Rutgers sweeps competition, earns berth to Big Ten Tournament
For the second time this season, the Rutgers field hockey team was able to sweep the weekend with wins over Indiana and Penn by scores of 2-1 and 3-0, respectively.
After beating Indiana (9-8, 1-7) on Friday and riding such an emotional high, the Scarlet Knights (8-9, 2-6) could have had a letdown on Senior Day.
But before the game, senior midfielders Jenn Staab and Sophie Wright were honored, which got the team riled up to go out and perform for them. The Knights did just that by securing their first shutout of the season against the Quakers (8-8).
Junior forward Katie Champion scored twice, adding to her team-leading 10 goals, while sophomore forward Rachel Yaney also scored her fourth goal of the season.
Rutgers was efficient offensively and able to take advantage of the opportunities it had.
“Our forwards are peaking and starting to play really well,” said head coach Meredith Long. “The combo of Jasmine [Cole], Katie [Champion] and Rachel [Yaney] up front is proving to be dangerous. We are clicking at this point, which is exciting going into the tournament.”
While the Penn win was a plus, the more important game of the Knights’ season came down to what happened in their game on Friday against the Hoosiers.
Rutgers came into the season with the main goal of making the Big Ten Championship, and they clinched a berth to the tournament this week after beating Indiana.
It was a dramatic win, as the Knights were able to take the lead with two minutes remaining, thanks to sophomore defender Sofia Walia hammering the ball home.
“As soon as she got the goal, my heart just stopped,” said sophomore Alyssa Bull. “It was so exciting. We knew we just had to hold it and maintain possession after that.”
Rutgers’ season has been one where the Knights have fallen short multiple times against Big Ten opponents, so to finally get the win they needed most led to ecstatic celebration.
Rutgers started the scoring when Champion was able to find junior forward Nicole Imbriaco in front of the net to put the Knights up 1-0. The goal was Imbriaco’s fifth of the season and first since Sept.12.
The remainder of the game was a defensive battle, until the Knights earned a corner and Walia capitalized.
“It was a really exciting game,” Yaney said. “We knew we won the game as soon as the ball went in. Now, we have nothing to lose going into Michigan.”
Rutgers next faces the No. 2 seed of the tournament, Michigan, Nov. 6. The Wolverines edged out the Knights in their game earlier this season, 2-1, in Ann Arbor Sept. 28.
“It’s thrilling,” Long said. “This team has worked really hard to be in this position. Our preparation began last year. We are really viewing this as a brand new season going in to the Big Ten tournament. It really is anybody’s game.”