Knights upset bid falls short in overtime versus No. 9 Cavaliers
After a 3-2 win on Friday at William & Mary, the Rutgers field hockey team rode its way into Charlottesville, Virginia, with a chance to make a statement against Virginia.
The Cavaliers, ranked No. 9 in the NFHCA Coaches Poll, presented an opportunity for the 4-1 Scarlet Knights to show they can compete with anyone in the country.
And until a goal at the 81:47 mark by Virginia’s Caleigh Foust ultimately proved to be the difference-maker, Rutgers had the Cavaliers on their heels.
The Knights threatened to pull off the upset on the road against their top-ten opponent, but dropped the contest in overtime, 4-3.
Despite the end result, head coach Meredith Long believes Rutgers was the better team.
“I think Rutgers played better than Virginia, today,” Long said. “We controlled possession and our defending was outstanding. There were two penalty strokes in the second half that were unfortunate and controversial. I felt our team played the better hockey. Things didn’t break our way, but I’m really proud of this team.”
Three minutes into the game, Virginia wasted no time getting on the board after a goal by Tara Vitesse.
But Rutgers was able to answer before the end of the half.
Two goals from junior forward Katie Champion put the Knights up 2-1 going into halftime.
“The communication between players really helped, along with the intensity of the game being very high,” Champion said. “Having my teammates behind me to tell me where to cut also really helped.”
Things continued to go well for Rutgers.
Sophomore backer Sophia Walia’s fourth goal of the season put the Knights in the driver’s seat with a commanding 3-1 lead.
But the Cavaliers would not go away. Vitesse converted on two penalty strokes in the second half, completing her hat trick and forcing overtime.
The defense was impressive for Rutgers as it shut down all corner opportunities of the Cavaliers. Had it not been for the two controversial penalty calls, the defensive unit would have been the reason for the win.
“We are definitely improving again,” Walia said. “We didn’t allow anything off corners. We showed up and were able to get the ball out of the circle. Our defensive unit can still get better.”
In overtime, Rutgers ultimately fell when Foust netted her game-winner.
“As a team, it’s hard to lose in overtime and to work that hard,” Champion said. “We were so determined and our work rate and intensity were very high.”
Walia felt that there were some positives to take away from the game. Although the Knights couldn’t come out of it with a win, Walia feels Rutgers can be among the best in the nation.
“We were up,” said Walia. “They [Virginia] were scared of us. A game like this shows we have it and we belong in the top ten and that’s where we are going to be. We have to take the confidence from this game into the Big Ten game against Iowa, which is a more important game.”
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