the Knights’ only NCAA qualifying team, wants to get these seniors a taste of what the postseason is like above all else.
“For me, I’ve experienced the postseason as both a player and a coach, and they don’t know what that feeling is like,” Brand-Sias said. “So it would mean a ton to get them there.”
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