Rutgers defeats Penn, No. 23 Old Dominion to continue hot start
Thanks to great all-around play, and stellar performances from two freshmen, the Rutgers field hockey team is off to its best start in nearly a decade.
The Scarlet Knights (4-0) took care of business this past weekend, beating Penn and No. 23 Old Dominion on the road, remaining undefeated. The last time they won their first four games of the season was back in 2008.
“I’m really happy with our performance in our last two games,” head coach Meredith Civico said. “Going on the road for your first away game is always a bit of a challenge.”
Rutgers beat Penn in Philadelphia on Friday by a slim 1-0 margin thanks to a late goal by freshman Daphne Groothuis. The Knights and Quakers took a scoreless tie late into the second half before Groothuis scored with just over 12 minutes remaining. Teammate Gianna Glatz kept Penn off the board by making three saves.
Civico praised her team’s effort to take control of the game despite struggling to find their rhythm early.
“It was (Penn’s) first game, and they definitely had that home-field advantage,” she said. “But I thought we settled in during the second half and really dominated the play and fought hard for that win.”
The Knights had an even better performance two days later, beating Old Dominion 5-1 in College Park, Maryland. Similar to their previous game, they started off slowly, as a Groothuis goal was their only score of the first half, and they entered halftime tied at one.
However, they stormed out of the gates in the second half, as Groothuis scored her second goal of the game. Sophomores Nikki Santore and Megan Cunningham and junior Linde van Schaik followed suit later in the half.
“ODU likes to play forward and attack, and we spent the first half testing them out and getting a feel for them,” Civico said. “Then in the second half, I thought we were really able to execute our game plan. We played with structure, were able to move the ball and create a lot of quality attacks, and finish on attack penalty corners and open plays. That was a focus going in, and I was really pleased with how we performed overall.”
Glatz shined once again in goal, saving five of the six shots the Monarchs sent her way. She discussed how her teammates’ performances impacted her and vice versa.
“I think the confidence from myself and the backs is able to feed through to our midfield and forwards, and I think that gave us the edge over our opponents,” Glatz said. ”It really helped make the difference in the games.”
Groothuis — who earned Big Ten Freshman of the Week honors for the second consecutive week — stood tall as the star of the weekend, as she continued her torrid start to the season as well as her collegiate career. Her 3 goals brought her season total up to 6 on the season, which, along with her 15 points, leads the team.
At the same time, when asked about her performance, she was quick to give credit to her teammates.
“I’m happy to score goals for my team, but everything we do is a team effort,” she said. “It’s not just about me, it’s about the whole team. We train together really hard and they make me better.”
Civico, on the other hand, praised Groothuis immensely.
“Daph is just a real quality player,” she said. “She’s technically good, she reads the game incredibly well and one of her best traits is that she’s a winner. I expect nothing less but the best from her every game, and even as a freshman she’s able to lead by example. She has a voice out on the field, she’s an exciting player, and I’m so happy that she’s been able to finish opportunities and get some stats in the first two weekends of play.”
Rutgers returns to action this Friday at No. 8 Princeton, before heading to Philadelphia to face St. Joseph’s on Sunday, as they look to remain undefeated. Based on their performance this weekend, there’s a good chance that goal is within reach.
“Everybody worked really well together as a team,” Glatz said. “We all fed off of one another and took in the information from each other. Everyone trusted each other, and I think that and knowing each other’s abilities helped us get through the weekend.”
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