Rutgers prepares to host Dukes in lone game of weekend
For the second time this season, the Rutgers field hockey team has a one-game weekend at home.
The Scarlet Knights hope for a better turnout than the last time they were home, which resulted in a 4-0 shutout at the hands of Iowa.
“It is nice to have one game to focus … for the weekend,” said senior midfielder Sophie Wright. “It gives us a lot more time to prepare and look over footage. It helps us get to grips [with] what we really need to accomplish.”
With the extra time to focus on just one team, Rutgers’ coaching staff has been able to work individually with players improving their mindset and skills and breaking down individual videos.
Rutgers (6-9) is set to take on James Madison this Sunday, which boasts an impressive 9-5 record coming from the Colonial Athletic Association conference.
Although not part of as prestigious a conference as the Big Ten, the Dukes have scheduled some impressive and tough opponents.
But they have lost all three of their games to ranked teams. They lost by one goal to No. 9 Northwestern and No. 6 Duke. They were also shutout 4-0 by No. 17 Old Dominion.
So, like Rutgers, James Madison has struggled to finish off ranked opponents and is still searching for that elusive signature win.
The Knights do hold the all-time series lead against the Dukes, 2-1-1, with their most recent victory coming in 2011, 5-1.
Rutgers hopes to take advantage of playing just one team this week. The lightened schedule for the weekend allows the team the ability to focus solely on everything the Dukes have to offer.
James Madison, meanwhile, doesn’t have the same luxury. The Dukes have to take care of business at Drexel on Friday night before traveling to take on the Knights.
“I think we have to focus on playing our game as well as our start,” said head coach Meredith Long. “… Setting the tempo and controlling the momentum of the game.”
The Knights have played 10 games this season that have been determined by one goal and hope the offense receives a much-needed spark so the result comes out their way.
“It’s incredibly crucial that we score in the first 10 minutes,” Wright said. “It helps you carry momentum through for the rest of the game.”
James Madison, like most of the teams the Knights have played this season, has a potent offense as well as a solid defense. The Dukes score 3.29 goals a game while giving up 2.29 goals against.
They have also gotten 102 corners and have only given up 64. When it comes to playing James Madison, it is important to defend as well as get in the lead early.
One of the players Rutgers must contain is midfielder Lose Stijnites, who has a team-high 13 goals and 30 points to go along with three game-winners.
Forward Taylor West is also an offensive threat for the Dukes, with 10 goals and 26 points, both good for second on the team.
“We are going to cover the dangerous lines, as well as identify the key players before the game and break down any sustained attacks that they have,” Wright said.
With a crucial Big Ten clash coming up next week against Indiana and a chance to better its positioning to get in the Big Ten tournament, Rutgers looks to zone in on a win this weekend in order to prepare itself for the last stretch of its season.
“We are looking at James Madison first, but it’s going to be really good preparation for Indiana next weekend,” Long said. “I think if we can play our game and pull out a win, it will be great for our confidence.”
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