Rutgers sets out to take down top ranked Maryland
The Rutgers women’s lacrosse team returns home for its second Big Ten meeting of season on Saturday, ready to face-off in what might be its biggest challenge this year.
The Scarlet Knights (3-9, 0-1) will take on No. 1 Maryland (11-0, 1-0) at High Point Solutions Stadium as they try to defy the odds and avoid their second three-game losing streak of the season.
The team needs a strong start to make a strong impression.
“Something that we really need to focus on is like I said, coming out and winning the first five minutes and putting ourselves in the position to compete for the duration of the game,” said head coach Laura Brand-Sias. “Having a challenge of doing that against the number one team in the country is an awesome challenge and is something we really want to attack.”
Rutgers has undoubtedly struggled against Maryland in the past, losing last year’s matchup with the Terrapins 17-5, making for an 0-15 record in its series history.
Senior attacker Halley Barnes, who is 3 points away from 100 on the Banks, said she thinks the game against Maryland will be important for her team mentally more than anything else.
In the Knights’ first conference game against Penn State, she said she felt her and her team accepted defeat based on the name they were playing and wants to take a different approach this time around.
“Maryland doesn’t get to win just because they have Maryland on their shirts,” the Rutgers' captain said. “The team that is going to win is the team that is going to fight the hardest. No one gets to step on the field and win before the game even happens.”
The Knights will continue to look for offensive presence from junior midfielder Kristina Dunphey, who tried her best to rally Rutgers back into its eventual 9-5 loss to Lehigh on Tuesday, scoring 3 consecutive goals in the second half.
The Hillsborough, New Jersey, native said she was frustrated with the way she performed in the first half against Lehigh, noting that her scoring outburst came from her attempt to spark a comeback for her team.
Dunphey leads the Knights with 28 goals and 35 points this year and is hoping she can help her team again on Saturday, after tallying two points against Maryland last year.
“I’m gonna try to have the team on my back and kind of be the spark so that other people can really feed off of my energy," Dunphey said. "So hopefully that will work against No. 1 Maryland."
Coming off of back-to-back NCAA National Championships in 2014 and 2015, the Terrapins have not lost a game this year, cruising to victory over teams the Knights struggled against this season.
In the span of Maryland’s 11 games this year, the Terrapins have outscored their opponents 167- 75, posting an average of over 15 goals per game.
Maryland continued its dominance on Wednesday when it defeated Johns Hopkins 10-8, extending its winning streak by one more game before facing Rutgers.
The Terrapins' top offensive gun, senior midfielder Taylor Cummings scored a goal and dished an assist against the Blue Jays.
Cummings pestered the Knights last year, scoring 5 goals and adding an assist. She comes into Saturday as Maryland’s leading point scorer with 30 goals and 41 points on the season.
Cummings has never been a stranger in the scoring department, printing her own name in the record book since arriving to Maryland as a freshman. Last year, she ranked eighth in the nation with 63 goals and lead the country in points with 100.
Nothing will come easy for Rutgers in its game against the nation's top team, and a win against Maryland would shake the lacrosse world.
Knowing the Terrapins could potentially be its highest quality opponent this season, Brand-Sias sees the game as another opportunity for her team to progress.
“It’s like any other game that we play,” Brand-Sias said of their conference rival. “No matter what, beyond the result of any contest we play, it’s another opportunity for us to get better.”
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