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Rutgers rebounds from loss to No. 6 Penn State with shutout win over Richmond on Senior Day

<p>Senior defender Sophia Walia was 1 of 8 Knights honored before the final regular season home game of their careers on the Banks Sunday.</p>

Senior defender Sophia Walia was 1 of 8 Knights honored before the final regular season home game of their careers on the Banks Sunday.

In its final home stand of the season, the Rutgers field hockey team split its fourth consecutive doubleheader weekend, rebounding with a 2-0 win over Richmond on Sunday after falling to No. 6 Penn State on Friday 4-1.

The Scarlet Knights (9-7, 2-5) put up a dominant first half against the Nittany Lions (13-2, 5-2) with a 1-0 lead, but a tying goal off the tricky left baseline early in the second proved to be the beginning of the end. 

Penn State continued its offensive power and forward Aurelia Meijer scored three consecutive goals off attack penalty corners that Rutgers was unable to answer.

On Sunday, after honoring their eight veterans in a pregame Senior Day ceremony, the Knights shutout a scrappy Richmond (7-9, 5-2) team to end the weekend on a high note and leave Bauer Track / Field Hockey Complex with one final home victory to end the 2016 regular season.

“I think they were very happy to get the win (Sunday) but you could kinda tell in the huddle that they knew that we have better hockey to play, which is exciting — when they’re not satisfied," said head coach Meredith Civico. "I think especially after Friday’s game, (the team) knew that they didn’t play two full halves. They played a really great first half and then kind of let down a little bit in that second half. We've got to be tough in the second half and I think it’s more of a mental piece for us than a hockey piece really — just staying focused throughout the 70 minutes."

Rutgers has split 6 of its 7 doubleheader weekends this year by opening with losses and closing with wins. The only exception was when the team went 2-0 in the second weekend of September against Ohio and Cornell.

Though this trend shows the Knights’ ability to make adjustments and bounce back, teams only get one shot in the postseason and Rutgers is a single game away from the Big Ten tournament.

Success in the postseason will rely on the team’s ability to make the necessary adjustments early and put together a full game of quality hockey.

“Our focus is playing the full 70 minutes and being consistent with that. … The leaderboard doesn’t really reflect how we play and what kind of team we are,” said senior goalkeeper Shevaun Hayes, who earned her first solo shutout of the season on Sunday. “This team has definitely got a lot of heart, we want to win, we want to do well … We’re definitely capable as a team to do this, we just need to mentally push ourselves.”

In addition to honoring their seniors on the field, the team also paid tribute to their elite eight with a music video and individual gift baskets in the locker room prior to tip off. 

In the stands, a lively crowd of over 300 fans, family members and loved ones supported the Knights as they outshot the Spiders 12-4 and held a 6-1 advantage in penalty corners.

Though it was their last home game on the Banks, the seniors remained happily poised knowing that their season is far from over.

“I actually wasn’t as upset as I thought I was gonna be because I think we, as eight seniors, have accomplished a lot and I think that we’ve made something here,” said senior defender Sophia Walia. “This is what our goal was freshman year — creating a legacy and I think we’re not done yet which is why I don’t think it’s so upsetting — because I don’t think that the Big Ten’s is our last stop. I think we’re going further.”

The Knights represented by jersey numbers 25, 1, 3, 7, 17, 18, 26 and 40 leave their home turf at Rutgers better than they found it.

As Civico told her seniors, it's not over yet, even as the eight of them walked off the field on a windy, sunny Sunday afternoon with one last tally mark in the home win column to begin the end of their careers.

“Without a doubt it’s emotional. I think this group is a special group … They’ve helped take this program to the next level,” Civico said. “I think we’re on our way to becoming an elite program and I think that that’s really exciting. These guys are definitely leaving their mark and creating a legacy … I’m excited it’s not over.”

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

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