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Rutgers' Cassidy Spilis.

Cassidy Spilis Determined to Move Rutgers Beyond 2023

March 1, 2024
Charlotte Varnes
Kirk Irwin / Big Ten

Rutgers midfielder Cassidy Spilis never once thought about leaving Piscataway for her graduate year.

As soon as she learned of her extra year of eligibility before her sophomore year, she talked with coach Melissa Lehman about staying. An up-and-down, 8-10 campaign in 2023 only contributed to Spilis’ intentions.

“I wanted to continue to build this program,” Spilis said. “That’s been my favorite part. I just wanted to continue with that and continue seeing what we could do. I wanted to come back and prove that Rutgers is a great lacrosse team.”

Except for 2023, Rutgers had been a team on the rise. The Scarlet Knights had their best season in program history in 2022, going 16-5 en route to a second-round appearance in the NCAA tournament. Now 4-1 to start 2024, Rutgers is looking to return to its winning ways.

Spilis has been a significant factor in the Scarlet Knights’ recent success. She holds program records in career goals and single-season goals and ranks among the top five in program history in draws and points.

A third-year captain, Spilis is a long-time leader, though she’s grown more vocal over time. This season, she’s all in on encouraging her teammates’ successes.

“Coming in this year, I had a mindset of, ‘I want us to do well and I’m not going to let anything stop us,’” Spilis said. “I’m going to the wall with it all. I’m pushing everyone, pushing myself on it.”

Lehman has been impressed with Spilis’ growth over the past five years, both on and off the field.

“She’s embracing the role of getting the team to play well together,” Lehman said. “That’s what she wants more than anything: to develop that chemistry and play hard with her teammates. She’s doing an unbelievable job with that.”

One focus for Spilis and her teammates: consistency. Entering 2024, Lehman said she emphasized wanting to start strong. Her players added the goal of finishing strong. Lehman wants her players to not only feel like they’ve left it all out there, but also like they played a consistent 60 minutes.

For the most part, the Scarlet Knights have done that. Their win over Army last Saturday was especially even on the attacking end. Rutgers poured in eight goals in the first half, then eight goals in the second. Spilis contributed five of them.

While Rutgers is looking for a fresh start, the struggles of 2023 remain on the mind. The ups and downs last season left the Scarlet Knights wanting more “feel good” wins.

“Even when we did have some wins, it wasn’t necessarily a feel-good win,” Spilis said. “It was kind of like a, ‘Thank God, we won’ type of feeling. We just want to get back to having fun this year and get back to playing the game we know we can play.”

Spilis said they entered the game against Army knowing it was the most important game on their schedule to that point. Their 10-5 loss against the Black Knights in 2023 ended up setting the tone for their season, she said.

Rutgers’ 16-9 victory against Army was a feel-good win for Spilis. Now, the Scarlet Knights just want to keep the ball rolling — even after a 13-10 hiccup against Princeton a few days later.

“The start for us this season has been a true testament to the work we’ve put in,” Spilis said. “We still have so much more we want to accomplish and prove.”