Rutgers hosts No. 1 Maryland in Senior Night showdown
After being brought back down to Earth last weekend after going 5-1 in its last six games, the Rutgers women’s lacrosse team has an uphill battle this Saturday as the top ranked team in the nation makes a visit to Piscataway.
The Scarlet Knights (7-5, 1-1) will face off against No. 1 Maryland (12-0, 2-0) this Saturday at 7 p.m. in High Point Solutions Stadium in their return to conference play after a two-game break.
“We have a full week to prepare for them,” said senior team captain attacker Amanda Turturro. “So I think that’s really in our favor. We are going to take this week and just work on the little things to hopefully be in a battle against Maryland.”
For Rutgers, a break from game play has been used for time to re-focus after losing to No. 8 Cornell in a hard-fought game. Turturro produced the only two assists of the game and scored a goal as well in the 12-9 loss.
After some back and forth early on, the Knights broke things open and took a 4-goal lead in the middle of the second half. The Knights couldn’t score again until the five-minute mark, when senior midfielder Kristina Dunphey scored 2 straight goals and almost put in a third one, but it was called back.
“We want to just start from the first whistle and play our hardest throughout the whole game,” Dunphey said. “That all starts in practice where we are going to be locked in and focused because Maryland’s the top team obviously, so we know it’s not going to be an easy game, so we all have to fight for it.”
As for the Terrapins, they started the season hot and haven’t looked back, literally. Maryland has gone undefeated this season, including two conference games.
The Terrapins, who won the 2016 Big Ten Tournament and made it to the 2016 NCAA Championship game, started the season at No. 2 in the country. After beating then-No. 1 North Carolina, who defeated them in last year’s championship, the Terrapins have been in possession of the No. 1 ranking.
Maryland won its 12th straight game this past Wednesday when it took down No. 18 Virginia on the road. That game was the sixth ranked opponent for the Terrapins this season.
The Terrapins have been playing great on both sides of the ball this season. Their offense is scoring in double digits every game, including scoring 20 goals twice, while their defense has held opponents to single digits in seven games. They opened the season by holding William & Mary to just 3 goals.
That 3-goal defensive effort may remind both teams of their regular season matchup from last season when Maryland easily took down Rutgers, 18-3.
The Knights and the Terrapins did see each other again, meeting in the second round of the 2016 Big Ten Tournament. It was a closer battle the second time around, but the outcome was the same, as Maryland moved on by beating Rutgers, 19-9.
Since joining the Big Ten, the Knights are 0-3 against the Terrapins. They also lost their first game in College Park, Maryland. The Terrapins have been ranked No. 1 in each of the three matchups with Rutgers.
This weekend’s matchup will be the last of a four-game home stand that saw the Knights take down both conference rival Ohio State and Niagara before falling to Cornell.
“It’s been great to be at home, it’s always nice especially down the last chunk of your season,” said head coach Laura Brand-Sias. “We definitely have a lot of work to do this week and Maryland is an exceptional team, so we are going to have to tighten up a lot of different areas to put ourselves in a good position for Saturday.”
Turturro and Dunphey not only lead the team in points, with 32 and 31 respectively, but they will also lead Rutgers with senior team captain midfielder Macy Scott into Saturday’s Senior Night, honoring the players who will be graduating this spring.
The Knights junior attacker Nicole Kopyta, who joined the team the same year as the seniors, has scored in all but one game this season, and sits in second for goals scored this season, just one behind Dunphey.
“It’s a special day for us,” Dunphey said. “So we definitely want to come out the best.”
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