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Knights stay the course in collecting home sweep

<p>Sophomore defender Sofia Walia scored an important penalty against Bucknell to send the game into overtime on Friday.</p>

Sophomore defender Sofia Walia scored an important penalty against Bucknell to send the game into overtime on Friday.

The Rutgers field hockey team started its inaugural Big Ten season off with a bang, earning two straight wins after defeating Bucknell, 3-2, on Friday and Hartford, 5-3, on Sunday. 

The Scarlet Knights (2-0) beat the Bison (1-1) with an overtime winning goal supplied by sophomore transfer Jasmine Cole. Junior forward Nicole Imbriaco and sophomore defender Sofia Walia also scored in the victory. 

“We went out into this game really wanting to make a statement and I think we did that,” head coach Meredith Long said.

Going into overtime, it was clear by the bench and coaches’ reactions that a loss in a hard-fought game would not suffice. Their prayers of a win were answered when Cole hit a laser of a shot past Bucknell goalie Shannon Keen. 

“I thought I was going to pass it until the last minute when the goalie went down and I shot it up,” Cole said.

Despite firing on all cylinders to start the game — including a goal from Imbracio — the Knights found themselves down 2-1 after two unanswered Bucknell goals. 

But Rutgers stuck with its strategy, which eventually paid off when the Knights earned a penalty shot with around seven minutes remaining. 

Long then selected Walia to take the important penalty.

 “I knew she was going to score, I had no doubt in my mind,” Long said. “She’s a player that can perform under pressure as a sophomore and for me that’s just thrilling.”

Walia was able to burry the ball to tie things up, 2-2.

“It was nerve-wracking,” Walia said. “It was nice to regain my confidence and see my team had confidence in me to take the shot.”

For Rutgers, it was a big win to start its first campaign in the Big Ten. Long said that at one point there were only freshmen and sophomores on the field, which should boost the team’s confidence knowing it can compete despite an abundance of inexperience.

The win was even more impressive for the Knights given they were without senior captains Sophie Wright and Jen Staab. 

Sophomore Alyssa Bull was the lone captain on the field, being named to her position after not playing last season due to injury. 

“It’s an honor [being captain],” Bull said. “It feels great to be back and have my team be able to look up to me in the same way, and I’m just excited to be back out on the field with my teammates.”

Sophomore goalie Shevaun Hayes was another standout performer for the Knights, especially in crunch time against two corners.

The Knights then carried over the momentum from their first win against Sacred Heart (1-1), securing two late goals to give Rutgers the 5-3 win. 

Rutgers started the game well with three goals in the first half, while also holding the Pioneers scoreless. Sacred Heart was able to level the game in the second half, 3-3, but the Knights remained calm to get two late goals off of set pieces to secure the win. 

“We really did a fantastic job executing on set pieces, we scored three goals off of corners,” Long said.

Wright also returned to the lineup, making an immediate contribution with two goals. 

“Having Sophie back was great,” Long said. “She provided two goals and brings a tremendous amount of experience. Last season, she played almost every game. She stepped up today.”

Although a win was satisfying for the Knights, the overall performance was not up to the Knights’ standards, Long said.

“I don’t feel we executed the game plan consistently throughout the 70 minutes,” Long said. “We had some good moments. Sacred Heart was feisty and aggressive and were going to do whatever they had to fight back in the game. It was a tough game.”

For updates on the Rutgers field hockey team, follow @TargumSports on Twitter.

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