The Rutgers women's lacrosse team ended its 2023 season after falling to Maryland in the Big Ten Tournament semifinals on May 4. The Scarlet Knights (8-9, 1-5) were unable to make the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2021 and will now look ahead to the 2024 season with a few key players out of the picture.
Rutgers started off the season strong as it won its opening three games. The Knights then hit a skid and suffered three consecutive defeats. Heading into the final month of regular season play, Rutgers remained winless in the Big Ten and owned a losing record.
Though the Knights would find success at the pivotal time of their season, starting with an upset victory over then-No. 6 Stony Brook on April 12. Rutgers then continued its winning streak, including a late comeback over Ohio State that marked the team's first conference win of the season.
Heading into post-season play, winning was the only option for the Knights in order to keep their NCAA Tournament hopes alive. In the semifinals of the Big Ten Tournament, Rutgers got the job done against Johns Hopkins while senior midfielder Cassidy Spilis surpassed Taralyn Naslonski for most goals in program history.
The Knights were ultimately unable to reach the Big Ten Tournament Final as they did in the year prior. Due to the team's overall losing record, Rutgers was automatically eliminated from selection for the NCAA Tournament.
Many players stood out for the Knights and made a significant impact on the field this year.
In her final season, graduate student attacker Marin Hartshorn scored 35 goals and provided 27 assists to combine for a team-leading 62 points. Spilis, who was named a 2023 All-American, led the team with 47 goals and will return to the field next season for Rutgers in her final year of college eligibility.
On defense, senior defender Meghan Ball was a stalwart player who led the backline. Ball was named Big Ten Defender of the Year and a 2023 All-American. She also won a team-leading 51 ground balls and caused 60 turnovers. Ball will not be playing for the Knights in her final year of college eligibility as she has entered the transfer portal.
Senior attacker Jenna Byrne was the team's main playmaker, as she tallied a team-high 27 assists. Between the pipes, junior goalkeeper Sophia Cardello had a solid season, as she started every game and owned a save percentage of .458. Cardello allowed opposing teams to score an average of 11.11 goals per game.
With key players such as Hartshorn and Ball departing the program, younger players, including freshman attacker and midfielder Lily Dixon and freshman attacker Ava Kane have already stepped up in pivotal moments. The duo combined for a total of 29 goals and 12 assists. Byrne and Cardello are also set to return as a graduate student and a senior, respectively.
Rutgers will look to improve next season and make the NCAA Tournament once again. With the help of talented underclassmen and potential transfer portal activity, head coach Melissa Lehman can continue succeeding on the Banks.
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