Knights near goals despite brief struggles
Entering the season, the Rutgers field hockey team wanted to surpass the 30 goals it scored last year.
With seven consecutive losses and as many games of scoring one goal or less to begin the year, the vision looked more like a pipe dream. But the Scarlet Knights (3-9, 1-3) grew into a different team, one that scored two or more goals in three of its past four games.
Now the idea of surpassing 30 goals appears more and more realistic.
Rutgers entered Saturday against Louisville displaying a different looking offense than it did earlier in the season — one that prioritized quality over quantity.
The Knights only registered eight shots, but they converted goals on two penalty corners against the Cardinals.
“Our success carried over into Louisville, where we got two goals off corner sets,” said head coach Liz Tchou. “If you look at our stats, that’s really where we’ve been having trouble.”
The statistics do not lie.
Of the past three teams the Knights scored multiple goals against, the Cardinals were the only opponent against which Rutgers turned penalty corners into points.
The corner sets continue to come together for Rutgers, not only against opponents like Louisville, but also against goalkeepers Sarah Stuby and Vickie Lavell in practice, Tchou said.
“The goalkeepers gave us some feedback, in general, about our shooting. Our opportunities were much more dangerous,” she said. “We weren’t always scoring, but we were getting hard shots on the cage.”
The scoring last year mostly came off the sticks of senior forward Nicole Gentile and sophomore Gia Nappi. Gentile and Nappi scored 11 and five goals, respectively, and accounted for more than half of the Knights’ goals.
This year it is Nappi and junior forward Carlie Rouh leading the scorer.
The pair combine for nine goals, nearly half of the team’s 21 goals.
The case is the same this year, except this time with Nappi and junior forward Carlie Rouh.
“Our two scorers are Gia and Carlie. They’ve been going so hard in practice, making sure that every corner and every shot that they take is where the goalie is not,” said junior forward Chelsea Rota. “That hard work is standing out both in practice and on the field.”
In the Knights’ four games since snappin their losing streak, Nappi and Rouh continued their scoring ways. But Rutgers succeeded on the offensive end because of greater unification.
“The midfielders are really involved in our attacks inside the 25, which really helps because we can’t just rely on the forwards dribbling into the circle and being kind of crowded in front of the keeper,” Tchou said.
Rutgers has six games to score 10 goals in order to surpass its scoring total from the previous season.
Five of the Knights’ 21 goals came Aug. 26 against James Madison in the season opener. Rutgers did not score multiple goals in a game again until Sept. 25 in a 3-1 win against Bucknell.
The Knights returned to Piscataway a different team that day, one that consistently scored multiple goals in a game.
They also returned a team well on pace to surpass last season’s scoring total and continue their pursuit Friday against Providence.