Rutgers concludes regular season against No. 3 Maryland
The Rutgers field hockey team will play its final regular season game of the season against the No. 3 team in the country on its road trip down to Maryland this weekend.
The Scarlet Knights (9-7, 2-5) will take on the best team in the Big Ten before they return to College Park just one week later for the conference championships.
The season finale matchup will be good preparation for Rutgers since it is highly likely the Terrapins (14-3, 6-1) will be the first team it faces in the Big Ten Tournament.
“We’re excited to be able to see what we need to do this weekend and then work on it for when it ultimately counts in the first weekend of the Big Ten's,” said senior captain Alyssa Bull. “It’ll be a learning weekend and then we can adjust for the following weekend.”
Maryland is currently riding a seven-game winning streak, most recently extended by victories over two ranked teams last weekend. The Terps snapped UConn’s 42-game regular season winning streak with a 2-1 triumph that demoted the Huskies from No. 1 in the NCAA down to a tie with Maryland for the No. 3 spot. To end the weekend, the Terps came out with a win over No. 8 Virginia by the same score.
Though Maryland poses a menacing challenge to the Knights, the team is not allowing intimidation to play a role in its game plan and mental preparation.
“I think we approach every game the same no matter what team we’re playing,” said freshman defender Alanna Gollotto. “Obviously we’re gonna see it a little differently because their ranking keeps going up, but we’re gonna come out fighting no matter what.”
Though most of the statistics seem to heavily favor the Terps, they are not without an Achilles' heel.
Ohio State faced Rutgers and then Maryland in the same weekend. The unranked Buckeyes took Maryland into an overtime that ended in a 2-1 win for the Terps. Two days later, the Knights dominated in a 3-1 victory over Ohio State that clinched the team’s berth to the Big Ten Tournament.
The matchup this weekend is anyone’s game but Rutgers will need to make the necessary adjustments based on their shortcomings in previous games this season to be successful against the conference powerhouse.
Head coach Meredith Civico showed no hesitation when asked about what preparation looks like this week.
“Corners. Attack penalty corners, defensive penalty corners,” she said. “Just really getting that corner unit solid and confident with what they’re doing. I think Maryland’s got an arsenal, if you will, on attack penalty corners. They’ve got a very good drag flicker, they’ve got a sweep, they’ve got a hit, they play for deflections really well so they’ve got a little bit of everything. We’ve been preparing our goalkeepers and our D corner unit this week just to make decisions and to react and to read cues and recognize personnel.”
Set pieces have been a forerunning issue for the Knights, particularly in the second half of the season. The team had a season-high 18 attack penalty corners against Michigan State that they failed to capitalize on, resulting in a 4-3 loss. On the defensive side, Rutgers was tied with Penn State 1-1 before Aurelia Meijer notched a hat trick to secure the win, all of which were scored on corners.
The Knights have shown immense potential when they correct their areas of weakness. The team earned the biggest upset in program in history this year in a 2-1 win over No. 15 Iowa.
Having a taste of victory against a top team in the country has left Rutgers hungry for more and Saturday presents its final opportunity of the regular season.
“One of our main focuses is that we want to leave the field with no regrets and knowing that we couldn’t have done anything else and we couldn’t have done anything more,” Bull said. “I mean we all know Maryland’s a great team but who’s to say that we aren’t as well. We can really beat anybody — we just need to come out and play a full 70 minutes.”
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