Spilis, Lehman collect year-end Big Ten awards

PISCATAWAY, NJ – Fresh from making its first Big Ten title appearance in program history, Rutgers Women’s Lacrosse secured multiple year-end conference honors for the 2022 season. Junior Cassidy Spilis earned Big Ten Midfielder of the Year and Melissa Lehmann was named Big Ten Coach of the Year.

Conference Awards are voted for by the league’s coaches. Spilis – a unanimous vote for Midfielder of the Year – will become the first Scarlet Knight to win the Big Ten Player of the Year award since the league began in 2015. Lehman receives her first Conference Coach of the Year award since taking office in 2019-20. Lehman agrees Meredith Civico (field hockey) and Mike O’Neill (women’s soccer) as head coach of Rutgers, who were named Coach of the Year by the conference that season.

RU finished the Big Ten regular season 4-2 and secured their first place in the conference finals with their 13-5 win over No. 4 Northwestern last Friday at SHI Stadium. The win over the Wildcats in the Big Ten semifinals marked the program’s first win against a top-five team in school history and its first against NU — the reigning Big Ten tournament champions — in 17 chances.

Rutgers’ second-place finish in the conference cemented his place at the 2022 NCAA tournament. The Scarlet Knights won a selection at large for the second straight year and open with the Athlatic on Friday, May 13 in Stony Brook, New York -10 Champion Saint Joseph’s.

Cassidy Spilis: Big Ten Midfielder of the Year (unanimous selection)

A unanimous First Team All-Big Ten selection, Spilis has career-high points (67), goals (65), ties (67), balls (44), and turnovers (22) in 19 games this season. A three-time Big Ten Midfielder of the Week closing the regular season, Spilis notched 14 hat-tricks this spring and scored five or more goals seven times in the 2022 season. Spilis shone in Rutgers’ Big Ten semifinal win over No. 4 Northwestern when she recorded six points, five goals on five shots, three draw controls, two turnovers and two ground balls en route to All Big Ten tournament laurels.

Spilis is currently top 10 in five categories within the Big Ten. The Tabernacle, New Jersey native is second in goals (65), third in ground balls (44), fifth in points (67), sixth in draw controls (67), and eighth in turnovers caused (22). A top-25 Tewaaraton Award finalist and Inside Lacrosse Midseason All-American, Spili’s 67 goals are the most in a single season in school history, surpassing Heather Jones’ 60 in 1993.

In 44 career games, Spilis has amassed 146 points with 140 goals and six assists, while also adding 165 draw controls, 82 possessions and 44 concedes.

Melissa Lehmann

Melissa Lehmann: Big Ten Coach of the Year

Under Lehman’s leadership, Rutgers has enjoyed its most successful season since varsity play began in 1977, securing a program record 15 wins while advancing to its first Big Ten tournament final since it began league play in 2015. The Scarlet Knights delivered four Big Ten wins during the regular season, defeated five ranked opponents and recorded their first win over a top five opponent when they defeated the No. 4 Northwest in the Big Ten semifinals last Friday. RU remained in both the IWLCA Coaches Poll and USA Lacrosse Top 20 throughout the season, finishing 11th in the country.

Having competed once in the NCAA tournament in his first 43 years as a varsity program prior to Lehman’s arrival, Rutgers has qualified for the NCAAs in consecutive seasons with Lehman at the helm. In just three seasons, Lehman has amassed a 27-17 (.617) record with 11 wins over ranked opponents, nine Big Ten regular-season wins, and back-to-back Big Ten and NCAA tournament appearances, as well as the program’s first NCAA tournament win in program history last spring against No. 10 Drexel.

Lehman coached five student-athletes to All-Big Ten laurels this season Meghan Ball (First team), Taralyn Naslonski (First team), Cassidy Spilis (First team), Jessica Beneducci (second team and Stephanie Kelly (second) deserved recognition in the league. The five selections were the most in a single season since Rutgers joined the Big Ten, with Ball and Spilis becoming the first unanimous first-team selections in program history. Ball and Spilis were placed on the Tewaaraton Award watch list earlier in the season, while Spilis received recognition from the Tewaaraton Top 25 – the first Rutgers player to achieve the feat.

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