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Rutgers seek to end losing streak at home field

<p>Sophomore midfielder Alyssa Bull said the key to success will be organization.</p>

Sophomore midfielder Alyssa Bull said the key to success will be organization.

The Rutgers field hockey team has seen brighter days.

Coming into Friday’s games, the Scarlet Knights are reeling. They have lost their last four games — all to ranked opponents.

Boasting a 4-5 record is not the ideal start Rutgers was looking for.

But according to head coach Meredith Long, the Knights are confident they will get their play together.

“I’m very confident,” Long said. “We worked extremely hard on a lot of pieces of our game we need to improve on this week. The team is hungry for its first Big Ten win.”

After two disappointing losses to No. 11 Northwestern and No. 15 Michigan, Rutgers is looking to bounce back and earn its first Big Ten conference win when they host No. 20 Michigan State (5-4) on Friday.

The Spartans are coming off losses against No. 2 Maryland and No. 9 Penn State.

The Knights will have their hands full with Michigan State forwards Abby Barker and Allie Ahern. Barker has nine goals and seven assists this season, while Ahern has six goals and two assists.

Rutgers has shut down good players this season, and according to sophomore midfielder Alyssa Bull, they plan to do it again.

“We need to have high pressure, good communication in the midfield and be able to shift to the right spots,” Bull said of stopping Barker and Ahern. “We have to have high communication from the back and be very organized.”

The Knights are getting some good news going into the game this weekend, as one of their defensive leaders, sophomore Sophia Walia, returns to action after missing last weekend. Senior Jenn Staab will shift back to her natural position, defensive midfielder.

Both teams enter the game desperate for a conference win, so the Knights are preparing themselves for yet another physical battle.

“All Big Ten games are physical, and we’ve trained that way with each other, so we are prepared for it,” Bull said.

In order to get the win, the offense must get going again after scoring one goal in its last three matches.

“We have to take advantage of our opportunities,” Long said. “We’ve talked about taking calculated risks on our attack going into this game. We need to be hungry and aggressive in our front third and finish our opportunities to establish momentum.”

After Friday’s game, the focus becomes Sunday’s game against New Hampshire (2-8).

The Wildcats have struggled mightily this season, scoring one goal or less six times this season. One player who has stood out from her teammates is forward Meg Flatley, who has scored eight goals and had two assists.

Despite New Hampshire’s struggles, Rutgers must avoid overlooking the Wildcats this Sunday.

“We are going to go out with the same game plan and attack it in the same way,” said senior midfielder Sophie Wright. “And if we execute our game plan, we are going to win.”

For updates on the Rutgers field hockey team, follow @TargumSports on Twitter.

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