Clash of the titans
Jen Anzivino was in study hall when she found out.
"[Junior forward] Ashley Jones looked it up on her phone and we kind of couldn't believe it," Anzivino said.
It's something the team knew it was capable of all season. As hard as it was to comprehend, it was true — the Rutgers women's soccer team is the No. 10 team in the country.
"That was like the coolest thing I've ever heard," said senior goalkeeper Erin Guthrie. "I think it's so cool because there's been so much adversity that's been thrown at this team, and we were still able to make to the top 10."
The ranking is the first time in the history of the Rutgers women's soccer program that the Scarlet Knights have cracked the top 10 — and what a week to do it.
The Knights (9-1-3, 3-0-2) get their best chance of the season to solidify that spot tonight when they meet Big East foe and No. 8 Notre Dame at Yurcak Field.
To say that Notre Dame (8-3-1, 4-0-1) has been a dominant team in the Big East would be a gross injustice to what Fighting Irish have accomplished in their 18 years in the conference.
Notre Dame's all-time record in the Big East is 146-7-5, with a 37-2-1 record in Big East tournament play. The Fighting Irish have a 57-game unbeaten streak in the conference. And, yes, they are the defending conference champion.
"This game is huge for us," said senior back Anzivino. "Notre Dame has always been a great team. And we've kept up with them but we've always been missing something. But I really feel like this year is our year."
Anzivino has reason to believe this might be the team's year to knock off Notre Dame. Not only are the Knights in the midst of one the most successful seasons in program history, but Notre Dame is going through somewhat of a transition this season.
They are a young team and — despite their ranking — the Irish look beatable.
After starting the year as the No. 3 team in the country, Notre Dame has lost to Santa Clara, North Carolina and Stanford. Most recently, they tied unranked Pittsburgh 3-3.
"Regardless of what they've done this year, Notre Dame is ready to play everyday," Guthrie said. "They're a talented team. But we're ready to play them; we're so excited for this match. If we play well, we really have confidence that we're going to come out on top."
Despite some new faces, Guthrie is not expecting Notre Dame to look much different from the last three times she has played them.
She knows it's going to be a physical, fast-paced and intense game. The only difference is that this year, Notre Dame will not be the only top-10 team on the field tonight at Yurcak Field.
"We're both really good teams," Anzivino said. "It's just going to come down to who wants it more."