After a couple of conference losses last weekend, No. 20 Michigan State takes to the road for a pair of games in New Jersey against Rutgers on Friday and Monmouth on Saturday. It will mark the first time the Spartans face the Scarlet Knights since Rutgers joined the Big Ten.
Heading into the weekend, head coach Helen Knull reflected on the two losses to Penn State and Maryland.
“Friday’s game times we out-possessed Penn State, it’s just that finishing point and it starts in practice,” Knull said. “The Maryland game I think was a good lesson for us. We played a top four team that dominated us through 55 minutes of a game. We have to find a way to play better and find a way to clean up our basic skills.”
Still, there are some things Knull said the Spartans need to work on.
“There’s a couple things we have to clean up in terms of our ability to pass and follow the play. We had opportunities over the weekend we didn’t convert on and it goes back to finishing under pressure and executing under pressure,” Knull said. “Watching Rutgers and Monmouth, they’re going to be two solid teams and we are looking forward to getting two wins on the road.”
Senior midfielder Becky Stiles is looking forward to this weekend’s matchup.
“We haven’t played Rutgers so them coming to the Big 10 is exciting,” she said. “We know they are going to be a tough team, but with our game plan if we stick to that, I know we will come out strong.”
It’s a special weekend for Stiles and a few other Spartans who are playing in their home state. Stiles grew up in Medford, NJ and senior Alli Helwig grew up in Basking Ridge.
“It’s cool, it’s exciting. I have some family and friends that said they’re coming,” Stiles said. “I’ve had some friends text me and call me and say they are going to be there.”
This weekend’s meeting is the first against Rutgers since a 5-0 win in 2009. On the season, Rutgers is 4-5 including 0-3 in Big Ten play. The Spartans are currently riding a five-game winning streak against the Scarlet Knights. Their game will be played on Friday at 3 p.m.
Monmouth is also 4-5 on the season. Michigan State defeated Monmouth 4-2 last year in the only meeting between the two schools. The Spartans’ matchup with the Hawks is scheduled for 1 p.m.
Brian Bobal is a multimedia journalist for Impact Sports
Photo: David Defever/Impact Sports