Some players are born to be scorers and always have the ball in their hands. Quinnipiac field hockey senior Jess Rusin is one of them.
From the moment she stepped onto the QU Field Hockey Turf Complex, Rusin was born to score. Her career day on Sept. 1, however, may have not happened if it wasn’t for something she is not accustomed to: starting the game on the bench. She appeared in all 18 games her freshman year and 19 games in both her sophomore and junior seasons.
Quinnipiac head coach Becca Main and her coaching staff decided to do something out of the ordinary, sitting Rusin following the season-opener on Aug. 30 against Syracuse, when Rusin didn’t score or assist on a goal.
“The first game of the season, I don’t think I did my best,” Rusin said. “I got off to a slow start and I sat for a while, and was on the bench and I was just thinking, ‘This is not how I want my senior year to go.’”
Rusin was frustrated that she didn’t make her mark in the box score.
“When I don’t score, I consider myself having a bad game and I hold myself accountable for it,” Rusin said. “I know scoring is my job and if I don’t do that I’m not doing my job to help the team.”
The following game against La Salle, Rusin learned her lesson. The 5-foot-7 forward from Garwood, N.J., had two goals and an assist in a 6-4 win. In doing so, she became the fifth player in program history to reach the 25-goal mark for her career.
After the win over La Salle, Main explained that Rusin is destined to break the scoring record.
“I think it’s going to be really fun when she does it and how she does it, not if she does it,” Main said.
Fellow senior captain Christa Romano said that Rusin had no idea she was close to breaking the record.
“To be perfectly honest, Jess had no clue, that she was even in contention to break a school record, or to even match one for that matter,” Romano said.
In the first five games of her senior season, Rusin has four goals and two assists, good for a team-leading 10 points.
As a freshman, Rusin started five games, scoring four goals and adding one assist. However, it was Rusin’s sophomore season that can be described as a breakout campaign. She finished the 2011 season second on the team in goals with 10 and points with 22. That year, she became one of 12 players in Quinnipiac history to total double-digit goals in a season.
It was Rusin’s junior year in which she shined more than ever. Rusin was named to the 2012 All-Northeast Conference First Team and led the Bobcats with 24 points, including a team-leading nine goals.
Main attributes Rusin’s strong family upbringing with how she transformed as a player from her freshman year until now.
“I would love to say it has to with my staff and myself, but Jess is one of the few that was raised the right way,” Main said.
Main explained that Rusin has a family that understands that you don’t applaud an average performance.
“You don’t applaud a nice pass if it wasn’t a nice pass,” Main said.
Main believes it is this little ability that Rusin’s parents, Mark and Karen, instilled in her and made her understand that you don’t commend everything.
“They brought her up in a manner that she feels when she earns and deserves something, she should get something,” Main said.
Main credits Rusin’s family on helping her on the field as a scorer.
“I see hundreds and hundreds of athletes in my career and she had it done right at home,” Main said. “Her journey has been planned and it’s working out in a storybook how it’s supposed to work out.”
The 19th-year head coach explained that Rusin even has it written down in her performance journal this season, that she wants to break the school scoring record.
“I don’t think you get a scoring record and just sit around and don’t think about it,” Main said. “True prolific scorers think about it. It’s a goal and it’s a constant at practice, it’s a constant at a game. It’s a constant 24/7 and Jess has that ability to really focus and hone in on what she wants to do.”
Before the LaSalle game, Main wanted Rusin to be around the net more on penalty corners. A penalty corner is given to an offensive team when the defensive team commits a foul inside the shooting circle. It’s also awarded when a defender commits an intentional foul outside the circle. As a result, Main wanted Rusin to around the net more on these corners, giving her more opportunities to score. Rusin is now in front of the net instead of being at the top of the circle.
“Nobody tips, and flips and redirects better than Jess does,” Main said.
In order for the Bobcats to win a Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference title, Romano realizes that Rusin must keep up her scoring prowess.
“It’s critical,” Romano said. “She is by the far the most likely to find the back of the net, from game to game, and she knows she must put the ball in the back of the net. Jess has this ability a magnet to her stick and put the ball where it needs to go. She is relentless when she’s in the circle.”
It is Rusin’s high level of expectations that drive her.
“I expect myself to break this record,” Rusin said. “I kind of expect for it to happen.”
As part of her field hockey career, Rusin wants to achieve two things this season.
“We are getting that MAAC championship and I am going to break the scoring record,” Rusin said with a smile. “Being able to achieve this record, I would have never even dreamed it was possible.”