Rutgers plays UConn in NCAA Tournament's first round on Friday
On Sunday night, the NCAA Field Hockey Tournament selection show saved one of its best moments for last. Down to its last bracket, and its last at-large bid, the Rutgers field hockey team anxiously huddled together to hear its name called.
“Now for the final at-large in the tournament,” the host of the selection show said. “And it belongs to Rutgers.” Pandemonium ensued. The No. 10 Scarlet Knights would be going to their first NCAA Tournament in 32 years.
A video was captured of the moment, and posted on the Rutgers field hockey Twitter page.
The video showed the exact moment the entire team found out they had made the tournament, with all the players jumping out of their seats and screaming in unison. The footage has been viewed over 14,000 times.
“It was amazing, there was so much suspense building up to it especially since we were called nearly last,” said sophomore goalkeeper and First Team All-Big Ten selection Gianna Glatz. “It was super emotional just to be with your best friends, your sisters, and have that moment of pure enjoyment, it was just fantastic.”
But before the joy, came nerves.
The Knights' other First Team All-Big Ten selection, sophomore midfielder Daphne Groothuis, initially described the moment as suspenseful, but then as one of the best moments of her life.
The players weren't the only ones who were really happy, as it was also the first time head coach Meredith Civico had qualified one of her teams.
“Sunday night was nerve-racking, exciting, genuine surprise,” Civico said. “I think the coaching staff knew in theory that we had the RPI, we had the strength of schedule, we had the record, but we didn’t know for certain. But I think being selected is a testament to this team and their performance this season.”
The road to the NCAA Tournament wasn’t the easiest, as Rutgers had an incredibly tough schedule this season. Along the way, it faced 10 ranked opponents.
Nonetheless, they shined when they needed to, defeating ranked teams like St. Joe's, Delaware, Princeton, Northwestern and Iowa. This was a major factor in helping the Knights qualify for the tournament.
“The people on these committees do a really great job, and I feel we were justly rewarded for a great season,” Civico said.
A hiccup for Rutgers came in the quarterfinal round of the Big Ten Tournament, where they lost in double overtime to Ohio State. It was their second loss of the season to Ohio State, who did not end up qualifying for the NCAA Tournament with an RPI of 21. The Knights finished the season with an RPI of 10.
Clearly, the selection committee took Rutgers’ entire body of work into consideration, and not just its Big Ten tournament. Last season, all four Big Ten Tournament semi-finalists were selected for the NCAA’s.
“We could have performed better in the Big Ten Tournament, and I think they were disappointed in their performance,” Civico said. “I think that’s fueling the fire into this game, they’ve trained really well this week and they're really focused.”
In the first round of the tournament, the Knights will take on UConn, the defending national champions. The Huskies (18-3) finished the season with the fourth best RPI in the country.
Civico feels confident with Rutgers' scouting ability and matchup with UConn, although it will be a difficult task.
“We know they’re a quality opponent, they’ve got a couple of really great individuals,” Civico said. “We’re familiar with UConn which is nice, we’ve scrimmaged them the past two preseasons. I think they are a team that suits us."
Civico mentioned that the Huskies play a similar game to her team. They play with patience and create open spaces on controlled possessions.
When asked about the game plan to attack the Huskies, Civico mentioned the team had made several chances in preparation for their first round matchup, such as personnel changes.
Obviously, it is an incredible feat for the Knights to qualify for the tournament, but now that they are here, winning it all is the goal. The game will be played in College Park, Md. The winner will take on the winner of No. 2 seed Maryland and Albany.
“It’s four games and it’s do or die,” Civico said. “The team is so up for it.”
For updates on the Rutgers field hockey team, follow @TargumSports on Twitter.