Rutgers registers winless weekend against No. 16 Northwestern, No. 18 Michigan
Calling the most elite conference in the nation home comes with big responsibilities.
In opening up the home schedule of Big Ten play against No. 16 Northwestern and No. 18 Michigan, the Rutgers field hockey team went 0-2 this weekend with a conference win still hanging in the balance.
The Scarlet Knights (5-4, 0-2) took a 5-1 loss to Northwestern (8-4, 1-2) on Friday before getting shutout by Michigan (7-3, 2-1), 2-0, Sunday. Though its only losses of the season have come at the hands of ranked opponents, Rutgers is now 5-4 on the season overall.
The opposition in these Big Ten rivals was menacing. Rutgers struggled to rise to the occasion.
“Going into Big Ten play is just much more physical, much more aggressive, a lot more pressure on us by the opponents,” said head coach Meredith Civico. “I thought this weekend we didn’t play well under the pressure. We really couldn’t get our game going.”
Civico stressed the importance of preparation in taking on such formidable competition.
“As we go into Big Ten play, I mean, you have doubleheader weekends and you’re playing top teams in the country,” Civico said. “You’ve got to be physically, mentally, emotionally ready for those games.”
Against the Wildcats, senior forward Nicole Imbriaco scored the Knights’ lone goal of the game with senior captain Ali Stever on the assist. Northwestern offense took charge of the game, totaling 24 shots compared to Rutgers’ 12 and 13-4 edge in penalty corners.
The Wildcats got themselves into a good position early on, scoring their first two goals of the contest within 15 seconds of one another. At halftime, the Knights faced a 3-0 deficit, which was furthered by an unassisted goal scored less than two minutes into the game’s second stretch.
Imbriaco found the back of the cage to escape a shutout for Rutgers but Northwestern answered with a fifth goal with less than three minutes left on the clock.
In Friday’s game, junior goalkeeper Shevaun Hayes tied her single-game high with 13 saves, which matched her previous record set against Old Dominion in 2013.
Defending 18 total shots on goal, the Melbourne, Australia, native handled being in the hot seat as best she could, while admitting it was a demanding game for the Knights’ final line of defense.
“Friday was a bit stressful,” Hayes said. “I feel like we just didn’t play our game — that was the main thing we got from it. Just all around the whole team didn’t play like we normally do.”
After Sunday’s match up against Michigan, Hayes expressed feeling that the team was not able to find its rhythm throughout this weekend.
“And today — I don’t know what just happened. The mentality was a bit off today. Something was missing,” Hayes said. “There was just something not right about today’s game. Something wasn’t there. I don’t know what today was but we just have to look at it and make sure it doesn’t happen again.”
Despite this off-balance on the field, the Knights battled fiercely against Michigan.
After an unassisted goal left Rutgers trailing, 1-0, at halftime, the Wolverines scored just two minutes into the second half to secure a two-goal lead that they would maintain for the remainder of the game. While the Knights struggled to execute offensively, they held a 5-3 advantage in corners and an 8-7 lead in shots.
Though it was a battle on the field, Rutgers ended up on the wrong side of the scoreboard.
“I think both games were a really, really good fight,” said junior forward Rachel Yaney. “It really gave us a good experience against really hard teams and we learned a lot from them … we just couldn’t finish.”
After back-to-back losses at home, the Knights are looking to identify areas of weakness and implement changes before their next match up.
With many of its Big Ten foes also maintaining a national ranking, it will be crucial for Rutgers to take the experiences gained this weekend and convert them into positive outcomes moving forward.
It all starts with every player on the field uniting as one team.
“We are not a team that relies on individuals," Civico said. "We are a team that relies on every member on the team making a positive contribution, you know, on the field, off the field. That’s I think what we really have to look at and take away from this game. As a team collectively we didn’t feel like we put our best out there today.”
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