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Rutgers hosts Northwestern with Big Ten bid on the line

In what will be a bittersweet home finale, the Rutgers women’s lacrosse team hope to lock up the No. 4 seed in the Big Ten Tournament in a season-defining game.

The Scarlet Knights (8-6, 2-2) will host No. 17 Northwestern (8-7, 3-1) in a battle between similar records, this Saturday in an early 11 a.m. game. With the win, the Knights will secure a regular season winning record, which they have not had since the 2014 season, when the team went 9-8.

Added to being the home finale, Saturday’s game marks the senior class’ final home game of its illustrious careers. Senior attackers Amanda Turturro, Kelsey Cuje and Delaney Tuite, midfielders Kristina Dunphey and Macy Scott and defender Ryann Hogan, will all say their goodbyes to High Point Solutions Stadium, which they have called home for the past four years.

“I love this group of girls,” Scott said. “I couldn’t be more proud and happy to be able to play on the field with these girls, I really think we are going to give it our all and people will see us in the Big Ten tournament.”

Rutgers is coming off a hard-fought victory against Michigan last week. After leading by 6 goals at half, the Knights struggled on defense down the stretch but managed to still hang on for the 16-14 win in Ann Arbor.

In the game last week, the Knights managed to have three student-athletes produce hat tricks in the same game, which was the first time that occurred this season. Dunphey led the way with 4 goals on the night, while junior attacker Nicole Kopyta and freshman midfielder Samantha Budd each put in 3 goals, helping secure the win.

“This is really a huge game,” Budd said. “Obviously any Big Ten game is a huge game and we are hoping that we can pull out the win.”

The Wildcats have been playing some shaky lacrosse as of late, going back and forth between wins and losses in their last five games. Most recently though, Northwestern knocked then-No. 20 Duke out of the rankings by beating them 12-10 at home last week.

Rutgers hopes to take advantage of Northwestern when they come to visit this weekend, as the Wildcats are only 3-3 in away games, compared to 5-2 when they play at home in Evanston, Illinois. The Knights also will try and capture a winning home record this weekend, as they are currently 4-4 in Piscataway.

“I think it’s going to be a really hard game and I think we need to tighten up a couple of things going forward,” Kopyta said.

In last year’s matchup between these two squads, the Knights traveled up to visit the Wildcats and lost a rough game 20-9. In that game, Turturro had a hat trick, while Dunphey and then-freshman attacker Abbey Brooks each put in a goal.

Since joining the Big Ten, Rutgers is 0-2 against Northwestern, having also lost its first game to them back in 2015. The Wildcats made their first visit to High Point Solutions Stadium and took out the Scarlet Knights with ease, defeating them 18-6.

In order to beat Northwestern this weekend, Rutgers should look to try and tighten up its passing and set ups for goals between teammates. The Knights have only had eight assists in their last three games, including just two in the win against Michigan.

During the season so far, the team has produced 225 total points compared to its opponents' total of 247, while being tied at 161 with its opponents in total goals this year.

Rutgers can thank a large part of those points and goals to its freshman that joined the program in 2013. Dunphey (37 points and 28 goals), Turturro (36 points and 19 goals) and Kopyta (25 points and 24 goals) lead the team in points and goals. Turturro also leads the team in assists, followed by junior attacker Kerri Puckhaber.

“The game is going to be a total team effort and a hard 60 minutes, so I think we just need to be prepared in practice and fix what we need to fix when we can,” Kopyta said.

For updates on the Rutgers women's lacrosse team, follow @TargumSports on Twitter.

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