Rutgers downs Michigan on the road for second Big Ten win of season
Needing a conference win to increase its chances of being the No. 4 seed in the 2017 Big Ten Tournament, the Rutgers women’s lacrosse team faced both a familiar, but new opponent on Thursday.
The Scarlet Knights (8-6, 2-2) went up to Ann Arbor and defeated Michigan (5-11, 1-4) in a tight 16-14 game that came down to the last few minutes.
“It definitely wasn’t our prettiest performance,” head coach Laura Brand-Sias said. “We were in positions where we could take control and pull away, but we got put into a position to have to fight, and we pulled out of it, so we are proud of that.”
Although this was the third straight year that Rutgers and Michigan have faced each other, the Wolverines are a new team as the program was started just a few years ago in 2014.
The Knights came out hot right out of the gates, swinging in 4 straight goals in just eight minutes of play. Senior midfielder Kristina Dunphey put in 2 of the goals for Rutgers, while senior team captain midfielder Macy Scott and sophomore attacker Abbey Brooks each put in another.
Michigan put in its first goal of the game at the 20:25 mark in the first half, but Rutgers responded right back, taking a 5-1 lead after senior team captain attacker Amanda Turturro scored.
The Wolverines pulled the game into a close battle when they scored 2 straight goals and put the score at 5-3 with 17:14 left to play in the half.
Two straight goals from freshman attacker Samantha Budd and another from junior attacker Kerri Puckhaber, off an assist from junior midfielder Paige Paratore, capped a 3-goal run for the Knights, building an 8-3 lead.
“It was all a team effort,” Budd said. “Anyway for us to put the ball into the back of the net and get a win is what we need to do.”
Michigan answered back a goal but Rutgers quickly responded with a third goal from Dunphey, making it a 9-4 game with 6:25 on the clock. The goal marked the fifth hat trick of the year for Dunphey.
Rutgers ended the half on a 2-1 run, with a fourth goal from Dunphey and a goal from redshirt junior attacker Nicole Kopyta off an assist from Budd. The Knights went into the locker room with a 11-5 lead, looking to stay hot and bring the win back home.
Coming out of the locker rooms, Michigan scored the first goal and eventually went on a 3-1 run, cutting Rutgers’ lead to 12-8. The 1 goal scored by Rutgers was put in by Turturro for her second of the game.
Kopyta then scored her second of the game, but the Wolverines responded with 2 more, bringing the game back to a 3-goal difference for the first time since 12:57 in the first half. Kopyta scored again, securing her second hat trick of the season and making it 14-10.
“It was a total team effort,” Kopyta said. “We played really solid defense in the first half and I think everybody just did their job tonight.”
Paratore’s free position goal at the 15:12 mark on the clock extended the lead to five, but Michigan scored 3 straight and suddenly put the pressure on Rutgers.
With 5:12 left and the game still tight, Budd scored her third goal of the game, capturing her second hat trick of the year. Budd’s hat trick marked the first time this season that three Knights have had hat tricks in the same game, joining Dunphey and Kopyta.
The Wolverines scored 1 more goal with 45 seconds left in a last-minute attempt to tie the game, but the Knights ran out the clock and locked up a 16-14 conference win.
With the win, Rutgers guarantees it will finish the regular season with at least a .500 record with two more games to both secure a winning season and a 10 win season, its most since 2014 when they had nine.
The Knights will start that hunt next week back at High Point Solutions Stadium when Northwestern comes to visit.
“It felt good to get another Big Ten win,” Budd said. “We’re just going to do more work from here.”
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