Rutgers marches on in Big Ten play in search of first conference win
The Rutgers women’s lacrosse team will be well rested for its third Big Ten showdown on Sunday after having an entire week off from game action following its loss to Maryland.
The Scarlet Knights (3-11, 0-2) face off against Northwestern (6-6, 1-1) in Evanston, Illinois, hoping to shake off some of their Big Ten demons and turn around their fortunes in their new conference.
The Knights have taken full advantage of their week off, giving themselves the chance to recover for the final stretch of the season, junior midfielder Macy Scott said. It gave her team a chance to break down more film, take a day off and even partake in a yoga session following one of their practices.
After its 18-3 pounding at the hands of No. 1 Maryland, Rutgers faces another tough challenge in the Wildcats, a program that has won seven national championships.
“Having this full week to just put Maryland behind us and look straight ahead to Northwestern, our next Big Ten competition, it’s definitely a good thing we had a full week off,” Scott said. “I definitely think that is going to benefit us.”
With only three games left in a season that has not fared well for the Knights, head coach Laura Brand-Sias said their remaining schedule will not determine any roster shakeups.
She said each game is considered a one-game season, and whichever player is going to put them in the best position to win is going to receive playing time.
One of the players that could continue to see playing time for Rutgers is freshman attacker Abbey Brooks.
Since scoring her first goal, coming off of the bench in a loss against Penn earlier in the season, Brooks is becoming more of a frequent presence on the Knights’ offense.
“She’s developing well,” Brand-Sias said of her freshman. “Her athleticism and her quickness definitely shines for her. She’s gaining maturity and better game sense with every opportunity, so we're happy to see how she’s developing.”
Since becoming a regular in Rutgers’ lineup, Brooks has amounted nine goals and 11 points, ranking her fifth among Knights’ scorers. Her most impressive feat came in a 16-11 loss to James Madison earlier in the season, when the Moorestown, New Jersey, native erupted for 5 goals.
While she said it has been nerve racking to step onto the big stage as a freshman, Brooks has embraced the opportunity she has been given to play beside senior attackers Halley Barnes and Kim Kolodny.
“They really set the standard high and I really learn a lot from them every day,” Brooks said of her senior teammates. “Kim and Halley have a lot of experience, they know what to do in close game situations, they give 100 percent at every day at practice and they’re just really good role models on and off the field.”
The Knights will need Brooks to continue to breakout, as they have not had a favorable history with Northwestern, holding an 0-8 record all-time.
Similar to Rutgers’ roster, Northwestern also boasts an offense in which three different players have 20 or more goals.
Most notable of the Wildcats scoring-trio is senior midfielder Kaleigh Craig, who scored 2 goals while adding an assist in her team’s 18-6 win over the Knights last year. Craig has 27 goals and 35 points this season, after recording 46 goals and 52 points in her 2015 campaign.
While Rutgers has the entire week to prepare against its conference opponent, the Wildcats are caught one of the busiest weeks of their schedule.
Coming off of a win against Notre Dame on Sunday, Northwestern will play USC on Friday before its meeting with the Knights. Pending that result, the Wildcats might come into their game against Rutgers looking to extend their winning streak to three.
The Knights will look to end their own three-game losing skid on Sunday as they head out to Illinois hoping to get their first Big Ten win of the season.
While Rutgers' road trip to Northwestern is the farthest her team travels this season, coach Brand-Sias sees it as something for her players to embrace.
“It’s not a negative to be taking a longer road trip, it’s a huge opportunity that not every team gets,” Brand-Sias said. “We’re going to another Big Ten school, and it’s a huge chance to play our best lacrosse against a Big Ten team.”
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