Rutgers goes back on road to Philadelphia
After earning a win in its home opener, the Rutgers women’s lacrosse team looks to replicate that success away from home and against a ranked team.
The Scarlet Knights (3-1) head back on the road to face No. 12 Penn (2-0) Wednesday night. The two teams have faced off in each of the past seven seasons, with Rutgers’ only win coming in 2013.
After a hard-fought victory against Delaware on Saturday, the Knights immediately set their sights on the Quakers.
“We need to have a few days of really tough practice to make sure we’re fully prepared for them,” said senior midfielder Alana Navaroli following the win against the Blue Hens. “We need to come out like we did today as a team and believe in ourselves, and we can do it.”
Even though Penn is one of the top 15 teams in the country, Rutgers isn’t fazed, and players know what they have to do in order to win.
Last year's match with the then-No. 10 Quakers was well within reach, but the team couldn't catch up to them and ultimately fell, 11-9.
“We need to stay confident,” said sophomore midfielder Samantha Budd. “(The fact that) they’re a ranked team doesn’t mean anything. I know that we can play with them and give them a good fight ... we just need to have a positive attitude throughout the whole game. That way we’ll be successful.”
Despite never trailing on Saturday, the team did let its guard down a bit and allowed Delaware to get back into the game at some points. Head coach Laura Brand Sias praised her team for overcoming those bumps and made it a point of emphasis to focus on it before the next game.
The Knights will certainly not be able to let their guard down against Penn if they want to win. The Quakers were the seventh seed in last year’s NCAA Tournament, but lost in overtime to Navy in the first round.
They returned 6 of 7 players who scored more than 10 goals last season. Seniors Emily Rogers-Healion, Alex Condon and Caroline Cummings combined for 116 goals, and they’re all back this season.
Condon currently leads Penn with 6 goals this season, and freshman Zoe Belodeau and sophomore Gabby Rosenzweig each have 5. Belodeau scored 4 goals in the 12-11 win over Johns Hopkins last Saturday, including the game-winner with less than a minute to go.
The Quakers have one of the best defenses in the country so far, having the seventh-best scoring defense at this point in the early season.
“They’re really solid,” Sias said. “They’re known for defense, and they don’t give up a lot of goals, so we’re going to have to work on our dodges, shifts and momentum on the offensive side of the ball.”
They've given up 8 goals per game and have the reigning Ivy League Defensive Player of the Week in junior Katy Junior. An All-American last year, Junior caused three turnovers and three ground balls in the win against Johns Hopkins.
Another thing that Navaroli touched on was the need to cut down on turnovers. The team had 14 against the Blue Hens and will have to decrease that total against a team that has forced 23 turnovers in just two games.
“If we tighten that up, Penn will have less to capitalize on,” Navaroli said.
Rutgers will look to counter with its offense, and it has had at least six players score goals in every game so far. Of note, Budd has scored 10 goals in the last two games, but has said that her production could come from anyone because of how the team plays.
Other than Budd, the Knights have four players with more than 5 goals. Senior attacker and captain Kerri Puckhaber and senior midfielder Paige Paratore each have 8, while junior attackers Dana Gisonno and Abbey Brooks each have 6. Budd, Brooks and Puckhaber also each have 10 or more points with 15, 12 and 10, respectively.
After losing 8-of-9 draw controls in the first half on Saturday, Rutgers won 11-of-18 in the second half. Navaroli had a season-high 10 draw controls and is currently second on the team with 17. Budd is in first with 23.
In the end, Budd was very blunt when asked what she wanted to have accomplished when the final whistle blew Wednesday night.
“A win,” she said.
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