Rutgers looks to finish season off strong
Sometimes, it’s not the way you start, but the way you finish.
Looking to round out a strong finish to the season, the Rutgers field hockey team takes its first single-game road trip of the year down to the nation’s capital this weekend.
The Scarlet Knights (6-9, 0-7) will go head-to-head with American (9-5, 4-1) for a non-conference battle on Friday at the William I. Jacobs Recreation Complex.
With the Eagles currently standing undefeated (5-0) in the all-time series with Rutgers, the Knights look to correct their history at American this weekend and return to the win column.
After taking a beating from a tremendously demanding fall schedule, Rutgers enters its next contest with the hope to stop the bleeding.
The team has dropped seven of the last eight games played, including an overtime loss to Penn State and a shutout loss to then-No. 7 Maryland on Senior Day in the final home stand of the season.
The pair of conference losses knocked the Knights out of the running for a bid in the Big Ten Championships and leaves a zero in the win column for Rutgers in conference play.
The Knights were strong coming out of the gates this year, taking victories through the first five-of-seven games played — with both defeats coming by a slim one-goal margin — and leading the Big Ten in goals scored per game.
The mid-to-late season rut has the team eager to come out strong and get back on track to end the year on a high note.
“We’re just trying to get our momentum back and end the season with some wins,” said junior defender Elyse Broderick. “I think if we’re just all on the same page and our communication is up and our press is tight and we just really work together, we’ll be alright. We came out really strong this week. I think we’re just ready to get a win.”
American hosts Rutgers coming off a tough double-overtime loss to Kent State last weekend. The Eagles have faced only one other Big Ten opponent this season, suffering a 6-1 loss at the hands of the Terps in College Park.
Although American's record is nearly the opposite of the Knights’, the schedule these two teams have taken on this fall are diametrically opposed as well.
On top of calling one of the most prestigious field hockey conferences in the nation home, Rutgers has faced double the number of ranked foes as the Eagles this season.
Though it is not always reflected on the scoreboards or statistics charts, the Knights have put up resilient fights against the formidable competition they’ve faced this season. Their struggle has been in outcome execution.
“It’s tough because they’re a group who’s worked hard all season and it hasn’t gone their way in some pretty key games,” said head coach Meredith Civico. “They’re obviously disappointed to not make the (Big Ten) Tournament but I think we really got together after the loss to Maryland and reevaluated our goals for the season.”
While Rutgers will not qualify for post-season play, the season is far from over.
“We still are on track to achieve some of those goals,” Civico said. “I think it’s really important just going into these next three games one game at a time and focusing on us and focusing on what we do well and growing and getting better and using it to prepare for the future in some ways.”
The next match will be indicative for the Knights in how they bring the 2015 season to a close.
The battle against American can either further deepen a bleeding would or be a positive change of pace for Rutgers before it takes on its final conference rival in the final weekend series of the year.
“I think it will determine how we go into next week too,” said junior defender Devon Freshnock. “I think if we come out with a win, next week in practice, we’ll just go harder so we can see Indiana and Louisville, who are very good teams. Our focus is to get a win out of this, but also to play our game and be smart about it.”
Armed with an intense week of practice under their belts, it is crucial that the Knights implement their preparation efforts into game play this weekend.
After honing in on specific areas of improvement, Rutgers aims to capitalize on this next opportunity to take back its season and finish strong.
“I’m expecting them to translate the things that we’ve trained into game play. I think they’ve done a really nice job so far,” Civico said. “A lot of the stuff we’ve been focusing on (are) just really small details … really specific situations. If we can get those situations right in the game, they can translate into outcomes for us so that’s really what I expect — them to go out and to input the stuff they’ve trained into the game play.”
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