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Rutgers focuses on details at No. 15 Penn

<p>Redshirt freshman goalie Amanda Currell is coming off her best start of the season Saturday, when she recorded 13 saves and a team-high eight ground balls.</p>

Redshirt freshman goalie Amanda Currell is coming off her best start of the season Saturday, when she recorded 13 saves and a team-high eight ground balls.

With the Rutgers women’s lacrosse team set to square off against No. 15 Penn in Philadelphia tonight, the Scarlet Knights have been working hard in hopes of starting the season 4-1.

The Knights (3-1) have focused on the little things in practice in order to compete with the talented Quakers (1-1).

One aspect the Knights have emphasized heavily is winning the draw. The draw allows the offense to possess the ball and set up the attack, while also relieving pressure on the defense.

The Knights are 2-0 in games this season when they have had the advantage in draw controls, and 1-1 in games they have not.

Head coach Laura Brand-Sias has tweaked her starting lineup in every game in an attempt to gain the advantage on the face-off and create an early offensive rhythm.

“We send out who we think puts us in the best position to win the draw,” Brand-Sias said.

The always-changing lineup for Rutgers will allow it to keep its opponents off guard. The opposition will not be able to game plan as accurately, which could provide the Knights an early advantage in the game.

One position that will not be rotating players against Penn is at goalkeeper.

Redshirt freshman goalkeeper Amanda Currell, coming off her strongest game of the season, will start in net for the Knights. Junior goalkeeper Candice Dandridge will serve as the backup.

Another area where the Knights are preparing for Penn is on defense. The Quakers’ top offensive threat is midfielder Tory Benson, who already has eight goals this year.

“They’re really good at the basic things and have some really powerful dodgers, so our defense has to be ready,” Brand-Sias said.

Rutgers’ defense, which is ranked 11th in the nation in scoring defense at 6.5 goals per game, is well up to the task.

Offense is the most important facet of the game the Knights need to improve. Junior midfielder Lauren Sbrilli, who totaled three goals and a draw control in Rutgers’ 8-7 home win Saturday against Delaware, spoke on the goals of the offense.

“We really need to be smart with the ball and possess it instead of just throwing it away because we want to be on attack more,” Sbrilli said.

The Knights are averaging only six goals per game, a total that will not suffice against ranked opponents such as Penn.

Brand-Sias has stated that even when the offensive flow is not there, the competitiveness of the team is paramount to winning games.

“We need to come out of the gates with that intensity we had against Delaware and keep it for the whole game,” Brand-Sias said.  

The Knights’ focus, which has lagged at the start of games this season, is also critical. Bringing the passion from its win against the Blue Hens, along with playing to its strengths will be key for Rutgers.

Tonight’s game against the Quakers serves as a benchmark for the Knights.

Rutgers will be able to see if its loss to No. 19 Princeton on Feb. 26 was just a small setback in its quest to stack up with ranked opponents.

Despite the outcome of the game tonight, Brand-Sias knows that the team is still finding its identity.

“We just need to keep defining who we are, it’s a work in progress,” Brand-Sias said.

For more updates on the women’s lacrosse team, follow @TargumSports on Twitter.

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