Rutgers seeks first conference win versus Buckeyes

<p>Junior forward Nicole Imbriaco noted toughness as a key to the Knights’ success this weekend against Ohio State and Monmouth.</p>

Junior forward Nicole Imbriaco noted toughness as a key to the Knights’ success this weekend against Ohio State and Monmouth.

After last Sunday, the Rutgers field hockey team looks to continue its winning ways Friday at home against Ohio State and Sunday at Monmouth.

The Buckeyes (4-7, 0-3) are coming off the program’s biggest win under 19-year head coach Anne Wilkinson against No. 3 Virginia. 

The ability to finish was something the Scarlet Knights (5-6, 0-4) did not have in their 4-3 overtime loss against the Cavaliers on Sept. 14.

Rutgers and Ohio State are both looking for their first Big Ten victories this season. Throughout the season in conference play, each team has lost tight contests.

With a valuable conference win on the line, a hard-fought, physical game between the Knights and Buckeyes is likely. 

Rutgers looks to continue improving its offense from last weekend and finish scoring chances.

“We need to stay gritty in the circle and not letting it come out of our 25,” said junior forward Nicole Imbriaco. “If we do that against Ohio State and Monmouth, we will definitely get the outcome we want.”

Rutgers will have its hands full with Ohio State’s versatile Maddy Humphrey, who can play midfield or forward. This season she has eight goals and seven assists for 23 points. 

Along with Humphrey, Ohio State forward Peanut Johnson has five goals and 10 assists. 

In order to contain the duo, head coach Meredith Long emphasized that Rutgers must apply high pressure.

“Our team likes to play high pressure up front and put the opponents’ backfield under pressure and force them to make decisions,” Long said. “If we can keep them under pressure and win the ball, that will be to our advantage.”

The Buckeyes are 1-4 on the road this season, but given the game’s implications, only the importance of a Big Ten conference win will matter. 

“It’s crucial,” sophomore defender Elyse Broderick said of getting the conference win. “We have to do it because we can’t lose this opportunity. We can’t leave it for the last three Big Ten games to get the wins.”

After the game on Friday, Rutgers travels to South Jersey to face Monmouth (5-6). The Hawks, like the Knights, lost last weekend to Michigan State by one goal.

Monmouth is a high-attacking team that has 89 corners this season but hasn’t been able to capitalize on them, scoring only five goals off corners.

The Hawks average 2.18 goals a game and surrender the same amount, making a balanced offensive and defensive-minded team.

Midfielder Trish O’Dwyer is one of four players who provide offense for the Hawks. O’Dwyer is the team’s offensive leader with eight goals and six assists this season. 

Forwards Meg Donahue, Amanda Schoenfeld and midfielder Alyssa Ercolino can also provide goals, scoring five, four and four, respectively. 

In order to keep the offense out of sorts and ultimately get the team back on track, Broderick stressed the importance of good communication for the Knights.

“We are going to have really good communication with the press through the forwards through the midfield, stay marked in the circle and tackle outside the circle,” Broderick said.

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

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