Rutgers splits weekend with win over Michigan State, loss to Ohio State
As the regular season comes to a close, the Rutgers field hockey team looks like one that can wreak havoc in the postseason. But at the same time, there is still some work to do.
The No. 18 Scarlet Knights (8-7, 3-3) split their last two games in their second-to-last regular season weekend, winning at Michigan State (8-8, 2-4) before losing to No. 25 Ohio State (8-7, 1-5) at home on Sunday.
Rutgers failed to capitalize on multiple golden opportunities during its 2-0 loss to Ohio State. After a scoreless first half where neither team had an advantage, the Buckeyes struck first early in the second half, putting the pressure on the Knights to score.
And yet, despite many great chances, Rutgers could not get the equalizer that it needed. Notably, there was a sequence in the second half down 1-0 where it had four penalty corners in a row and could not find the goal. The closest it got was a shot that just deflected off the post.
Ohio State scored another goal with 19 minutes left, and the Knights could not find a way to get back into the game or put pressure on the Buckeyes by cutting the deficit in half. It marked the third shutout this season for the team.
Overall, Rutgers ended the game with 11 corners while Ohio State only had three, and had 13 shots to the Buckeyes’ eight, although Ohio State had more shots on goal.
“We were a bit on our heels today, and weren’t playing our usual front-foot attacking-minded hockey,” said head coach Meredith Civico, explaining the loss. “We were defending a lot, our mentality was a bit too defensive, and when we did get our opportunities we were not able to execute, which was really unfortunate.”
On the other hand, freshman Kerrie Burns praised the Buckeyes’ performance and will to win, something Civico admitted the Knights lacked.
This was in stark contrast to the type of game Rutgers played on Friday when it won a hard-fought game against Michigan State, 3-2 in East Lansing. After the officials waved off a Daphne Groothuis goal 14 minutes in, the Knights immediately got a goal that counted when sophomore Nikki Santore tipped in a pass from sophomore Austyn Cuneo.
The Spartans were quick to tie it up, but Rutgers regained the lead for good with goals at the end of the first half from Burns and her fellow freshman Gianna Mancini. Michigan State closed the gap with a goal in the second half, but could not come any closer, as the Knights held on for the win, their first against the Spartans since 1989.
“It was a really good team effort,” Santore said. “We started off strong and scored the first goal, and I think that really set the tone for the rest of the game. We kept scoring in the first half, and that led us to our win.”
More importantly, Rutgers got the win in a harsh road environment and held strong despite the added pressure.
“Michigan State’s always a difficult team to play, and playing them on the road adds another element to the challenge,” Civico said. “I was happy with how the team was able to compete and come out with the win. It was physical, at times chaotic, but I thought we really managed it well.”
Rutgers wraps up its regular season this weekend with a game at No. 6 Penn State on Friday before returning home to face No. 16 Maryland.
A tough loss like the one on Sunday can really stick with a team, but the Knights are adamant that this is not the kind of hockey that they usually play, and will strive to perform more like they did against Michigan State.
“We feel like we let an opportunity slip away, but it's not a game that defines us,” Civico said. We're going to really look at it and see where we need to improve going forward.”
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