No. 19 Rutgers squares off with No. 10 Northwestern on road in ranked conference matchup
After a successful start to its 2017 Big Ten campaign, the Rutgers field hockey team will face a short weekend as it looks to remain undefeated in conference play.
The No. 19 Scarlet Knights (7-3, 2-0) head to Evanston, Illinois, to take on No. 10 Northwestern (7-4, 2-1) today. Unlike previous weekends, it is the only game they will be playing this weekend.
Head coach Meredith Civico discussed how the team would benefit from only having to play one game this weekend.
“It’s always nice, especially for the coaching staff, because we’re always preparing for both games,” she said. “In our minds we keep it as simple for the team as possible, but we can just fly out Thursday, play Friday and get home and have an extra day of rest over the weekend.”
Rutgers will have a tough challenge on its hands with Northwestern, who has beaten ranked opponents in two of its last three games, knocking off then-No. 15 Louisville, 2-0, and then-No. 10 Maryland, 3-2. The Wildcats boast the reigning Big Ten Offensive Player of the Week in Kirsten Mansfield, who scored 3 goals last week. Her 5 goals this season are tied for the team lead.
In addition, junior midfielder Puck Pentenga leads the Big Ten in shots per game (5.45), and her 0.91 assists per game rank sixth in the country. Sophomore goalkeeper Annie Kalfas ranks first in the conference with 5.7 saves per game, and is third with a .797 save percentage.
Civico heaped a lot of praise onto her opponent and outlined what her team would have to do to combat its strengths.
“Northwestern is always a really good team, and they’re technically solid,” Civico said. “They’re well organized, they’re structured, they can move the ball well. I think their counter-attack’s always dangerous. We have to focus on organizing early and playing proactive team defense.”
But the Knights also have a reigning award winner on their squad, Big Ten Freshman of the Week Gianna Glatz. Glatz earned the award by shutting out Indiana and then-No. 19 Iowa last weekend, tallying four saves in each contest. She’s currently second in the Big Ten with a 1.64 goals against average, and joins Daphne Groothuis as the second team member to win Freshman of the Week this year.
One area that Glatz singled out for improvement was defensive penalty corners.
“We just have to listen to each other and make sure everything’s up to speed so we can get ahead even faster,” she said on Sunday. “We’ll have to see what Northwestern has to show and alter based on what they’re going to look for and shift where we need to be. But I’m pretty confident, and as long as we work hard and look at video, we’ll do really well.”
In addition, sophomore midfielder Katie Larmour said that the team had to work on not allowing its opponent to get back in games. Despite recording two shutouts, the defense had to work hard to prevent goals, such as Sunday’s game against Iowa in which the Hawkeyes outshot Rutgers, 8-2.
“We have to stay awake for the full 70 minutes or however long we have to stay on the field for,” she said. “It’s really crucial that especially after we score a goal, we cannot switch off and let the other team back into the game. We have to just keep going. (This week) we’ll analyze how they play, and we’ll analyze how we play, what we have to fix, and what we can target for them.”
Due to the short week, the Knights have a rare opportunity to go out and get a win before coming home for extra rest and practice. And with the brunt of the Big Ten schedule about to commence, this is the ideal time for a situation like this.
“Hopefully we’ll go out, get a result, and come home and rest,” Civico said. “It sounds ideal, right?”
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