A historic season for Rutgers women’s lacrosse continued on Monday as the program earned two individual awards from the Big Ten. Melissa Lehman was named Coach of the Year and Cassidy Spilis was named Midfielder of the Year. It’s Lehman’s first honor in her third season at the helm and Spilis becomes the first Scarlet Knight to win a Player of the Year award since the program joined the conference eight seasons ago. The awards are voted on by the Big Ten coaches.
Lehman has led Rutgers to a program record 15 victories this season, its best ever finish in the Big Ten in third place and a first ever trip to the Big Ten Championship game. The Scarlet Knights earned its highest ranked win ever last Friday with a 13-5 win over No. 4 Northwestern in the Big Ten Tournament semifinals. It was their first ever win over Northwestern, who were the defending champs. RU’s resume includes a No. 7 RPI ranking and five wins over ranked foes before being selected to a second consecutive NCAA Tournament on Sunday night. The program’s development and turnaround in just three years of her tenure is nothing short of remarkable.
The turnaround under Lehman has been significant. After making the NCAA Tournament just once in the first 43 years of the program, Rutgers has now earned back to back berths. The Scarlet Knights earned the first ever NCAA Tournament win last season upsetting Drexel in the First Round. Lehman joins Field Hockey’s Meredith Civico and Women Soccer’s Mike O’Neill as the third Big Ten Coach of the Year at Rutgers this academic year.
Spilis set the program’s single season scoring record with 65 goals, is a Tewaaraton Award Top 25 Finalist and was named a Midseason All-American by Inside Lacrosse. She also finished in the top ten in the Big Ten in multiple categories including second in scoring, third in ground balls, fifth in points, sixth in draw controls and eighth in caused turnovers. Spilis was an unanimous All-Big Ten selection for Midfielder of the Year, becoming just the second all-time in conference history. She is well on her way in leaving a legacy as one of the best players in program history.
Last week, Spilis along with Meghan Ball were named the program’s first ever unanimous First Team All-Big selections. Teammate Taralyn Naslonski was also a First Team selection, along Jessica Beneducci and Stephanie Kelly earning Second Team honors. It was the most all-Big Ten players Rutgers has ever had in one season.
Rutgers women’s lacrosse (15-4) has earned its second consecutive NCAA Tournament bid and will face St. Joseph’s (14-6) in the First Round . The Hawks won the Atlantic-10 Tournament Championship and have won seven of their last eight games. The game will be played at Stony Brook on Friday, May 13 at 2:30 p.m.
Head coach Melissa Lehman and Meghan Ball will be guests on this week’s On The Banks podcast coming out ahead of Friday’s First Round contest.