Skip to main content
Megan Ball

2023 NCAA Lacrosse Rankings: No. 7 Rutgers (Women)

January 26, 2023
Beth Ann Mayer
John Strohsacker
The 2023 college lacrosse season is almost here. As is our annual tradition, we’re featuring every team ranked in the Nike/USA Lacrosse Preseason Top 20.
Check back to each weekday this month for new previews, scouting reports and rival analysis.


2022 Record: 16-5 (4-2 Big Ten)
Final Ranking (2022): No. 10
Coach: Melissa Lehman


Meghan Ball, D, Sr.; Sophia Cardello, G, Jr.; Cassidy Spilis, M, Sr.

Meghan Ball (114 DC, 54 CT, 64 GB) put up absolutely gaudy stats for a defender last season on her way to being named an All-American. She plays in front of a steady force in Sophia Cardello (10.59 GAA, .444 SV%). And Big Ten Midfielder of the Year Cassidy Spilis (69 G, 72 DC) works with Ball on the draw and can finish on offense. 


Ava Kane, A, Fr.

Most are back from last year’s history-making Rutgers team. And Scarlet Knights who played more complementary roles might be favorites to fill the shoes of graduates. But Ava Kane could make an immediate impact on the draw and offense. She led Garnet Valley (Pa.) to a PIAA state semifinal appearance as a senior in 2022. 


Graduations: Stephanie Kelly, A; Taralyn Naslonski, A 


Developing an identity.

The Scarlet Knights had won five games when Lehman took over in 2019 — an afterthought in a Big Ten conference dominated by Maryland and Northwestern and with Michigan and Penn State seen as rising stars. Ask the coaches who scheduled Rutgers this season about the program, and they all say the same things: Tough, gritty, not a fluke and a team that supports one another.

That was Lehman’s playbook.

“In coming here at Rutgers and building this program and stepping in day one, I had the goal of making this team very tight-knit,” Lehman said. They were going to have each other’s backs no matter what. Teams like that are going to do special things out on the field.”

Rutgers did special things last year, advancing to the Big Ten title game and winning a program-record 16 games. Don’t expect a drop-off this season.

“It was great last year getting a taste of the Big Ten championship,” Lehman said. “It showed us that hard work pays off. It’s given our team that hunger to keep working.”

What will the offense look like without Naslonski and Kelly?

The Scarlet Knight graduated two of their top three scorers in Naslonski (66 G, 24 A) and Stephanie Kelly (26 G, 39 A). But the return of Spilis is crucial.

“She is fearless on the field and will put her body on the line to make things happen,” Lehman said. “She has been a consistent player for us.”

But she looked consistently better in the fall. Already a great cutter, Lehman challenged Spilis to drive more and keep her head up —she delivered.

Jenna Byrne (21 G, 8 A) and Kate Carolonza (17 G, 2 A) are expected to play significant roles on attack. 

Getting possessions will be crucial this season without Kelly and Naslonski, and Spilis will also be critical on the draw. Ditto for Marin Hartshorn (35 G, 22 A, 53 DC) and Ashley Moynahan (10 G, 16 DC, 10 CT).

Finally, Ashley Campo (20 G, 17 A, 23 CT, 34 GB) is a glue player who provides a spark in transition.

Veteran defense taking shape.

Ball flew under the radar in 2021, when she tallied 27 caused turnovers and 75 draws — blame the pandemic-induced conference-only schedule that the Scarlet Knights played. (They went 7-9 that year). Not so last year. Ball’s play was crucial to Rutgers’ rise.

The midfielder embodies the scrappy, blue-collar mentality Bruce Springsteen likes to sing about.

“She is good in any 50-50 ball in the air,” Lehman said. “She is physical. She is strong. She knows what to take an opponent’s strength away from her.”

Jessica Beneducci (25 CT, 43 GB) is also capable of taking a top match-up. She’s become more vocal and developed an ability to push in transition.

And Cardello returns in net, where Lehman calls her a “rock.”

“She is one of the most composed goalkeepers under pressure I have ever coached,” Lehman said. “Our team plays the way we want to and takes risks because we have her in the goal behind us.”


“I love the way they play. They are tough. They are similar to us in that they have a no-nonsense, blue-collar mentality. They are not afraid to give hits or take hits. I love the way they play. Meghan Ball is one of the strongest defenders in the year.”



The Scarlet Knights were one of the breakout teams of Division I last season. Lax-Elo is a predictive metric that describes overall program strength. On a neutral field, a team with a higher Lax-Elo rating would be predicted to win. And last year, Rutgers finished the season with their highest Lax-Elo rating (1797), which was good for 21st nationally.

Lacrosse Reference Glossary