Rutgers knocked out of Big Ten Tournament in heartbreaking fashion
The Rutgers field hockey team put it all on the line in an attempt to keep its season alive yesterday. But in the end, it came up just short.
The No. 20 Scarlet Knights (9-9, 3-5) conceded 2 late goals to No. 10 Northwestern (14-5, 7-2) on Sunday and lost 4-3 in the quarterfinals of the Big Ten Tournament as their season came to an end.
“We absolutely could have won this game,” said head coach Meredith Civico.
Rutgers struck first thanks to freshman Kassidy Shetler, who scored just her second goal of the season five minutes into the game. After a long pass deflected off the goalkeeper, Shetler was there to put it in the net.
But the Wildcats came back quickly with 2 goals to take the lead, as Kirsten Mansfield and Pascale Massey scored within 5 minutes of each other to give Northwestern a 2-1 lead that it would take into halftime.
About halfway through the second half, the Knights managed to equalize on a penalty corner, as freshman Gianna Mancini blasted a shot through the net. Nine minutes later, it was sophomore Austyn Cuneo off of another penalty corner, and Rutgers had a 3-2 lead with less than 10 minutes to go.
“It was very exciting, especially going from being behind to being in front in the second half,” Cuneo said.
Yet, just like in the first half, Northwestern scored 2 quick goals in succession to regain the lead, and like the Knights, both were off penalty corners. First, it was the Wildcats’ leading scorer Puck Pentenga, and less than 2 minutes later, it was Massey who deflected a shot into the net for her second goal of the afternoon.
“We could have been a lot more patient,” said freshman goalkeeper Gianna Glatz. “We knew we were ahead, and we need to be more composed.”
Rutgers had two minutes left to even the score and send the game to overtime, but it could not, and the game and their season, ended.
Civico said that the team could have made better decisions in the last six minutes of the game but also chalked up the loss to inexperience.
“We have a lot of young players who have never been in this situation, in a quarterfinal game of the Big Ten Tournament,” she said. “It’s a lesson that a lot of them will take moving forward.”
The Wildcats had more opportunities than the Knights to score, outshooting the Knights 17-6, which included an 8-5 advantage in shots on goal. The Wildcats also had a 10-6 lead in penalty corners.
Civico lamented the lack of offensive pressure even though Rutgers had many opportunities to score.
“We needed to be more threatening, and our ball retention in the front third wasn’t as good as it could have been,” Civico said. “We did create opportunities, and I thought we were able to execute on set pieces, but we didn’t have the outcomes ... I don’t think we tested Northwestern’s goalkeeper and defense the way they tested ours.”
The Knights end the season with a bittersweet taste in their mouths, knowing how close they were to a monumental win against a top-10 team but also proud of how they performed for most of the game and how it bodes well for the future.
“I’m proud of the way we competed,” Civico said. “We walked off the field angry and unsatisfied, and we’ve got to remember that experience and grow from it.”
Still, it was a successful season overall. Rutgers won three games against ranked teams, which doubled its all-time total of ranked wins. It beat teams like Michigan State that it had not beaten in years.
The Knights have a bright future ahead of them with a lot of young stars, and coming close to beating a team like Northwestern is something that will go a long way toward making sure they will make it further next year.
“I really feel like the team did the best that they could with what we had at times,” Civico said. “And I’m really excited about the future and these young players. They bring the right mentality, they’re great hockey players and they’ll have more experience.”
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