PISCATAWAY, N.J. — Many Rutgers non-revenue sports are on the rise and things will start to head up this weekend when the first series of spring sports kick off their seasons.
The Olympic sports held a media day this week, and ScarletReport.com was there to check in on some of the sports that don’t get nearly the notoriety or exposure as football and basketball. We tried to boil it down to a reader-friendly format to help everyone gain a little perspective and knowledge about those sports.
Here are some fun facts and interesting tidbits to help you learn more about the Olympic spring sports at Rutgers:
Coach: Fred Hill Sr. (29th season)
Need to know: The long-term head coach of the Scarlet Knights sees the 2012 season as a chance get back into Big East title contention. Rutgers has stronger depth at pitcher and in the middle infield and looks to improve upon its 20-30 finish last year.
The warm winter has been huge for the team’s development, Hill said. Instead of working in the practice bubble, Rutgers hits and fields at Bainton Field every day.
“When we go to the warm-weather teams, we’re not at the same disadvantage this year,” Hill said. “We took one of three against Miami last year and that was while we were practicing in the snow.”
If the season started today, Hill said, former Rutgers safety Pat Kivlehan is his starting third baseman. Kivlehan has one year of eligibility and approached Hill about walking on midway through his senior year with the football team.
“He’s got a good bad and the glove is coming along,” Hill said. “We didn’t recruit him out of high school, but he asked to try out for us this year and plays hard. He made the team.”
First game: Feb. 17 at Miami.
Coach: Jay Nelson (6th season)
Need to know: The softball team comes off the best two years in program history, twice making the Big East tournament and winning preseason tournaments.
Rutgers enters the season ranked No. 7 in the conference poll and returns senior third baseman Brittney Lindley. Lindley is the program’s all-time home run leader (27) and hit .440 last season, earning Daily Targum Female Athlete of the Year honors.
“She’s everything you want a leader to be and more,” Nelson said. “She’s vocal. She can lead by example. ... She had a little injury last week, so we wanted to slow her down some in practice and she was furious with it because she hates missing any part of practice.”
The Scarlet Knights finished 7-12 in the Big East last year and have a .500 record in their sites for the 2012 season.
“We’ve got the fire going,” said senior outfielder Lindsey Curran, who hit .301 last season. “We’ve been to the Big East tournament. We know what it’s like and we’ve been that close. We don’t plan on playing the No. 1 seed in the tournament this year because we plan on having a better record. We know we can compete with anyone. There isn’t any team we’re afraid of.”
First game: Feb. 10, Louisiana-Lafayette Tournament vs. Tulsa.
Coach: Brian Brecht (1st season)
Need to know: Brecht is one of many recent coaching hires by athletic director Tim Pernetti that has student athletes excited to start the season. Finishing 6-9 and 1-5 in the conference last year, Pernetti made the move to bring in Brecht from Siena.
“I can’t wait to play a real game for him,” said senior midfielder Zachary Zenda. “He’s intense. He’s excited and he loves what he’s doing. He loves Rutgers lacrosse just as much as we do. He’s so passionate. He’s intense from everything we do at practice or weight-training or what we’re wearing. He’s just been great so far this year and we’ve just seen a little glimpse of him so far.
The 2012 season marks the inaugural Big East men’s lacrosse tournament and the Scarlet Knights hope to play a prominent role.
First game: Feb. 11 at Duke
Coach: Laura Brand-Sias (10th season)
Need to know: Change to the assistant coaching staff in Brand-Sias’ 10th season with Rutgers has the Scarlet Knights excited to start the 2012 season. Brand-Sias announced the hiring of Lisa Staedt-Ojea and Anne Murray at the start of the school year.
After 3-5 in conference play and 9-7 overall, the team is eager for an improved season and spot in the conference tournament.
“Since we’ve been here, we haven’t made a Big East tournament and we’re ready to accomplish that goal and win,” said senior attack Lindsey Watts, who scored 24 goals in 16 games last year. “We have a lot more depth than in previous years and a really strong chemistry. It’s nice to hear new opinions about certain things and just learn from them. It’s nice to learn new things every day.”
First game: Feb. 22 vs. Temple
Coach: Director of golf Maura Waters-Ballard (10th season)
Need to know: For the first time, Rutgers has a full-scholarship athlete on the women’s golf team and freshman Kortnie Maxoutopoulis has been worth every penny.
In her first semester with the team, Maxoutopoulis has the best stroke average on the team and two overall tournament victories in three appearances.
Maxoutopoulis won the 80-player Bucknell Invitational in her first career appearance and the 97-player Rutgers Invitational later in the semester. She has no plans to let up in the offseason, installing a putting green in her tiny freshman dorm room.
“You can never get too comfortable,” she said. “I’ve just kind of gone out there and done my thing. Golf is just between you and the golf course. You can’t let anything else affect you. Stay strong in the mental aspect. I’m just playing my game and I think that ultimate brought out success, but I know there’s so much I can improve on to be a better golfer.”
Next event: March 16 Sienna College Homewood Suites Invitational
Need to know: Rutgers expects to name a full-time men’s golf coach within the next few weeks and, until then, Waters-Ballard oversees the offseason.
“This year is just a fresh start,” said sophomore Doug Walters. “We’ve all been there before. We’ve been to the Big East championships. We’ve been on the stage and had the experience. Now that we’re starting fresh, we have a fresh coach coming and that’s the biggest thing that we’re looking forward to. We’re going to put some groundwork out there for the future.”
Next event: March 16 Sienna College Homewood Suites Invitational
Coach: Ben Bucca (7th season)
Need to know: The Scarlet Knights are off to a strong start to the spring portion of their season. Beating Lehigh and Farleigh Dickinson 7-0 each, Rutgers is looking for its eight Big East tournament berth in the last nine years.
Next match: Feb. 10 vs. Quinnipiac