No. 10 Rutgers to face off against Ohio State in Big Ten Championships quarterfinals
This weekend, the Rutgers field hockey team will travel to Columbus, Ohio to take on Ohio State in the quarterfinal round of the Big Ten Tournament.
The game, which features the No. 23 Buckeyes (11-7, 4-4) as the No. 4 seed and the No. 10 Scarlet Knights (13-4, 4-4) as the No. 5 seed, has serious implications for receiving an at-large bid for the NCAA Tournament.
Back on Sept. 23, Rutgers lost a 4-3 shootout to Ohio State at home. That is where the difference in seeding comes from, as both teams are 4-4 in the Big Ten, but the Buckeyes hold the tiebreaker advantage because of the head-to-head victory.
In that loss, senior midfielder Nikki Profita scored twice, while sophomore midfielder and leading goal scorer Daphne Groothuis scored once.
The Knights were severely outshot in the game 20-8, while Ohio State also had 12 penalty corners to Rutgers’ four. The Knights are going to have to clean things up on defense in order to get past the Buckeyes this time.
Speaking of defense, Rutgers has been phenomenal while defending all season, boasting nine shutouts on the year, which is the most in the nation. It also has a 1.00 goals allowed per game average, compared to Ohio State’s 1.44 goals allowed per game.
The Knights also hold the edge in goals scored per game, 2.94 per game compared to the Buckeyes' 2.89 goals per game. But, Ohio State holds the advantage in penalty corners, having taken 121 on the season compared to Rutgers’ 97.
“We have to play two-touch hockey, just as we have tried to do all season,” said head coach Meredith Civico. “We take things one game at a time, and this game is obviously very important.”
The winner of this quarterfinal game will head to the semifinals, and will take on the winner of top seeded Maryland versus either Michigan State or Indiana, as those two teams still have a play-in game. The semifinals will be played in Evanston, Ill.
As far as receiving a bid for the NCAA Tournament goes, the Knights have two options to make it.
Option one is receiving an automatic bid by winning the Big Ten Tournament. That would require them to win three straight games.
Option two is receiving an at-large bid. Currently, Rutgers is ranked No. 10 in the nation and has a very good shot of receiving an at-large bid by beating the Buckeyes. Last season, all four teams who made the Big Ten Tournament semifinals received an at-large bid, including the Northwestern Wildcats, who beat the Knights in last year's quarterfinals.
Making the tournament all starts with a revenge match for Rutgers.
The Knights have been led all season by Groothuis, who has 12 goals, 13 assists and 37 points. Sophomore goalkeeper Gianna Glatz has been a brick wall in net all season long as well, leading the nation with nine shutouts.
“It obviously would be huge, qualifying for the tournament,” Civico said. “That’s been the goal of this team since last spring, and it would really mean a lot to this program. The goal is always to be competing for Big Ten Championships and NCAA Championships.”
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