Rutgers seeks first ever win over Penn State
Closing in on the final stretch of the season, Big Ten opponents have finally arrived, and it couldn’t have come at a better time for the Rutgers women’s lacrosse team.
Entering the week having won 2 of their last 3 games, the Scarlet Knights (3-7) will make a stop in Pennsylvania on Saturday to take on their conference rival Penn State (8-2), looking to continue their recent success.
The potential of the Knights’ offense was on full display in their latest win against Hofstra, as head coach Laura Brand-Sias mentioned her team’s boost in confidence being a huge factor heading into their Big Ten matchups.
“When you’re feeling more confident, your execution is going to be better,” Brand-Sias said. “Commitment to a game plan, setting goals, things like that. I mean all of those things all kind of go hand in hand.”
While Rutgers is having success in recent games this season, the opposite can be said for the Knights’ history against the Nittany Lions.
Heading into the matchup on Saturday, Rutgers sits with an 0-16 all-time record against Penn State, making for the Knights’ longest losing streak with one team.
In last season’s meeting, Rutgers fell to the Nittany Lions, 15-8, in game where the Knights were unable to overcome the 10 goals Penn State scored in the first half.
Junior midfielder Macy Scott believes with a year of experience in the Big Ten up its sleeve, her team will be more prepared this time around.
“Last year, it was not a shock, but definitely an eye opener to what the pace of the game was going to be like in the Big Ten,” Scott said. “I think we definitely have more of an advantage this year, just having a year under our belt.”
The Toms River, New Jersey, native also recognized the Knights' current rivalry with the Nittany Lions, as she said her team will use it as fire to make a better impression on the Big Ten this year.
Senior attacker Halley Barnes, who led Rutgers with 3 goals against Penn State last season, thinks her team is more than prepared for Saturday’s game, having already played four of the top-20 teams in the Knights out-of-conference games this season.
While the rivalry with the Nittany Lions will be used as motivation, the Garnett Valley, Pennsylvania, native noted the personal importance of this game.
“Personally, it’s a huge game for me because I’m from Pennsylvania, so one of my best friends is on that team,” Barnes said of Penn State. “It’s just a game that brings so many emotions with it every single year.”
Barnes’ 3 goals against the Nittany Lions last year were accompanied by two other returning Knights in that game. Senior attacker Kim Kolodny scored twice while junior midfielder Kristina Dunphey had 1 goal.
Rutgers will once again look for production from Barnes, Kolodny and Dunphey as the trio continues to lead the Knights in both the goals and points category.
Penn State’s game against Rutgers comes as the second of a two game home stand in which the Nittany Lions started off with a 15-4 win against Drexel on Wednesday.
The Knights will face a tough challenge in defending against their conference rival’s deep offensive pool. Penn State currently has five players with at least 10 goals this season, headlined by senior midfielder Madison Cyr.
Cyr, who scored in her team’s win over Rutgers last season, leads the Nittany Lions with 33 goals and 40 points this year after tallying 3 goals against Drexel.
In a spectacular 2015 campaign, Cyr’s 38 goals and 46 points were good enough to have her named to the All-Big Ten team.
Cyr not only thrives in the offensive end, but also plays a big role in her team’s defense too.
After causing seven turnovers against Princeton this year, she received Big Ten Defensive Player of the week honors and continues to average over two caused turnovers per game.
While the Knights’ face a tough task in Cyr and the rest of the Nittany Lions, Rutgers has another chance to go on its first winning streak of the season.
Regardless of the Knights’ history against their conference rivals, Saturday will be a game filled with a lot of energy, making for a great start to her team’s second stint in the Big Ten.
“It should be a game that jacks everybody up,” Barnes said. “It’s such a good rivalry game and I really think that the energy that we get to experience for that 60 minutes is unmatched to any other game we play this season, and it’s just a really exciting game to play in.”
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