No. 17 Rutgers has big slate in schedule over next 2 weeks
In the next two weeks, the Rutgers field hockey team will get a chance to show the country what it is or isn't made of, as the stretch of games that it will play will ultimately define its season.
The No. 17 Scarlet Knights are off to a hot 6-1 start, with their only loss coming on the road to Big Ten foe Michigan, who is currently ranked No. 8 in the country.
Rutgers is off to one of its best starts since 2008, when it started 9-1 on the year. Last year, the Knights finished 9-9 on the season, good enough to finish the season ranked No. 23 in the nation.
But this year feels different.
A class of talented sophomores have pulled a ton of weight on this team, with midfielder Daphne Groothuis leading the team in goals (5), assists (six) and points (16). She isn’t the only sophomore contributing of course, as goalkeeper Gianna Glatz boasts a 6-1 record in net having recorded five shutouts.
Other sophomores contributing include forward Kassidy Shetler, and midfielders Kerrie Burns, Gianna Mancini and Gracey Butsack, all of whom have played in each of the seven first games.
Naturally, there are upperclassmen leaders as well, including junior forwards Alanna Gollotto and Austyn Cuneo — the latter of which is second on the team in goals (4) and points (nine). Senior midfielder Linde van Schaik has also chipped in with 2 goals, two assists and six points.
Over the next two weeks, Rutgers will play the meat and potatoes of its schedule against four straight ranked opponents. Before that, the Knights will look to take care of business and win their first Big Ten game against Michigan State (4-5) at home on Friday.
After the Spartans, Rutgers will take on four straight ranked opponents — two at home and two on the road. The first ranked opponent is No. 23 Ohio State, who is 4-4 on the season thus far. If the Knights are able to sweep their weekend opponents, they will improve their record to 8-1, as well as 2-1 in the Big Ten.
After the pair of games this weekend, Rutgers still has three straight ranked opponents left. On Friday, Sept. 28, the Knights will host No. 6 Penn State at home in what will sure to be a great matchup.
The Nittany Lions are 5-2 on the season up until now, with one of their losses coming to Princeton, 2-1, in overtime. Rutgers beat the then-No. 6 Tigers, 1-0, back on Sept. 9 at home. Princeton has since moved up a spot in the national rankings, coming in at No. 5.
The next two ranked games for the Knights are on the road, as they will travel to play No. 15 Delaware and No. 3 Maryland.
The Blue Hen matchup will take place on Sunday, Sept. 30. Delaware is 4-4 right now, with a 3-2 win over the Buckeyes, as well as a 4-2 loss to the Tigers.
Perhaps the biggest matchup of the four ranked opponents comes last, as Rutgers travels to College Park to take on the Terrapins.
Last season, Maryland made a magical run all the way to the finals of the NCAA Field Hockey Championship, before losing to powerhouse Connecticut, 2-1. So far this season the Terrapins are 8-0 with wins over No. 3 Duke and the Blue Hens.
If the Knights can go 2-2 or even 3-1 in their four ranked games over the next two weeks, while also beating unranked Michigan State, that would set them up with a potential 9-3 or 10-2 record with five games left to play.
In their last five games of the season, they only play two ranked opponents in No. 14 Northwestern and No. 13 Iowa. Expect Rutgers to finish the season anywhere between 12 and 14 wins, which would be a huge step up from last year's 9-9 finish.
A strong end to the season would also give it momentum heading into the Big Ten tournament, where it was bounced out last year in the first round by the Wildcats.
These next two weeks will be extremely telling of how the season will shape up for the Knights.
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