Rutgers opens season with win over Villanova for second straight year
Junior attacker Kristina Dunphey erupted for five goals on Friday, leading the Rutgers women’s lacrosse team to victory in its season opener against Villanova.
The Scarlet Knights (1-0) defeated the Wildcats (0-1) in a high-scoring 14-8 contest, marking the second straight season that Rutgers opened with a win against its former Big East conference rival.
The biggest story undoubtedly was the five-goal outburst by Dunphey, who was named to the Big Ten Players to Watch list in the preseason. The Hillsborough, New Jersey, native capped off her third career hat trick in the second half and added two more before the final buzzer.
Rutgers head coach Laura Brand-Sias did not seem too surprised by Dunphey’s performance.
“We watch her perform every day in practice," Brand-Sias said. "She’s a very dynamic player and she’s hard to stop, so we weren’t surprised by her results."
Rutgers senior attacker Kim Kolodny, who led the team in total points last season, started off the scoring with a goal from a free-position shot. After the Knights' first goal, the Wildcats answered with two goals of their own, giving Villanova the lead.
It was Dunphey’s first goal of the game that opened the flood gates for the Rutgers offense. The Knights finished the first half leading 7-3, scoring four of those goals from free position shots.
After switching goalies to start the second half, Villanova started to make a push back with two quick goals coming from senior attacker Jackie Froccaro and freshman attacker Jillian Swikart.
Froccaro, who was named the Big East Preseason Player of the Year, finished the game with four goals, but it was not enough to match the Knights' offense that once again came storming out in the second half.
Holding a lead was one of the things that Rutgers struggled with last season. Although the Knights didn’t start the second half the way they wanted to, Kolodny said they were able to break away from Villanova, proving their ability to stay in front this year.
“We definitely didn’t come out in the second like we wanted to, but in the end it worked out,” Kolodny said.
Junior midfielder Macy Scott’s goal put a stop to the Wildcats' momentum by starting off the chain of four unanswered goals, which gave the Knights enough breathing room to seal off the win.
Senior attacker Halley Barnes, who finished the game with two goals, scored midway through the half. Her goal ended up as the game decider.
But Rutgers was not done scoring after Barnes’ goal. The Knights scored four more goals to cap off their total at 14, three of which came from Dunphey.
“We just wanted to keep our momentum going, and we didn’t want to slow down,” Dunphey said.
It was a great showing of the depth Rutgers has in its offense, getting goals from seven different players in the win.
Brand-Sias noted that in order to be successful, the Knights cannot have one or two players that need to be shut down in order to stop their offense. She wants Rutgers to be known as a multifaceted team, making it a threat from every position.
Junior attacker Amanda Turturro deposited two goals, while adding an assist on fellow sophomore attacker Joanna Reilly's goal.
Sophomore attacker Kerri Puckhaber also contributed with a goal and assist in the first half.
The offense wasn’t the only thing that shined in the Knights' win over Villanova.
Sophomore goalkeeper Bianca Dente, who made her college lacrosse debut against the Wildcats, played a big part in stopping a Villanova comeback. Despite allowing eight goals, the Yorktown, New York, native made seven saves, while stopping all three of the Wildcats' free-position attempts.
“I’m happy for her," Brand-Sias said of her netminder. "It was her first college game and first college start, so there’s definitely going to be some nerves associated with that. I think that once she got that first save under her belt she just ran with it for the rest of the game, and she had a solid performance.”
The Knights look to continue their offense production when they head to West Long Branch to face Monmouth on Wednesday. Although scoring five goals in a game is a great individual milestone, Dunphey is only focused on having team success moving forward.
“Anything I can do to help our team win, I’m gonna do it,” she said.
For updates on the Rutgers women's lacrosse team, follow @TargumSports on Twitter.