RU draws one-loss opponent
It took two months and 13 games, but the Loyola women's lacrosse team lost a game for the first time this season Tuesday against Georgetown.
The Scarlet Knights can only hope to continue that losing pace on Saturday for the Greyhounds.
But the Knights (8-5, 2-3) are not focused on the fact that they face the No. 6 team in the nation. They are focused on winning every game on the rest of the schedule.
"They're a Big East opponent, and that's our focus," said head coach Laura Brand. "Our goal is still to make the Big East Tournament, so we need to win this game on Saturday to stay on track with that goal. The story is not who it is that we're playing, it's that we're focusing on that goal."
The Knights' goal is to stick to their gameplan and not adjust to their opponent — even if that opponent only lost one game.
Rutgers has not been able to put that gameplan together for all 60 minutes in Big East play yet, as it lost three conference games and won two in the final minutes.
"We fed into the other team's strengths rather than forcing them to adjust to us," Brand said. "We've been doing that in spurts."
Rutgers can turn around that inconsistent style of play in its final three games of the regular season, starting against Loyola (12-1, 4-1).
But it did not take a loss for the Knights to know the Greyhounds are beatable. Loyola wins close games, including a 14-12 win over Louisville and a 13-10 triumph over Notre Dame.
"There have certainly been a lot of opportunities for teams to upset them, but they've come out of the few really close games by just having a surge at the end," Brand said. "We need to just focus on the fact that on paper and on film, we can definitely compete with this team."
If anything, Rutgers can beat Loyola by making it a defensive game. Loyola and Rutgers lead the Big East in goals allowed per game.
"They do have the No. 1 defense [in the Big East], but from the film I've watched they're definitely beatable," Brand said. "But they're physical, they have good athletes and they're not afraid to take chances."
Goalie Kerry Stoothoff is one of the leaders of the Loyola defense. The junior ranks second in the Big East with 8.51 goals allowed per game, which is second only to Rutgers goalie Lily Kalata.
"Their goalie is very talented," Brand said. "She has a lot of caused turnovers and she can intercept passes."
The Greyhounds have yet to face a defense as highly ranked as the Knights', and the Knights are confident they can prevent Loyola goals.
"As far as I know, we have the best defense in the Big East," said senior midfielder Shawn Lopez. "They just have a really good notion of how you play defense. Half of our defenders came in as midfielders, so they're all extremely athletic and they've been able to hone their skills."
Rutgers looks to make up for the 18-6 beating it suffered last season at Loyola's hands.
"The biggest thing for us is getting revenge on them for our game against them last year," Lopez said. "They pretty much embarrassed us and this is our opportunity to get some vengeance."
Most importantly, Loyola is just one of the teams ahead of Rutgers in the Big East standings. Last year aside, the Knights just look to put another one in the Greyhounds' loss column.