Rutgers closes out regular season with weekend doubleheader
The Rutgers field hockey team will play its final regular season home games this weekend with a doubleheader against No. 6 Penn State and Richmond.
The Scarlet Knights (8-6, 2-4) enter the weekend coming off a dominant 3-1 victory over Ohio State that clinched their spot in the Big Ten Tournament.
Although the Nittany Lions (12-2, 4-2) pose a daunting threat ranking second in the conference standings, head coach Meredith Civico is confident in the progression she’s seen in her team throughout the season.
“We have really good momentum and I think we’re really starting to come together as a team in all aspects. The chemistry piece is something I think we established early on in preseason and that was a strength from the get-go,” Civico said. “I think our hockey has evolved and we’ve grown in our play tremendously throughout the season, and I think now it’s just that mentality piece — that’s kind of the final piece for us — just knowing that we belong here, knowing that we can compete with the best and knowing that we can win every game if we put everything together.”
Penn State comes to the Banks after taking its second Big Ten loss of the season to No. 5 Maryland last weekend. Together, the Nittany Lions’ powerhouse forward line of Brooke Birosik, Moira Putsch and Aurelia Meijer lead the Big Ten in points, shots, assists and goals.
Though the Knights will have to manage Penn State’s high tempo and high-pressure style of play, this game will give Rutgers a taste of what they will be going up against in the postseason.
“This is a great opportunity for us to play a team that we might possibly be playing in the tournament, so I think going out strong and giving everything we have is really gonna be great preparation for the tournament,” said senior defender and captain Devon Freshnock.
The Knights did not earn a bid to the conference championship last season after going 0-8 in Big Ten play. Putting up fighting for redemption all season, Rutgers solidified their place in the tournament for the second time in program history.
The postseason clincher against Ohio State last weekend has silenced some of the noise that surrounded the team up to this point.
“Since we’re already in the Big Ten (tournament), the pressure’s kind of off so (we’re) just going into this game focusing on us and playing our game and working hard with each other,” said senior midfielder Elyse Broderick.
Rutgers will be Richmond’s (6-8, 4-2) first and only Big Ten opponent this season while the Spiders will be the Knights’ last non-conference game of the season.
At this point in the season, every game offers the chance for Rutgers to build its confidence before battling it out with formidable Big Ten rivals in November. This next doubleheader of matchups is their next opportunity to capitalize on the opportunity.
“I think we need to continue to gain confidence. I think we have been doing that, and the more that we see that we’re able to compete with these top programs, the more confident the team’s getting,” Civico said. “I think we’ve had a lot of experiences throughout the season that have taught them that it really is anybody’s game when they step up and they play a full 70 minutes.”
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