PISCATAWAY, N.J. (February 10, 2014) – A charter member of the BIG EAST women’s lacrosse league, Rutgers enters its final season in the conference it has been a member of for 13 years with hopes of capturing its first championship title. Returning 22 letterwinners from a year ago, which includes five of the squad’s six leading goal scorers and the core of a defense that ranked sixth nationally, RU is poised for a successful campaign.
“This year’s slate provides us with a great opportunity, both in and out of conference, and we are ready to hit the ground running,” said head coach Laura Brand-Sias. “With most of our squad returning, including key players who are back from injury, we are excited about our potential for success.”
Rutgers was picked fourth in the BIG EAST Preseason Poll and also had four Scarlet Knights selected to the Preseason All-BIG EAST Team. RU concluded the 2013 campaign with a 9-8 overall record after beginning the season with a 7-1 mark to match the best start in program history.
“We certainly faced our fair share of setbacks last year starting in the fall and were without our full projected lineup for every game,” said Brand-Sias. “Despite this hurdle the team showed true resolve and earned the best start in school history. Unfortunately, we weren’t able to sustain that effort for the duration of the year, but despite our challenges we saw a nationally ranked defense and numerous post season accolades.”
The Scarlet Knights return a slew of experience from 2013, including 11 of its 12 starters and over 80 percent of its scoring. Leading the way offensively will be seniors Katrina Martinelli (Moorestown, N.J.) and Megan Clements (Pennington, N.J.), who finished one-two, respectively, in goals scored last year.
Martinelli garnered All-BIG EAST Second Team accolades after leading the squad with a team-best 35 goals and adding 10 assists for 45 points in 2013. She also posted 12 multi-point games and was twice named to the conference weekly honor roll.
Clements was one of four Scarlet Knights named to the 2014 Preseason All-BIG EAST Team after ranking second on the team in goals (21), points (29) and draw controls (30) last season. The New Jersey native showed her ability to score in bunches as she netted a career-high five goals against Hofstra (March 13) and four versus Monmouth (March 2).
At midfield, Brand-Sias looks to redshirt senior tri-captain Amanda Trendell (Yorktown Heights, N.Y.) and junior Jenny Vlahos (Manhasset, N.Y.) to lead the group. Trendell was named RU’s Midfielder of the Year after finishing in the top five in several statistical categories. Vlahos capped of a solid sophomore campaign in which she started in all 17 contests and was among the nation’s best in draw controls, after securing a team-best 47 on the year.
Redshirt junior Lauren Sbrilli (Martinsville, N.J.) and redshirt sophomore Kristin Kocher (Medford, N.J.) return this season after sitting out 2013 due to injury. Despite not playing last season, Sbrilli was still named to the Preseason All-BIG EAST Team after putting forth an impressive showing in her sophomore season in which she ranked second on the team with 33 goals. Additionally, she tied for first on the squad with seven total hat tricks on the year, four of which came against league opponents.
A highly touted recruit out of high school, Kocher saw significant playing time in her rookie season two years ago and will add depth and production at the position.
Undoubtedly the most impressive aspect of the 2013 team, Rutgers returns the core of a defensive unit that ranked sixth in the NCAA in scoring defense, allowing just 7.76 goals per game.
“We return our core defense and they will be the backbone of our team,” commented Brand-Sias. “Every single one of them will be integral to our success. Their experience, with the addition of some talented newcomers, makes for a promising year.”
Senior tri-captains Chelsea Intrabartola (Commack, N.Y.) and Erin Turkot (Mountain Lakes, N.J.) return for their final seasons in Piscataway.
Despite missing two contests due to injury in 2013, Intrabartola was named to the IWLCA All-Mid-Atlantic Second Team and earned a nod on the 2014 Preseason All-BIG EAST Team. Turkot was named Rutgers Defensive Player of the year after starting in all 17 games and tallying 19 caused turnovers, 16 groundballs and three draw controls.
Also returning to the backline is redshirt junior Hollie DiMuro (West Babylon, N.Y.), who ranked third in the BIG EAST and 27th nationally with 40 groundballs, and led the team in caused turnovers (25). In RU’s 13-6 win over Hofstra, she registered six groundballs, five draw controls and four caused turnovers. An IWLCA All-Mid-Atlantic First Team honoree, DiMuro rounds out the Scarlet Knight’s Preseason All-BIG EAST selections.
In the cage, Rutgers looks to replace All-American goalie Lily Kalata, who graduated last May after a stellar career “On the Banks.”
“We will have a heated battle in goal between Candice Dandridge and Amanda Currell,” said Brand-Sias. “Both players bring outstanding athleticism and quickness to the cage. While they certainly have big shoes to fill, I am confident they will get it done.”
Candice Dandridge (Cherry Hill, N.J.) enters her third year in the program, while Amanda Currell (Moorestown, N.J.) will experience her first year of eligibility after redshirting last season. Currell was an All-American Honorable Mention selection after leading Moorestown High School to a 26-0 record and No. 2 national ranking her senior season. Dandridge was a three-year starter for Cherry Hill West and all-conference selection.
Rutgers welcomes 10 true freshmen, who will look to compete and contribute immediately.
“We welcome a strong freshman class that is highlighted by excellent talent and athleticism,” said Brand-Sias. “I have large expectations for them and we started to see their potential this fall. I hope to see immediate progression from each of them. Amanda Turturro had a particularly strong fall season and we saw nice things from Rachel Engler and Ryann Hogan, among others.”
Amanda Turturro (Farmingdale, N.Y.) and Rachel Engler (Perkiomenville) were both U.S. Lacrosse First Team All-America selections, while Ryann Hogan (Skillman, N.J.) racked up multiple accolades as a four-year letterwinner for Montgomery High School.
Half of the freshmen class received US Lacrosse All-America recognition.
The 2014 slate features 17 contests, nine of which will take place “On the Banks.” For the first time in program history, the Scarlet Knights will call High Point Solutions Stadium home, as all but one of the nine home games will be played at the facility that can hold over 50,000 fans.
Five of RU’s 17 opponents received a national ranking in the Intercollegiate Women's Lacrosse Coaches Association (IWCLA) Preseason Poll and the Brine Women’s Media Poll. Rutgers’ highest ranked opponent this season is No. 7/7 Penn State, followed by No. 10/9 Georgetown, No. 12/14 Stony Brook, No. 15/16 Penn and No. 16/15 Princeton.
Additionally, 13 of RU’s opponents were also on last year’s schedule. In its 37-year history, Rutgers has never faced Stony Brook, who it will take on at home on March 8. RU will also match up against two teams it has not faced in over 15 years in Penn State (March 12) and James Madison (March 15).
“We always play a challenging schedule and we will continue that this season,” said Brand-Sias. “Not only do we look forward to our traditional opponents, but we are excited about new challenges in Penn State, Stony Brook, and James Madison. Another new and exciting aspect will be our inaugural season competing at High Point Solutions Stadium. The atmosphere is amazing and will give our program an undeniably exciting game day experience.”
RU opens the season on Feb. 15 at Manhattan, a team the Scarlet Knights have never dropped a contest to. The Scarlet Knights will then open their home slate on Feb. 22, as the squad welcomes the Stags of Fairfield University “To the Banks.”
Brand-Sias and Co. will begin league play on March 29 against Villanova in Philadelphia.
RU will play its final home and regular season contest against first-year BIG EAST opponent, Temple, on April 25. The top four teams in the league will qualify for the BIG EAST Tournament, which will take place in Washington, D.C. from May 1-3.
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