Rutgers looks to end season strong
Now is the time to give all or nothing.
The Rutgers field hockey team will wrap up its 2015 season this weekend in a road trip out west to take on conference foe Indiana before going head-to-head with No. 9 Louisville.
The Scarlet Knights (7-9, 0-7) look to seize their final shot at a Big Ten victory this year and break even on their season by returning to the Banks with two put away in the win column.
But this will not be an easy task.
The Hoosiers (8-9, 4-3) have defeated two ranked foes in No. 16 Iowa and No. 14 Northwestern, both of whom have handed Rutgers a loss this fall.
Louisville (11-5, 0-5) shutout Indiana, 3-0, at the early stages of its season and has taken victories against three ranked foes, including a 5-0 shutout win over No. 17 James Madison. Holding down the Cardinals’ defensive end in goal is Ayeisha McFerran, who boasts a 1.15 goals-against average with eight shutouts in 16 starts.
But the Knights are not at a total disadvantage.
Rutgers enters its final weekend contest coming off of a powerful come-from-behind 2-1 win over American. After trailing the Eagles, 1-0, at halftime, freshman midfielder Linde van Schaik and junior forward Sarah Regn each netted unassisted goals in the final 20 minutes of the game to put the team back on top.
The victory marked the end of a four-game losing skid for the Knights and gave the team a much-needed surge of momentum heading into these final match-ups of the season.
“I think the team is very much focused on picking up right where they left off with their hockey in the American game going into (this) weekend,” said head coach Meredith Civico. “They were happy with how they managed the game, they played smart, they had some really nice combinations. I think as a team they recognized that that’s what works for us and that’s what we’re good at and they wanna keep building on that (this) weekend.”
The Hoosiers currently sit at the opposite side of the spectrum, dropping five of its past seven games, two of which included back-to-back overtime losses. The latest of these included a 3-2 defeat at American.
Highlighting Rutgers’ undefeated 4-0-1 record against American in the all-time series is a 2-1 victory last season that earned the Knights a bid to the 2014 Big Ten Championships and ended the Hoosiers’ season.
The two teams have an exciting history with one another. Rutgers has edged Indiana during the final three minutes of game play in their last two match-ups, with the latter pair of victories being captured in overtime.
In a quick turnaround, the Knights take on a Louisville team that is also winless in conference play (0-5). A former Big East rival, the Cardinals currently ride a four-game winning streak prior to a Friday matchup against Michigan State.
Though the challenge these two teams pose is daunting, Rutgers is prepared to give everything it has this weekend.
“I think our focus is to really go out and play hard and just really prove to ourselves how well we can play,” said senior captain Ali Stever. “Obviously we’re looking to get two wins but I think it really is, more now than ever, all about us … Just like the other weekends, we have nothing to lose really, so we’re just focusing on going out on a high note, leaving everything on the field so that we know that we did all that we could.”
The Knights took a tough mid-season beating, taking seven losses in eight games through late September to mid-October.
Rutgers now looks to end the season the same way they started. The team kicked off this fall winning five of their first seven match-ups and taking their only losses to ranked opponents by a one-goal margin.
For the Knights, this final weekend will have a significant impact on finishing up the season strong and setting the precedence for the program moving forward.
“I think ending on a high note would be awesome just to conclude the season,” said senior forward Nicole Imbriaco. “It didn’t go our way for a lot of the games that we had hoped but I think if we can kind of stick it out and get these last two wins, it would be just a great end to our season and also kind of just a highlight into what could happen next season as well.”
For Stever, Imbriaco and their fellow seniors, this road trip out west marks the last time they will don their Rutgers jerseys.
The culminating finale to their careers is augmenting further motivation for the veteran Knights to hold nothing back.
“It’s weird,” Imbriaco said of the final games of her career. “I think I don’t believe it yet that its our last two games, but I think knowing that it is our last two games kind of just for us putting it all out there, giving it all we got, kind leaving our last impact, I guess if you will, just doing as much as we can to help the team out.”
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