Rutgers to do battle with No. 12 James Madison Saturday
After putting up a solid performance against the No. 10 team in the country and picking up the first overtime win of the season a few days later, the Rutgers women’s lacrosse team looks to keep the good times rolling this weekend.
The Scarlet Knights (3-3) will face No. 12 James Madison University (5-2) this Saturday, at 1 p.m., with Rutgers set to travel down south to Harrisonburg, Virginia for their second straight road game.
The week-long break between games is the Knights' largest of the season and Rutgers is looking to capitalize on the rest and time.
“We’ve been playing two games a week for this last stretch,” said head coach Laura Brand-Sias. “That’s hard, you know, that’s hard physically and mentally so we are thankful to get a week to prepare.”
Facing its second ranked opponent of the season, the Knights hope to take what they learned in the first ranked match and use it to fuel a victory for the team. Rutgers has rallied from a 10-5 deficit to make it 10-9 with six minutes remaining in the game, but Penn held on and took the victory in a 11-9 win.
The Knights took that rough loss but tough play into its next game a few days later against Drexel in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. After a tough match, the Knights pulled out the win in sudden death overtime 9-8.
“There’s a lot to learn from the game, so we will be able to go back and watch the film and learn a ton from this,” Brand-Sias said. “It’s going to be nice to have a whole week to not only better ourselves but to prepare for James Madison, cause that’s going to be a really tough matchup for us.”
After controlling the game late into the second half, where Rutgers held an 8-6 lead with 7:38 to play after a goal from junior midfielder Paige Paratore, Rutgers collapsed under pressure.
The Knights let up 2 straight goals for the Dragons, including one with just 27 seconds left in the game, sending the game into overtime.
After facing two shot from Drexel, with another save for junior goalkeeper Bianca Dente, Rutgers drove the ball down to the Dragons side of the field with a win on their mind.
Junior attacker Kerri Puckhaber scored the game-winning goal for the Knights after connecting on an assist from senior team captain and attacker Amanda Turturro.
“We are going to take that win under our belt and show that we want more,” Dente said. “Keep working hard and focus on JMU now and go out strong again.”
Turturro leads the team in points so far this season, with 10 goals and five assists to her name, while Puckhaber is currently in fourth after the Drexel game, with 11 points, five goals and six assists.
Redshirt junior attacker Nicole Kopyta had two more goals in the Drexel victory, extending her streak of multiple goal games to six and leading the Knights in goals this season with 13.
Besides the win, the biggest highlight of the game came from junior midfielder Alana Navaroli, who had a career-high nine draw controls, missing tying the school record by just one. She leads the team in total draw controls with 15 for the season.
“Winning in overtime was huge for us,” Navaroli said. “Having three major defensive stops was huge for us and when we got the ball we capitalized when we needed to, so I think doing that has our confidence really high going into JMU.”
Rutgers and James Madison played each other at High Point Solutions Stadium, where the Dukes beat the Knights 16-11 in a high scoring game.
James Madison is coming off a tough loss to No. 5 Penn State, having its five-game winning streak snapped in University Park, Pennsylvania this past Wednesday.
The Dukes will try and beat the Knights and their next two opponents, as they prepare for their biggest matchup of the season, against No. 1 Maryland.
Rutgers will return home to Piscataway next weekend, to face off against Manhattan College before heading out for a one-game road trip to University Park, Pennsylvania to face No. 5 Penn State.
For updates on the Rutgers women's lacrosse team, follow @TargumSports on Twitter.