The Rutgers women’s lacrosse team is off to its best start in a decade after a 17-7 win over Marist last weekend. They are now 4-0 in head coach Melissa Lehman’s first season at the helm. The Scarlet Knights are averaging 14.5 goals per game while only allowing 9.5 goals. It’s been a great turnaround so far and Wednesday marks a huge test for this team.
RU travels to face no. 13 Penn for the sixth straight season, having lost the previous five meetings, including by 10 goals apiece the last two years. Lehman was there for all them, as she served as an assistant coach for Penn the previous ten seasons after starring as an All-American player for the Quakers. She helped Penn earn an NCAA Tournament berth in each of the last 13 seasons. She now returns on Wednesday to face her alma mater with an undefeated team of her own.
The early season success on the field has been due to a combination of key veterans stepping up, as well as several newcomers making an immediate impact.
Junior TT Naslonski leads Rutgers with 14 goals and 2 assists to lead the team with 16 points, In addition, senior captain Samantha Budd has 11 goals and 1 assist, while redshirt senior Dakota Pastore has 5 goals. A key reserve has been junior Julia Lytle, who has 3 goals this season so far.
The youth movement has been led by freshman Cassidy Spilis, who is second on the team with 12 goals. She was an All-American last season while starring at Seneca High School in New Jersey and is off to a great start to her collegiate career. Classmate Jenna Byrne has 3 goals and 5 assists. In goal, rookie Alonna Gliksman has a 9.56 goals against average and a .519 save percentage through four starts this season. Last week, Spilis (Offensive & Rookie) and Gliksman (Defensive) earned the program’s first ever sweep of the Big Ten Weekly Awards.
Another part of the development has been aided by two key sophomores in Marin Hartshorn, who leads the team with 8 assists along with 1 goal, as well as Camryn Rogers, who has 4 goals and 1 assist in just three games as a reserve.
Rutgers is being noticed across the national landscape, as they received votes in this week’s Inside Lacrosse Poll. Wednesday’s game at no. 13 Penn presents an opportunity to notch its first signature win of the season. In addition, the Scarlet Knights will face five more opponents this season that are currently ranked in the Top 20, including four Big Ten squads.
While this team was picked to finish in last place in the conference in the Big Ten Preseason Coaches’ Poll, Rutgers has shown progress in the early portion of the non-conference portion of its schedule so far this season. Hopefully they can make a statement on the road Wednesday in Philadelphia, but regardless, early signs under Lehman are pointing in the right direction.