Rutgers clinches spot in Big Ten Tournament with win over Ohio State
The Rutgers field hockey team has officially clinched a bid to the Big Ten Tournament with a dominant 3-1 victory over Ohio State on Sunday.
The weekend began with tears and ended with cheers for the Scarlet Knights (8-6, 2-4).
Rutgers went 1-1 through its conference doubleheader, dropping a 4-3 heartbreaker against Michigan State on Friday before rebounding with its postseason clincher.
After failing to capture a Big Ten win last season, the Knights made a bold statement with their victory on Sunday.
“I think this weekend was our chance to prove our worth and that we are meant to be in the Big Ten and that we are here and we are ready," said senior forward Sarah Regn, who tallied a goal in both games this weekend. "All the pieces just fell together (Sunday) ... It was just fun. I think today we played for each other … when it came down to it, everyone was busting their butts back for the girl next to them in that Rutgers jersey."
In a weekend of matchups that would decide the trajectory of the season, it was essential that Rutgers resurged after its disappointing outcome on Friday.
The Knights had led the Spartans 3-1 in the second half but when Michigan State answered with 3 consecutive goals, Rutgers failed to respond despite a staggering 18 attack penalty corners and a 27-13 advantage in shots.
With Big Ten tournament hopes hanging in the balance, the Knights needed to regroup before taking on Ohio State.
"We came out and we had a short but sharp practice (Saturday morning) and that kind of got us tuned in for the big game and the day of travel," said senior defender Sofia Walia. "I think that was kind of the turning point of where our confidence and where our mentality was. Both teams were battling for a spot so I think knowing that, you go in with a certain head game that you're not gonna allow pressure or the nerves to get to you. I think we executed past that pressure."
The beginning of the game at Buckeye Field was worrisome, with Ohio State getting on the board within the first three minutes of the contest.
Senior defender Devon Freshnock evened the score about 15 minutes later and Rutgers took a 2-1 lead after senior Kimberly Jevic scored off an assist from fellow senior Rachel Yaney.
An insurance goal by Regn with an assist from Walia early in the second half secured the win for the Knights and earned them a ticket to Maryland in the beginning of November.
Head coach Meredith Civico said the team's mindset was the difference maker this weekend.
"I thought we showed a lot of maturity and composure ... We had to manage the game mentally for 70 minutes and that was the biggest adjustment," Civico said. "We were in a very similar situation I think as we were on Friday — just being up 2 goals and (Sunday) I thought we managed the game, we were really smart in that second half whereas on Friday we kind of had a little bit of a mental lapse that cost us a couple goals."
Rutgers' veterans led the offensive fire against Ohio State, with the senior Knights claiming all 3 goals on the day as well as those with assists.
This year's squad has differentiated itself throughout the season but it will now have the opportunity to do what they didn't get the chance to last year.
"I'm really pleased and I'm really proud of the team," Civico said. "I think we’re playing amazing hockey— we’re playing the best hockey since I've been at Rutgers. I think if we can just get that mentality piece and be confident and be consistent with it, we can beat anybody."
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