Rutgers faces Johns Hopkins in "do or die" season finale
With just one game left to decide the fate of its season, the Rutgers women’s lacrosse team will lay it all out on the line for the final spot in the 2017 Big Ten Tournament.
The Scarlet Knights (8-7, 2-3) play their regular season finale against Johns Hopkins (10-5, 2-3) in Baltimore, Maryland this Thursday night at 6 p.m. With both teams currently holding the same conference record, Thursday’s battle will be the most important game of the year for both squads, with the No. 4 seed in the Big Ten Tournament up for grabs.
With only four teams eligible for the Big Ten Tournament, Maryland, Penn State and Northwestern have already clinched their spots in the bracket and await the results of this Thursday's game.
Michigan and Ohio State have already been eliminated from contention in the Big Ten Tournament.
Coming into their game last weekend with a one-game lead on Johns Hopkins, the Knights had the chance to strengthen their chances of grabbing that final spot when they faced Northwestern in the season home finale.
Rutgers got off to a hot start and took a lead into halftime, but it was all Northwestern when the teams returned to the field. The Wildcats went on a 10-2 run to finish the game and easily won 14-7.
“We are just going to focus on ourselves,” said senior team captain attacker Amanda Turturro, who had a goal and assist in the game. “We are going to stay healthy and do what we know we’ve got to do by putting in the extra work since we are in a win or go home situation.”
Turturro reached a milestone in the game as well, becoming the 24th player in Scarlet Knight history to have 100 points in a career on the Banks. Turturro joined fellow senior Kristina Dunphey in the club, who reached the milestone just a few games prior.
Johns Hopkins did its part to try tying the standings and actually take the lead for the No. 4 seed, by cruising to a win against Ohio State, 12-6 last weekend.
“The whole team needs to come together and put in all of our effort,” said sophomore attacker Dana Gisonno, who lead the Knights with two assists in the game against Northwestern. “If we lose then we are out, so we really need to come together as a team and figure out what we need to do to get that win on Thursday.”
Rutgers and the Blue Jays will face each other for the third straight year and based on its previous matchups, the Knights will need to put out one of, if not the, best performance of the season. In the last two games, Johns Hopkins has combined to outscore Rutgers 28-8, taking both games with ease.
Fittingly, Rutgers seem to play better on the road and should enter Johns Hopkins confidently, holding a 4-2 record on the road this season, compared to 4-5 at High Point Solutions Stadium.
Turturro and Dunphey are both set to cross over to 40 points on the season this Thursday, with Dunphey also in position to get 30 goals for the season as well.
For the season overall, Rutgers should be pleased with its season and excited about its progress from last year, when they went just 6-12.
The Knights have many returning players next year, led by redshirt junior attacker Nicole Kopyta, who is second in goals and third in points, junior attacker Kerri Puckhaber, who is tied for second in assists and is fifth in points and junior midfielder Alana Navaroli who leads the team with 49 draw controls.
Junior goalkeeper Bianca Dente will be center stage on Thursday in the season’s final stand, taking her 117 saves into the matchup with hopes of adding more.
After the Big Ten Tournament, which will be played at the University of Maryland in College Park, the Knights will await to see their chances for the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) Tournament in mid-May.
“It really is do or die,” Turturro said.
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