Rutgers hosts Siena aiming to maintain perfect home record
The Rutgers field hockey team has not faced defeat on its home field since Oct. 18, 2015 — and the Scarlet Knights are hoping to keep it that way.
Rutgers (4-2) looks to defend its perfect record on the Banks and extend its winning streak to four games in hosting Siena (1-3) for the first time at home this Sunday.
“We’re taking it one game at a time, but I think that’s been something that the team’s taken a lot of pride in — just how we play at home, how we play here on our home field," said head coach Meredith Civico. “It’s become a focus point and a goal of theirs so I think it’s great. I think it gives them a lot of confidence and I think they should take a lot of confidence in that.”
After dropping two of their first three games, including a tough 3-2 overtime loss to No. 5 Virginia, the Knights have rebounded in terrific fashion. A powerful offensive surge has led Rutgers to outscore opponents 20-12 in just six games.
Leading the scoring frenzy is standout freshman forward Nikki Santore, who notched a hat trick and two assists for 8 total points in the team’s 7-4 victory over Ohio last week. The Eastern Regional High School graduate’s performance earned her Big Ten Offensive Player of the Week and Big Ten Freshman of the Week honors.
The team’s seven goals were the most goals Rutgers has scored since 2007 and Santore’s eight points marks the most by any Knight in a single game since 2008. The rookie’s team-leading 13 points puts her at second place in the NCAA among all freshmen.
Santore isn’t the only one pulling her weight offensively. Nine total players have goals on the season thus far and 11 have tallied at least one assist. Rutgers is earning points all across the board, from starters to players coming in off the bench and freshman up to seniors.
“We’re all working towards the same goal and we’re really focusing on what’s best for the team rather than what’s best for each individual,” said fifth-year senior captain Alyssa Bull. “You can really see that with every single player on the team, and I think that’s what’s really helping us right now — that it’s a team focus.”
After taking this week to rest and recover from a two-game home stand last weekend, Rutgers looks to keep its momentum going against Siena before conference play opens up next weekend.
With a 2016 schedule that includes eight Big Ten teams, five of which rank in the top 20 nationally, it is crucial for the Knights to secure a win before opening up the heavier part of their season.
Keeping a clean sheet at home will also give the team something to remember and smile about on the road.
“Any win we get, any goal we score, we take confidence from that,” said senior defender Sophia Walia. “Being undefeated at home is going to help us succeed in our Big Ten weekend coming up. I think it’s definitely important — any win is important.”
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