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Juniors provide veteran leadership
On Aug. 26. the Quinnipiac field hockey team jumped out to the first ever 2-0 start in program history. Team leaders Jess Rusin and Jennalise Taylor are two players who have greatly contributed to the Bobcats’ success.
Now 4-3, the Bobcats rely heavily on the junior duo on the offensive end.
Taylor began executing the game plan and currently leads the team in goals and points with five goals, two assists and 12 points, while Rusin follows closely behind with four goals and 11 points.
“I know if I do something wrong or get a turnover Jennalise is right behind me to pick it up,” Rusin said. “She’s strong in the backfield.”
Rusin also explained that her and Taylor work together better than ever before. With Rusin on the forward line and Taylor behind her, they can connect on multiple different plays and become successful.
Their connection has helped Rusin become a bigger scoring threat. In her first season as a Bobcat in 2010, Rusin recorded four goals and one assist. In 2011, the sophomore standout finished with the second-most goals on the team with 10, along with 22 points.
“Jess Rusin was recruited to do exactly what she is doing now, to put the ball in the net,” Main said. “She has come in and done exactly what was expected. She brings us the mentality that people want her to have the ball and have success and she is incredibly humble.”
Rusin finished second in goals last season behind Kim Cunniff, who the Bobcats lost to graduation.
“I think that the reason I’ve been so successful in my individual performance lately is just because the talent throughout the team is really high this year,” Rusin said. “Forwards are constantly fighting for a position. There’s competition between each other and my teammates have been helping to push me to succeed on the field.”
Despite the loss of key players like Cunniff, Kaitlyn Notarianni and Megan McCreedy, Rusin explained that there are now more opportunities to step up and take on leadership roles.
Besides stepping up to be a team leader this season, Rusin ranks amongst the best players in Quinnipiac history. After Sunday’s loss to Lafayette, Rusin secured her spot at No. 10 on the all-time scoring with 18 goals.
With a total of 42 points, Rusin also sits tied in 10th for the all-time point leaders with McCreedy, Jamie Cassesse and Sara Riley.
“She has a nickname; her name is ‘Magnet,’ any ball you throw at her it will stick to her stick,” Main said. “As long as you put her in the right situation with the right support staff, I think she’s been able to finish and put the ball away.”
Rusin and Taylor have combined for nine of the team’s season 13 goals.
Main also explained that the loss of seniors to graduation was hard but this is the best the team’s speed and ball movement have been in quite some time. Players like Amanda Danziger have helped the team adjust to the new found game plan of passing instead of long hit balls down the field.
“Our defense is really strong this year which is kind of surprising since we are all new to the defense,” Danziger said. “We’re all new to it but we are all about finding our places and I really think it is coming together.”
Danziger, a junior, played forward for the past two years but was moved to sweeper this year after showing her strong skills during the offseason. With a forward mindset, it is easier for her to get the ball up to teammates and transition gracefully from one side of the field to the next. Main explained that Danziger is the player who she thinks is performing the best and is the most consistent right now.
The Bobcats also added seven freshmen to this year’s roster to help fill the graduation void. Freshmen Meghan McCullough, Emilie Vandeputte, Ashleigh Allen and Haley Swartz all clocked in significant minutes within the last seven games.
“They really put their nose to the grindstone to make sure they could adjust to our system,” senior goalie Nicole Lewis explained about the freshmen. “Not only did they adjust to us but we adjusted to them.”
Allen connected for her first career goal during Friday’s 3-0 win over St. Joseph’s.
“They have a fresh style,” Main said. “They don’t know how to lose. At all. They don’t have any preconceived ideas when they come in and I am looking forward to playing them even more when we get to conference play.”
Many of the freshmen are seeing their minutes on the defensive side alongside Lewis. Lewis has been in goal for all four of the team’s wins, recording a shutout in two of them. Lewis registered one shutout in 2010 and two in 2011.
“This is my last year, my ultimate goal is to get an NEC Championship so I’m just working with the team to make sure that we can get there,” Lewis said. “We have adapted to different styles and now that we have come together as a defensive unit I think we’ve started to click.”