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Rutgers faces 1st challenge this weekend against No. 4 UConn

 – Photo by The Daily Targum

With the Rutgers field hockey team starting with two successful games of the season, it's going to face its most challenging team yet. This Friday, in Storrs, Connecticut, the No. 19 Scarlet Knights (2-0) will compete against No. 4 UConn.

Rutgers has defeated both No. 24 Maine and Ball State at home, so this will be its first away game as well as its first game against a higher-ranked team. The Huskies (2-0) have played against No. 15 Northwestern and No. 21 Stanford, giving both teams its first losses of the season.

While the Knights ranked in between the Wildcats and the Cardinals, it isn’t uncommon for Rutgers to step up and take on an underdog win.

The last time the Knights have played a regular season game against UConn was back in 2013, where Rutgers took a 2-0 loss in Piscataway. That was also back when the Knights used to regularly get sub .500 season wins. 

Since Rutgers has been in the Big Ten, it has gradually been increasing its conference wins each year. In its first year, it had two conference wins, and in the one after that, the team had zero. 

But 2016 was the year that the Knights got their groove back, and they won two conference games, and one more after that every year.

Now in 2019, if they follow the pattern, they will have five conference wins. But since these two teams aren’t in the same conference, it couldn’t be the Huskies.

Last year, UConn won all seven of its conference games. A year after that, it went undefeated. Year after year, the Huskies end their season with very few losses nonetheless conference losses.

This is definitely going to be one of the most challenging games for Rutgers, but again, it doesn’t discount the fact that it defeated approximately five higher-ranked teams, one of them being No. 6 Princeton, when the Knights were No. 23. That game broke a record for highest-ranked win in the field hockey program's history. 

Now that Rutgers starts the year off at No. 19, this win would be a closer win than before against the Tigers, but it doesn’t mean it will be an easy win for the Knights.

One of the most intimidating players on Rutgers' team is fifth-year senior back Austyn Cuneo, who has taken over the field these past two games. Cuneo has totaled 3 goals in the past two games as well as racked up 10 total shots on goal. She is definitely one to keep an eye on for this upcoming game.

On the UConn's side, Abby Gooderham had a successful freshman season, and is looking to do the same again. Gooderham totalled 15 goals, 12 assists and 33 points, and was third on the team in goals. She is not seasoned on the Huskies, but she has definitely shown that she can compete at any level.

With such a strong team like UConn and such a resilient group like the Knights, it will be a tough game for both teams. They have not been matched up since 2013 and one tournament game in 2018, so Rutgers will have to learn how to overcome such strength for an away game win.

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

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