Upset-minded Knights host undefeated Northwestern
The Rutgers field hockey team is out to prove that beating the No. 15 team in the country on its home field was no fluke.
The Scarlet Knights (6-3, 1-1) match up with No. 6 Northwestern (8-2, 3-0) on Friday with the hopes of defending their perfect home record and snapping the Wildcats’ six-game winning streak.
The last time Rutgers took the turf, it made a statement in upsetting Iowa, the highest ranked team ever defeated in program history, in a tight 2-1 win in Iowa City.
But the Knights aren’t the only ones turning heads this season.
Northwestern is the only team that remains undefeated in Big Ten play, most recently earning back-to-back wins over No. 4 Penn State and No. 8 Maryland last weekend.
Rutgers is adamant on phasing out the distracting external noise and numbers.
“They’re a great team, they have some great players and they’re obviously doing well in the Big Ten, but we can’t personalize the opponent because it’s really our game,” said senior forward Kimberly Jevic. “It’s about focusing on us this season and what we’re capable of doing. It doesn’t matter who’s across the field.”
The Knights can take confidence in their latest win over a ranked Big Ten opponent, especially after going 0-8 in conference play last year.
In its opening Big Ten doubleheader last weekend, Rutgers rebounded impeccably after falling to Indiana in a disappointing 3-2 loss but it can’t afford to be caught on its heels again this Friday.
“I think we’ve got to play with the same intensity we showed on Sunday against Iowa, the same work rate," said head coach Meredith Civico. "Every time we step on the field we want to be better than our last performance. For me, that’s my expectation."
With only one game to concentrate on and no traveling to endure, the Knights were able to recover from last weekend and hone in on their preparation. Northwestern will be a critical opponent in determining the Rutgers’ trajectory this season in Big Ten play.
“For this group, it’s about preparation, it’s about mentality going in, it’s about staying consistent and staying hungry," Civico said. "I think if we’re prepared and we feel good about our preparation, this is a team that feeds off that energy. They prepare well, they play well, so that’s gonna be the focus going in.”
Standout freshman forward Nikki Santore said that the team's approach with both offensive and defensive game management keeps the Knights' momentum going strong.
“We put our sticks up after we get scored on — it means we have two minutes to get a goal back. It’s like a restart button so that we know we gotta score,” Santore said. “But when we score, we scream 0-0 because it’s like nothing happened. We still need to keep scoring, we can’t just give up because we have that lead — we have to keep going 100 percent and the full 70 minutes.”
Rutgers was able to beat a top-20 team when its team energy was high and dominant.
If the Knights can match their intensity from last Sunday as they have on their home field this far, the outcome will speak for itself.
“I think one of our biggest team strengths is that we work off each other and play together — we don’t give the ball to one person to do all the work,” Jevic said. “We all have that work rate and that work energy so I think that’s gonna be crucial on Friday — to play united.”
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