As the school year is now complete, it’s time to review the recently concluded season for the Rutgers women’s lacrosse team. They produced their highest win total in three seasons during the 2017 campaign, finishing with an 8-8 record. In Big Ten play, the Scarlet Knights went 2-4, finishing in fifth place out of seven conference teams. However, the program took a step forward in 2017 and there is reason to be hopeful for the future.
In terms of the RPI rankings, Rutgers finished the season 34th out of 112 Division I teams. It was their highest ranking since 2014, when they finished 33rd. As a conference, the Big Ten was the only one to have three teams represented in the top ten of the RPI rankings.
The signature win of the season for Rutgers came on the road against CAA champion and NCAA entrant James Madison, who finished the regular season ranked #14th in the RPI.
Two standouts on offense and defense, senior Kristina Dunphey and junior Amanda Casten, were named to the All-Big Ten team for a second straight season.
Kristina Dunphey led the team with 31 goals and 43 points overall. She also led the team with 14 forced turnovers. Dunphey completed her Rutgers career with 125 points total, putting her 17th all-time in program history and she is only the 24th Scarlet Knight player to produce over 100 career points.
Amanda Casten was the unquestioned leader of the defense and is a key player set to return next season. She’ll have an opportunity to make the all-conference team for a third consecutive year and is a likely candidate to be captain next season.
In terms of the senior class, co-captain Amanda Turturro led the team with 18 assists and was second in total points with 38. Fellow co-captain Macy Scott finished with 17 points on the season and was integral on both sides of the ball. Along with Dunphey, the three laid a strong foundation for future success for the program and were the core of the 2017 team.
While the senior class will be missed, roughly 80% of the roster is set to return next season. Seven Scarlet Knights registered point totals 20 or more for the season, with everyone returning with the exception of Dunphey and Turturro. This group includes freshman Samantha Budd, who scored 15 goals on just 31 shots, making her 48% shot percentage third best on the squad of players with 10 or more shots attempted. Overall, six of the top eight point producers from this year are set to return next season.
The top goal scorer returning next season is redshirt junior attacker Nicole Kopyta, who was second on the team this season with 24 goals and third with 25 total points. Sophomore attacker Abbey Brooks was fourth on the team with 18 goals and also in total points with 24. She led the team in shot percentage at 55% and should have an even bigger role next year.
This season’s mainstay guarding the net, goalkeeper Bianca Dente, started all 16 games and averaged over 7 saves per contest in what was a solid campaign for the junior.
While the women’s lacrosse looks to continue forward progress on the field, their performance in the classroom continues to set the bar for all athletic programs at Rutgers.
From the press release that Rutgers announced that eight programs achieved NCAA recognition for finishing in the top 10 percent of programs in their sport:
Women's lacrosse has earned APR public recognition in each of the last five seasons. The program has a longstanding history of academic success and has also earned distinction as an Intercollegiate Women's Lacrosse Coaches Association (IWLCA) Academic Honor squad for 10 consecutive years. The Scarlet Knights are poised to have 12 Big Ten All-Academic honorees this spring.
“This will always be one of the accolades that I am most proud of,” said head women’s lacrosse coach Laura Brand-Sias. “We strive to create an environment that allows our players to succeed both on the field and in the classroom, and this award is a great recognition of our ability to do that."
In addition, the Rutgers women’s lacrosse team was the only Big Ten program to receive APR recognition.
Since Rutgers joined the Big Ten, it’s been an adjustment on the field for many of Rutgers’ athletic programs, including women’s lacrosse. However, they have now improved on their season win total three years in a row, while continuing to excel in academics. With the bulk of the roster set to return next season, head coach Laura Brand-Sias, who was a player on the last team to make the NCAA tournament, has a chance to lead the program to one of their best in recent history, in what will be her 16th in charge.