Decisive 2 games will seal No. 13 Rutgers' fate for postseason
With just two regular season games remaining on the year, it has already been a historic season for the Rutgers field hockey team. It has achieved something no other team has achieved under head coach Meredith Civico — winning 10 games.
And now the Scarlet Knights have won 11.
“This team believes in themselves as a team,” Civico said. “We knew this group was special beginning last spring, and they really committed over the summer and worked really hard. I think their mentality as well, their focus has always been one game at a time and that’s worked really well for us.”
Of those 11 wins, seven have been shutouts, tying for the national lead.
The team also has four wins against ranked opponents this season, the most ever ranked wins in the entire program's history.
“The success has come from our team dynamic,” said senior forward Linde van Schaik. “I think everyone is so close, and everyone wants to fight for one another and that’s a huge reason for our team's success this season.”
The seven shutouts have a lot to do with sophomore goalkeeper Gianna Glatz’s play this year, as she has twice been named Big Ten Defensive Player of the Week.
Glatz was also just named the National Defensive Player of the Week after allowing just 1 goal over the last two games.
“It’s really exciting to be a part of something like that,” Glatz said about being on a team that has shut out seven teams this season. “It just shows our defense is super fluid, and we’re just playing off of one another very well.”
As far as Big Ten games go, Rutgers is 3-4, tying last season's win total, but still has one game remaining on Friday against No. 7 Iowa.
That conference game will carry serious seeding implications for the Big Ten Tournament. Currently, the Hawkeyes are fourth in the Big Ten with a 4-3 conference record, while the Knights are in sixth.
A win over Iowa would put both teams at 4-4, and give Rutgers the higher seed due to the head-to-head win being the tiebreaker. Out of the nine Big Ten schools that have field hockey teams, the top four seeds are guaranteed a home quarterfinal game in the Big Ten Tournament.
Sitting in between the Hawkeyes and Knights at fifth is Ohio State, who owns a 3-3 conference record. The Buckeyes also have two Big Ten games remaining, so they can solidify that fourth spot with wins over Michigan and Michigan State.
In order to have any sort of shot at a home quarterfinal game, Rutgers needs to take care of business against Iowa on Friday. Even then, it would need Ohio State to lose out in its last two games to prevent it from getting to four or five Big Ten wins. That seems considerably unlikely given the fact that the Spartans are 0-7 in conference games.
“First things first, we need to beat Iowa,” Civico said. “From there, we’re going to have to see how things shake out. I think it’s going to come down to this last (Big Ten) game, and everyone else’s results this last weekend. I don’t think we’re going to know the seeding until Sunday after the last Big Ten matches have been played.”
One thing is certain, and that is the Knights are going to have to be on their "A" game no matter who they play. The Big Ten is an ultra competitive conference where any team can beat anyone on any given day.
The Big Ten Tournament will also be a deciding factor for Rutgers to secure a bid to the field of 18 for the NCAA Tournament held in Louisville, Ky.
The easiest way to qualify would be to win the conference tournament, as 10 teams automatically qualify for the tournament by winning their respective conference. Eight other teams receive at-large bids based on their season record and other factors.
Last season, four Big Ten teams qualified for the NCAA Tournament. All four teams who qualified were in the Big Ten semifinals, including Northwestern, who beat the Knights in the quarterfinals.
A loss in the quarterfinals this year would almost surely seal the same fate for Rutgers, while a win would give them a strong case for qualifying for the NCAA Tournament.
“We want to be a program that competes for championships, that competes for Big Ten championships,” Civico said. “If we want to be in a position to advance and continue playing in to November, we’ve got to win that game on Friday, and that will set us up in the Big Ten and potentially NCAA play.”
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