The Rutgers women’s lacrosse team will start its 2019 campaign with three home games in the next eight days, beginning today at 4 p.m. against LIU-Brooklyn. The Scarlet Knights won this matchup 15-4 a year ago in a season they finished 7-10 overall and 1-5 in Big Ten play.
Rutgers returns four of its top seven scorers, led by junior Samantha Budd. She scored 30 goals and had 37 points, as both totals tied for the team best with Paige Paratore and Kerri Puckhaber respectively. With both players having graduated, Budd takes center stage. Another key player returning is senior captain Abbey Brooks, who led the team with 16 assists and was fourth with 33 points last season. Her classmate Allison Ferrera scores 15 goals on just 27 shots last season, leading the team with a .556 shot percentage.
An impact freshman a year ago, Taralyn Naslonski was tied for second with 24 goals and was fifth on the team with 31 points. She’ll have an opportunity to have an even bigger role this season.
Defensively, Rutgers returns four of its five starters from last season, including a pair of seniors with captain Christine DiLullo and Regina Sharp. Also returning to the back line are juniors Brianna Cirino and Jenna Martinelli. In the net is returning starter and senior Devon Kearns, who made 137 saves in 16 starts last season. She produced a career high 15 saves twice last season in games against Villanova and Ohio State.
Head coach Laura Brand Sias is in her 17th year at the helm and has averaged 8 wins per season. One change she made this offseason was adding a leadership council to give the upperclassmen more responsibility. She talked about the improved culture within the program in the season preview from Rutgers Athletics:
“In terms of team culture, we’re in a really good spot,” Brand Sias said. “We made really significant changes starting this September and the team has done a really great job of evolving with those changes and really buying into the things that our coaching staff has been asking of them.”
Brand Sias talks more about the program to BTN in this video interview:
With the announcement of the new leadership council this season, head coach Laura Brand Sias is eager to see how the upperclassmen continue to motivate @rulaxbrand on and off the field in 2019. pic.twitter.com/XjrJuulxwB— Big Ten Lacrosse (@B1GLacrosse) January 29, 2019
The leadership of this team will be key for a team that returns seven starters but also has added 10 freshmen to the roster.
The Big Ten released preseason honors in January and named Budd, DiLullo and Naslonski as the three Rutgers players to watch this season. The conference has four teams ranked in the preseason polls, so the Scarlet Knights have a challenging slate ahead. In addition, its non-conference schedule includes games against 4th ranked James Madison and 10th ranked Penn. As part of this three game homestand to begin the 2019 season, Rutgers hosts Temple on Tuesday, February 12th and Marist on Saturday, February 16th. For the complete season schedule, click here.
You can stream today’s season opener against LIU-Brooklyn at 4 p.m. here.
One. Day. Out.— Rutgers Women's Lax (@rulaxbrand) February 7, 2019
Hear from captains Abbey Brooks & Christine DiLullo as #RUWLAX readies for tomorrow's season opener.#GoRU pic.twitter.com/4WEGJ5XgpQ