Rutgers falls to No. 3 Maryland as season comes to end
The Rutgers field hockey team played its final game of the year after falling to No. 3 Maryland in the Big Ten Championship quarterfinals, 3-1 Thursday.
The Scarlet Knights, seeded eighth in the eight-team tournament, had to face off against the top-seeded conference host after playing the Terrapins in their final regular season game last weekend.
Maryland came out with guns blazing, notching two goals within the first 90 seconds of the contest that Rutgers was unable to answer.
The second half was a different game. The Terps capitalized on a penalty corner, but Rutgers team captains responded with a vengeance. Redshirt senior forward Alyssa Bull deflected a shot from senior defender Devon Freshnock on a penalty corner to get the Knights on the board and cut the deficit to two goals.
While the rematch didn’t end the way Rutgers had hoped, the team is taking pride in the performance they put up.
“It’s unfortunate the start of the game, first three minutes, they just kind of caught us on our heels and to go down two goals in the first five minutes of the game, it’s just tough,” said head coach Meredith Civico. “As soon as they really settled in and started to play their game, I thought we dominated. … We definitely gave Maryland a run for their money. They’re a top three team in the country and I’m pretty confident that they’re gonna be competing in the NCAA tournament. I’m proud of the team and I’m proud of the way they fought.”
The Knights matched the Terps with 10 shots and held a 9-4 advantage on penalty corners.
It was the second time in program history the team appeared in the conference tournament, but for the eight seniors on the team this year, this game was more than just the end of another season.
“As soon as that final whistle blew, everybody really felt it, but the eight of us especially. I kind of collapsed and had a moment on the field. It’s definitely very emotional, but I think we all have a lot to be very proud of,” Bull said. “Every single one of the girls in the senior class is a leader both on and off the field and bring so much to the team and the program, and has really brought the program to what it is today. I think we have developed a team and a place in which we can be proud of and future teams can be proud of. It’s something that is gonna continue on even though we’re gone.”
The seniors hung up their Rutgers uniforms for the last time of their careers down in College Park.
This class has seen the program migrate from the Big East to the American Athletic Conference to the Big Ten through a rebuilding phase that they’ve contributed to and then spearheaded this past year.
Naturally, emotions were running high for the veterans.
“It was pretty sad in the locker room … Most of us started in the first game freshman year and have mostly kept our positions through our four years,” said senior goalkeeper Shevaun Hayes. “I don’t know where I would’ve been without it. I’ve learned so much from everyone here … It’s just an honor to be with this group of girls for these four years.”
Rutgers may not have been able to beat the best team in the Big Ten yet, but they did earn the biggest upset in program history over No. 15 Iowa this year.
Civico sees this year’s team leaders as the catalysts for the development of the program and its growing successes.
“I said from the beginning that this team was special to me, just this group of seniors who were my first recruiting class and played with me for four years here at Rutgers. They’ve been a part of the progression of this program and they’ve been a part of creating a program that’s gonna be competing in the Big Ten Championship in a few years,” Civico said. “I thought that the effort today was led really by that senior class and they walked off the field having left everything they had out there.”
Three years into the conference, the Knights are still the underdog of the powerhouse Big Ten. Nevertheless, there is something to be said of the strides that have been made in the program.
Last year, Rutgers failed to capture a Big Ten win. This season, the team held its own against not only the conference leader, but a top three team in the country.
The season may have ended in a loss, but the future for the Knights remains bright.
“Four years ago, we weren’t a team that was competing with Maryland the way we are now. That’s not where this program was,” Civico said. “I think in four years we’ve come so far and I think the respect among the teams in the conference for Rutgers, for their brand of field hockey and for the players on our team has grown tremendously so I’m really proud of what they were able to accomplish. (The seniors) left this program way better than when they found it.”
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