Sophomore rebounds from toe injury to lead Rutgers to playoffs
After starting every game her freshman season, the Rutgers field hockey team’s current starting forward Rachel Yaney came in to her sophomore season looking to hit the ground running and have an immediate impact in the Big Ten.
As a freshman, Yaney was able to accumulate five goals and 10 points.
But the Scarlet Knights were dealt a blow when it was confirmed Yaney suffered a broken big toe in training, forcing her to recover from injury to start the year.
It set Yaney back, but she was able to fight back and play in the Knights’ third game of the season and start by the 10th game. She has kept the starting job ever since.
“I never thought that a broken big toe would be such an obstacle,” Yaney said. “But once I was healthy, I had to work extra hard to get back out there.”
Like anyone who misses any time, when they return, they are typically somewhat out of sync with their team. That is what happened for Yaney and the forwards group this season.
“We weren’t on the same page in the beginning and we were playing as individuals, but as the season went on, we started to pick it up and communicate more,” Yaney said. “We began to fight for one another.”
Yaney came to Rutgers because she had already known head coach Meredith Long from the U.S. Futures Development program and felt she integrated well with the girls.
“The other schools weren’t the same,” Yaney said. “Our team bond is amazing, and we really connect together on and off the field.”
For a freshman, it is usually difficult to see the field that much in their first season, which is why Yaney was very surprised she played as much as she did. But she knew she could perform given the opportunity.
“I think she earned her minutes and her opportunities last season,” Long said. “She is a real creative player and someone that knows what she’s going to go out there and do. She is just a natural attacker and does a lot of things you can’t necessarily teach.”
The experience really gave Yaney confidence and better prepared her for this season. It is something sophomore midfielder Alyssa Bull has noticed on and off the field.
“On the field, she is such a deceptive player and really unpredictable to prepare for if you are on the other team,” Bull said. “Off the field, she has had such a big impact, especially when she fought to overcome the injury.”
When she is on the field, Yaney feels she can be the most electric player out there.
“When I get this fire, I am unstoppable,” Yaney said. “Once I am in the zone, you can’t stop me.”
Long described her as a player that performs well under pressure and is able to pull out all the stops when she is on the field. She credits this to the experience she has gained.
“She has been playing with more confidence, awareness and composure,” Long said. “She is one of our most experienced forwards on the field as just a sophomore.”
With two years of eligibility left, Yaney hopes to take advantage of the experience she has gained in order to help out teammates that are younger than her or struggle for playing time.
She wants to use her leadership next year and show she will be there for them whenever they need it.
“Rachel is a leader through example and her play,” Long said. “When she has something to say, it is pretty profound and impactful. Her teammates kind of look to her for inspiration.”
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