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Rutgers hosts pair of potent opponents this weekend

<p>Senior forward and captain Alyssa Bull believes her team is prepared both mentally and physically heading into a pair of difficult battles against No. 10 Michigan and Saint Joseph's this weekend.</p>

Senior forward and captain Alyssa Bull believes her team is prepared both mentally and physically heading into a pair of difficult battles against No. 10 Michigan and Saint Joseph's this weekend.

This weekend will be a gritty one for the Rutgers field hockey team.

The Scarlet Knights (6-4, 1-2) get back to Big Ten action against another ranked conference foe in No. 10 Michigan (7-4, 2-2) on Friday at the Bauer Track/Field Hockey Complex. Then, in a quick turnaround, Rutgers hosts St. Joseph’s (8-4, 4-0) in the first matchup between the sides since 2009 on Sunday.

After coming close to a comeback victory against No. 6 Northwestern last weekend after achieving a record-breaking upset win over No. 15 Iowa in their opening conference weekend, the Knights are eager to get after their next conference rival.

“(We’re) really excited for another opportunity to play a Big Ten team. We are looking pretty good as far as the matchup with Michigan,” said head coach Meredith Civico. “(We) had the opportunity to watch their Maryland game last week and they are definitely a physical team, they play really high tempo but I think we’ve been playing some of our best hockey in the last couple games … We’ve got to be mentally prepared for a battle.”

A battered Michigan comes to the Banks riding a three-game losing streak after facing of a trio of powerhouse top-10 Big Ten foes. Despite its two-week skid, the Wolverines’ goalkeeper posses a menacing threat Rutgers’ offense with a Big Ten-leading 1.40 goals-against-average.

Both Rutgers and Michigan are desperate for a conference win to stay afloat and get into a good position for the postseason.

The Knights are geared up and combat-ready.

“It might not be the prettiest game but it’s gonna be a competitive game,” Civico said. “We’ve just got to stay focused and … 'win ugly' is really the term I would call it.”

Last weekend, a resurged Rutgers came back from a 3-0 deficit at halftime and answered with 3 goals against Northwestern in the second half.

Although it wasn’t enough to beat the No. 6 team in the country and the team suffered a 5-3 loss, the statement that the team made speaks volumes.

“I think it’s gonna have a really positive impact. We were really happy with how we played last weekend,” said senior captain Alyssa Bull of the Northwestern game. “Although we didn’t get the outcome that we wanted, we still really came together in the second half and competed with a top-10 team in the country and to be that close with them, we know that we can compete against anybody.”

The Knights’ biggest issue this season has been getting caught on their heels in the opening halves of games.

The team is adamant on not making that mistake again.

“I think that if we can come in and play the full 70 minutes, there’s nobody that can beat us,” said senior defender Sophia Walia.

St. Joe’s crosses the bridge from Philadelphia undefeated in Atlantic 10 play. Highlighting the Hawks’ offensive line is Anna Willocks, who ranks second in the NCAA in goals per game and third in points per game with 17 goals and 40 points on the season.

It's a big weekend for Rutgers and its impact will be significant in tipping the scale at a critical point in the season. The team has prepared to come out swinging.

“I think everyone’s in a good place mentally and physically,” Bull said. “Everyone’s doing what they need to to come in ready (for) this game. I think everyone really wants it — we want to be 2-2 coming out of this weekend in Big Ten.”

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

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