The Rutgers women's lacrosse team will begin its 2024 season this weekend, hosting Manhattan on Saturday. The Scarlet Knights opened up last season with three consecutive wins before ultimately finishing the campaign with an 8-9 record.
Rutgers concluded its 2023 season with 171 goals and a .722 shots on goal percentage. Throughout the season, the Knights secured impressive victories against then-No. 6 Stony Brook, then-No. 16 Johns Hopkins and then-No. 19 Jacksonville.
Several of the team's key players are returning to the Banks this season, such as graduate student defender Jessica Beneducci and graduate student midfielder Cassidy Spilis. Spilis and Beneducci will serve as team captains for Rutgers, as well as junior midfielder Emalie Clothier and senior goalkeeper Sophia Cardello.
Spilis, Beneducci and Cardello have all been named 2024 Big Ten Players to Watch for the Knights. Beneducci and Cardello received this award for the first time since being with Rutgers, and Spilis has been honored with this recognition for the fifth consecutive season.
Spilis was also named a Preseason All-American by ILWomen on Wednesday for her third season in a row. Spilis has scored a program-leading 192 goals, as well as 10 assists, 215 draw controls, 110 ground balls and 66 turnovers forced across her career on the Banks.
Along with the familiar faces returning to the team, the Knights will also see a variety of new freshmen on the team. Rutgers has a total of 10 new freshmen preparing to make appearances on the field this season.
The Knights are entering their fifth season under head coach Melissa Lehman. In 2022, Rutgers had its most successful season with Lehman, ending with a 16-5 record and four conference wins. It will look to return to that level of play in 2024.
The Knights will look to build momentum as quickly as possible, and that begins with the season opener against the Jaspers.
Manhattan's Jillian Reiner led the team last season with 47 points, scoring 36 goals. Reiner will be a player for Rutgers to look out for this weekend.
Another key player on the Jaspers is Andrea Liotta, who was named to the MAAC WLAX Preseason Team. The defender played in all of their games last season and had 74 draw controls, 34 ground balls and 21 caused turnovers. She also earned the MAAC Defensive Player of the Year.
The Knights will meet with Manhattan at 1 p.m. on Saturday at SHI Stadium on Busch campus, with the game being broadcast on Big Ten Plus. Rutgers will look to start its season off strongly with a win.
"Our program had a great fall season, and we were able to strengthen our culture and our connection as a team," Lehman said. "This team has a lot of fun together and is very passionate and driven. It is going to make for some great outcomes this spring."
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