Rutgers hits road after homestand to battle Michigan
After going 2-2 in its month-long, four-game homestand, the Rutgers women’s lacrosse team will finally hit the road in a midweek matchup up north.
The Scarlet Knights (7-6, 1-2) will travel up to face Michigan (5-10, 1-3) at Michigan Stadium in Ann Arbor this Thursday at 7 p.m. Rutgers hasn’t traveled since visiting No. 9 Penn State nearly a month ago in its first conference game of the season.
“We’re both in a similar situation in the Big Ten,” said head coach Laura Brand-Sias. “They’re a very good team, they are very feisty and they get after it with some great players.”
In conference play so far this year, Rutgers took a hard loss at Penn State before recuperating and easily handling Ohio State at home. The Knights took a two-game break from conference play before seeing No. 1 Maryland this past weekend, where the Terrapins defeated the Knights with ease.
In Saturday’s senior night matchup with Maryland, Rutgers struggled to handle the Terps' combination of fast, pin-pointed offense and extremely physical defense, losing 20-8 in a blowout from start to finish.
“I think Michigan is definitely going to be a bloodbath,” said junior attacker Joanna Reilly, who had two goals in the game. “They are such a good team, they have a lot of fight. One thing about our team is that we like to match energy so this week in practice we know we have to work really hard to translate that into the game and really play our best 60 minutes.”
Some highlights from the matchup included an attendance of over 1,000 people, 2 goals apiece from senior midfielder Kristina Dunphey and sophomore attacker Abbey Brooks, plus four assists overall spread out between four players.
The 40th year of women’s lacrosse competition was celebrated at halftime with alumni walking out to midfield to recognize Rutgers history. On the other side of the ball, this is just the fourth year of the women’s lacrosse program at Michigan, having started with this year’s senior class.
“This is year four for them, so all of those girls who started the program are seniors now,” Brand Sias said. “It’s going to be a battle and we got to be ready for it and be ready to fight for 60 minutes.”
The Wolverines have been playing better in recent gameplay, having started the season 0-5 and then going 5-5 in their last 10 games. In its last game, Michigan went on the road to face Johns Hopkins in Baltimore, Maryland, but fell in a 15-8 final score.
Thursday’s game marks three years in a row that the Knights and Wolverines have faced each other. In the inaugural season in the Big Ten for both teams, Rutgers narrowly defeated Michigan 7-6 on the road. Then in 2016, the Knights blew out the Wolverines 16-6 to take a 2-0 lead in the series.
Rutgers has had slightly more success than Michigan when it comes to Big Ten tournament play. The Knights fell to Ohio State in the first round of the 2015 tournament, but came back a year later and defeated Ohio State in an overtime rematch before losing in the next round to Maryland.
“Michigan’s a good team,” said senior captain and midfielder Macy Scott. “They’re a fairly new program, so they are going to be out for blood and we need to be out for blood just as badly. We need this week to try and get into the 3rd seed of the Big Ten tournament, so we need to come out really strong.”
Senior team caption attacker Amanda Turturro, Dunphey and redshirt junior attacker Nicole Kopyta lead Rutgers in points this season with 34, 33 and 22. Dunphey, Kopyta and Turturro also lead the team in goals with 24, 21 and 17 respectively.
This week’s trip will be the longest for the Knights this season, traveling over 600 miles in pursuit of a win.
“We have three games left in our regular season and we are 100 percent ready to make the change and come out and get three W’s,” Scott said.
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