Freshman play key part for Rutgers as it looks to snap four-game skid against UConn
With every problem comes a solution, and for the Rutgers women’s lacrosse team, its solution may come within the hands of some of its freshmen players moving forward.
The Scarlet Knights’ (1-4) next opportunity comes against a very high-scoring offense in UConn (3-0) at High Point Solutions Stadium on Saturday.
This year’s meeting marks the 19th time the two teams play each other, a series in which the Knights have won 13 games.
Rutgers is returning to its home field after suffering a 15-8 loss to No. 16 Penn on Wednesday, where some of the Knights’ freshmen players showed their ability to contribute to the offense when called upon.
Freshman attacker Emily Santana scored her fourth and fifth goal of the season, while freshman attacker Abigail Lee Brooks scored her first career goal in the first action she has seen for Rutgers.
The showing from the two freshmen has coach Laura Brand-Sias considering more use out of her young guns as they continue to develop. Brand-Sias said that any players giving the Knights more offensive production deserves to be recognized.
“We have to see how things progress and I think certainly someone like an Emily (Santana) has stepped in, and she’s impacted our offense every time she’s gone in and we can’t ignore,” Brand-Sias said of her freshmen. “We certainly need to have more offensive production so we need to assess that, and if people are giving us more offensive production and putting more shots on (the) cage, we need to be giving those people better opportunities.”
Senior attacker Halley Barnes said she gave Brooks a few words of advice right before she entered into her first college game, trying to invoke confidence in her freshman teammate.
“As soon as Abby stepped out on the field, I told her, 'Hey, you’re getting the ball and you're dodging hard and ripping a shot',” Barnes said. “She got the ball and dodged hard and she made something happen out of it. She didn’t necessarily get a shot off of it, but I just think that her knowing that we all have confidence, for all the freshmen knowing that we all have confidence that really helps them.”
Senior defender Addington Elliot said her freshmen teammates have really impressed her with the composure they have in their ability to keep playing their game even when things are not going in the Knights' favor.
“When they have made mistakes, they kind of just brush it off and move on to the next play,” Elliot said. “I think that’s really important, because they’re not thinking too much. They’re letting it go and moving on and just doing better the next play.”
Rutgers' success against their former Big East rival has shifted in UConn’s favor recently, as the Huskies have beaten Rutgers in the last three matches, including an 18-7 win over the Knights in 2015.
In last year’s meeting with UConn, Rutgers found itself in a close game throughout the first half, but were put away by a scoring outburst from the Huskies in the second.
In that game, the Knights took the advantage on draw controls, but were outshot 37-17 and only converted 2 of their 8 free position shots.
Rutgers' scorers from last year’s matchup returning for the game on Saturday include junior attacker Amanda Turturro and senior attacker Kim Kolodny. Turturro currently has two goals and three assists on the season, while Kolodny sits at third on the Knights in points with five goals and four assists.
UConn heads into its game against the Knights undefeated on the season, where the Huskies have outscored their opposition 46-17 in their three games averaging a little over 15 goals per game.
UConn is coming off of 13-7 win in its most recent game against New Hampshire last Saturday.
Rutgers will have a tough task at hand trying to contain senior attacker Katherine Finkelston, who scored four goals against the Knights last season.
Finkelston has 14 goals and dished 3 assists for the Huskies this season, continuing her dominance from last year, where she finished with 40 goals and 17 assists.
UConn's leading scorer was named the Big East Offensive Player of the Week after scoring 10 times in their first two games.
Sophomore attacker Grace Nolan, who scored twice against Rutgers as a freshman, is another player that can be expected to disrupt the Knights' defensive play. With a full year of experience behind the reigning Big East Rookie of the Year, Nolan has nine goals after putting up 26 goals and 20 assists last season.
Rutgers will have a great opportunity to spark a turnaround in its season against the Huskies on Saturday, where some of its younger talent may see their roles on the team increased. Elliot said that even though the freshmen have less experience, they are still a key part of the Knights’ team.
“Even though they are freshmen, they have earned the right to be on the field just as much as we have as seniors," Elliot said. "I think that we just need to be confident and make sure they know we have their backs at all times."
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