Rutgers falls to No. 9 Virginia, 5-4
After a 70-minute hard-fought battle, it was all left on the field.
Despite falling to No. 9 ranked Virginia by a score of 5-4, the Rutgers field hockey team takes its first loss this season with the satisfaction of knowing that they challenged one of the nation’s top teams down to the final seconds of the contest.
The Scarlet Knights (2-1) captured many successes despite the loss, beginning with the close numbers on the scoreboard.
With junior goalkeeper Shevaun Hayes notching a season-high nine saves, junior Devon Freshnock and senior forward Nicole Imbriaco both rounded out the day’s successes by setting career-highs with goals scored this season.
After being edged out by the Cavaliers (3-0) last season in overtime, Rutgers was adamant on redemption. Although not able to collect a 'W,' the Knights challenged Virginia throughout the entire game with equal play despite the vast discrepancy seen on paper.
“I’m really just proud of our team. We really worked so hard throughout all 70 minutes. We didn’t give up and we knew even when were down that we were in this game,” Imbriaco said. “Unfortunately it didn’t go the way we wanted it to but I think using this game as a learning experience and, you know, going forward in our season, this was a great start to be able to come back and get those goals after 3-1 was awesome.”
With Imbriaco notching one on the board off an assist from junior midfielder Alyssa Bull just over a minute into the game, things were looking up for the Knights. But the Cavs tied up the score on a penalty stroke before advancing to a 3-1 lead over Rutgers by the end of the first half.
Despite a two-goal deficit, the Knights knew that the game was far from over. Rutgers answered with a goal scored just over a minute into the second half by senior forward Katie Champion with an assist by Imbriaco.
The score became tied at 3-3 after junior Devon Freshnock took advantage of a penalty corner scoring opportunity and netted the ball in Virginia’s cage on an assist from senior captain Ali Stever.
A corner for Virginia later in the second half gave the Cavaliers the edge over the Knights before they tacked on an unassisted insurance goal to further their lead to 5-3.
On its home field with less than two minutes remaining, Rutgers was still not finished.
Sofia Walia scored on a penalty stroke in the final minutes of the game to make the possibility of a tied score and overtime play within reach. But the Knights were unable to put another one in the cage before the final whistle blew and Virginia handed Rutgers its first loss of the season.
Despite an unfavorable outcome, head coach Meredith Civico was proud of the effort her team put in and the game they played.
“You know, it’s disappointing to lose a game that you’ve fought and competed so hard in and I think the team, they left the game and walked off the field dissatisfied not getting a win but I think proud of the effort and the hockey they played,” Civico said. “I think we played hard, we stuck to our game plan and we’ve trained a lot of what we put into play this week and that was a big focus of ours — to just translate the preparation and translate the practice into the game play.”
She gave credit to the top-10 caliber Cavaliers.
“We had some technical breakdown at times and I think Virginia’s a team that can take advantage and create a scoring opportunity out of that," Civico said. "I think as we’re playing the better teams in the conference and on our schedule. We just have to be really aware of where we’re creating turnover and where we’re losing the ball and how do we manage it better so it doesn’t result in a goal.”
In the wake of such a hard-luck end result, Rutgers remains focused on the positive takeaways from its game against such a formidable rival.
Eager to learn from their latest game experience, the Knights looks forward to the possibilities that await for future games after proving to themselves and others their capability in challenging elite teams.
“I think that playing such a tough opponent and a higher ranked team early on in the season is a good test for us to play our Big Ten opponents where it’s in conference and it matters a little bit more,” Walia said. “I think that we brought out everything we had in us. You know, we’ve never really played like this in my three years. … It was definitely a successful game for us.”
All in all, Rutgers stepped onto the Bauer field with something to prove. Keen on continuing to prove themselves as top contenders within the Big Ten conference, the Knights have taken their first step toward doing so.
“I don’t think we’re a secret anymore,” Civico said. “I think, this Rutgers team, they wanna have a reputation for having an effect on every opponent we play and making their mark in the Big Ten. I think they really put everything they had out there today and it’s only going to get better I think which is exciting for us as coaches and exciting for the team.”
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