Rutgers travels through Virginia for first road trip of year
For the first time this season, the Rutgers field hockey team will hit the road.
The Scarlet Knights travel south to Virginia for two games, where they will face off against William & Mary and No. 9 Virginia.
“I think we are excited to get away from campus, really focused on playing two great opponents this weekend,” said head coach Meredith Long. “It’s nice to get away and enjoy time on the road.”
Rutgers (3-1) will take on the Tribe (1-3) first on Friday at 7 p.m.
William & Mary has lost two of its last three matchups by two goals or less, showing the team’s grittiness to stay in the match throughout the entirety of the game.
Part of that toughness comes from defenseman Peyton Smith, who leads the Tribe with two goals and four points this season.
“William & Mary is great competition for us,” said Long. “They will be a good test for us non-conference.”
However, the Tribe have struggled to put up goals in their matches this season averaging 0.75 goals a game, and to make things worse, they have given the opposition 25 corners.
This is something that the Knights can look to take advantage of.
“We’ve done a good job earning outcomes in our attacking 25 [players],” said Long. “A big focus for us is corner generation. We have identified areas through film. We feel we can exploit them.”
Senior captain forward Sophie Wright thinks Rutgers has just the game plan to generate goals.
“We plan to shift them all to one side and attack strong on the other side,” said Wright.
The Tribe did not fare well against Virginia, losing 9-0 in their season opener.
The Knights hope to fare better against the best team on their schedule so far. They take on a top-10 team, the Cavaliers (3-2), on Sunday at 12 p.m.
Virginia is led by one of the best coaches in the country, Michele Madison, who enters her ninth year as head coach. Madison was recently inducted into the National Field Hockey Coaches Association Hall of Fame.
Virginia’s record is misleading of its talent level. The Cavaliers’ lone two losses of the season came to the hands of No. 6 Penn State and No. 7 Iowa.
Virginia does a great job at creating offense, scoring 18 goals and having 45 corners this season, while allowing just 20 corners.
Long believes a key to stopping this attack is keeping possession.
“Virginia is fast, looking to exploit on the counter attack,” said Long. “We have to be really smart with our possession in the midfield. Midfield possession time generates success on the offensive end.”
Rutgers will have its hands full defensively, as it looks for a game plan to stop top-scorer Riley Tata who has five goals.
“We’ve looked at Virginia’s individually skilled players,” said Long. “If we can identify them early on and shut them down, that’s one solution.”
Freshman defender Devon Freshnock also explained how they plan to shake up the Cavaliers’ attack.
“We are really going to work on switching from three in the back to four in the back during the game,” said Freshnock. “This way we can switch to our offense and play our pressing style.”
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