Late goals hurt Rutgers in defeat
The stage was set as the Rutgers field hockey team took the blue field at Michigan in its first ever Big Ten Tournament. But as the clock hit zero, its emotions soon mirrored the color of the field.
Sad and depressed were a few words used by players to describe how they felt.
A plethora of yellow jerseys ran to the midfield hugging each other and giving high fives. Meanwhile, the Scarlet Knights (9-10, 2-7) walked off the field with their heads down, knowing their season had ended.
Rutgers ended up losing the game, 3-0, thanks to the Wolverines’ (13-6, 7-2) three second-half goals.
“It is very sad to lose a game like this,” said senior midfielder Sophie Wright. “I’m very proud of everyone on the team and how we performed today. It took a lot of work to get to where we are today.”
Head coach Meredith Long was proud of the way her team played and felt if a couple of things went their way, the Knights might have gotten the outcome they wanted.
“I’m disappointed that we aren’t going to continue in the tournament,” Long said. “I thought the team played really hard. We were tight in the first half, and then we had a couple cards that killed our momentum and Michigan was able to capitalize.”
Hopes were high entering the second half tied 0-0 after the Knights were able to tame the Wolverines’ first-half attack while threatening on the offensive side themselves.
Sophomore goalie Shevaun Hayes kept Rutgers in the game in the first half, making three saves to keep the game tied.
The Knights had their chances early on with three consecutive corners, as did the Wolverines who accumulated four corners, but both defenses were stout and held their ground.
Those missed corner opportunities proved to make a huge difference in the outcome.
“We missed some chances on our attack penalty corner, just missing two deflections that would’ve changed the momentum of the game and possibly the outcome,” Long said.
The Wolverines slashed Rutgers’ hopes of advancing, when they put three goals in the back of the net in the second half, and the Knights had no answers on the offensive side.
Forward Leslie Smith scored two of those goals for her team and had six shots in the game, all of which were on goal.
Rutgers was outshot, 15-8, in the game.
“We played really aggressively but could have been more disciplined,” said midfielder Jenn Staab. “We failed to communicate properly, and some of the chances they were able to get were unlucky for us, like the penalty stroke.”
It was a struggle for the Knights to maintain a physical attack and hold possession throughout the game. Long eluded to how hard her three captains, Wright, Staab and sophomore midfielder Alyssa Bull played and kept everyone on the field in check.
Long said setting the tempo, performing under pressure, making smart decisions and controlling possession were the keys to a Knights win earlier this week, and while they were able to do that, the Wolverines proved too much.
With such a young team, Long thinks things can only go up for her squad at this point on.
“Where we are with such a young group in the Big Ten and legitimately competing with the top teams in conference and the country is exciting,” Long said. “It says a lot about our program and where we are heading. … Experience is the greatest teacher.”
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