Rutgers seeks retribution in taking on No. 9 Virginia
This time, it will be different.
When half of the Bauer Track/Field Hockey Complex is suddenly overrun with blue and orange on Friday afternoon, the stage will be set for the Rutgers field hockey team to seize retribution.
The Scarlet Knights (2-0) will host No. 9 Virginia (2-0) for their third game of the season. And they’ve got something to prove.
The Cavaliers and the Knights are no stranger to one another. In its inaugural season in the Big Ten last year, Rutgers traveled to Charlottesville and led Virginia by two goals in the second half before the Cavaliers leveled the score after two penalty strokes. With the teams matching at 3-3 when the clock ran through 70 minutes of high-level play, the game was sent into overtime.
After 12 minutes of extra time, the Knights landed on the wrong side of the scoreboard, taking a 4-3 overtime loss.
Rutgers is adamant it will not allow history to repeat itself this weekend.
“This Virginia game is definitely one of the biggest games of our season,” senior forward Nicole Imbriaco told the Targum. “They’re always a great team. I think that if we do what we’ve been working on and keep our positive energy up and kind of just outwork them that it will go in our favor.”
The Knights enter Friday’s game with two home victories under its belt. After a 3-1 victory over Bucknell to kickoff opening weekend, Rutgers shutout Ball State collecting a dominant 4-0 win Aug. 29.
A few hundred miles south of Bauer Field, Virginia caught some early season success of its own.
The Cavs make their trip to the banks following a shutout home opener against Drexel and a dramatic 4-3 overtime victory over No. 7 Penn State.
Both with an undefeated record that they are determined to maintain, the outcome of Friday’s game will be a crucial testament to history and a projection on this season.
Despite the formidable opposition that encompasses Virginia’s elite squad, head coach Meredith Civico is optimistic that regardless of the game’s final score, the experience gained from the match will be highly beneficial to her team moving forward.
“I think facing a team like Virginia early on is just gonna help us grow and help us prepare for conference play. We’ve got to play really tight team defense — we have to be disciplined and organized as a team when we’re defending," Civico said. “And then we’ve got to take risks and really open up the field and commit numbers forward when we’re attacking. I think the attacking piece we did really well against Bucknell and Ball State and I think it’s about continuing that.”
With a week of intensified practice behind them to augment preparation for the long anticipated rematch, the returning Knights are also armed with a familiarity to the way Virginia plays. Having only graduated two seniors since last year’s game and the recollection of how level the play was between the teams, Rutgers is maintaining a solidly determined mindset.
“I think it’s just give it all you got on the field because last year, even though they were ranked higher than us, we played right there with them and we just need to take that extra step to win the game,” junior Rachel Yaney said on her mental approach for the upcoming game.
The Knights — 0-2 against Virginia all-time — are looking to capture not only their first victory over a ranked opponent since a 1-0 win at No. 16 Drexel back in 2013, but also the highest ranked win in program history through 18 games against top-10 opponents.
However, with a team energy that feeds off of collective enthusiasm, Rutgers is not phased by the impressive numbers that swirl around their top-10 opponent.
“I think that we’re really good at not really taking the rankings seriously because anything can happen and sometimes, the statistics don’t matter,” Yaney said. “It just really depends on who comes out harder that day.”
Ultimately, the Virginia game holds great significant on the Knights as they move forward through their season. Regardless of whether Rutgers will retaliate from last year’s loss with triumphant confidence booster or a productive learning experience, the repercussions of the game will have a lasting impact on the way the fall progresses.
As Imbriaco and her team look to solidify themselves as Big Ten contenders, they are hopeful to earn the edge at the end of the day.
“If we are to win this game," she said, " I think it will just be awesome to kind of just to start the season off on a strong note and just show that we are a force to be reckoned with.”
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