No. 21 Rutgers prepares for challenge at No. 6 Princeton

For this upcoming weekend, the Rutgers field hockey team will travel down to Princeton to go up against New Jersey rival, No. 6 Princeton (3-1). The No. 21 Scarlet Knights (3-3) have had a tough schedule this far, but this game in particular has a bit of a past for both teams.

Las year, Rutgers was ranked No. 23, when the then-No. 6 Tigers went over to Piscataway for a long 60-minute game. The first half had no action other than the back-and-forth on offense, and nothing to solidify a win. But fifth-year senior back Austyn Cuneo, then a junior, had other plans.

Cuneo received an assist from alumna Linde van Schaik, and was able to knock off a shot for what became the only goal in the game. Cuneo made that momentous goal for the Knights, and the team was able to hold on to Princeton's tough pressure for the rest of the game. 

Junior goalkeeper Gianna Glatz, a sophomore last season, totaled seven saves on eight shots on goal from the Tigers. Within the second half, Princeton took 11 shots in total, so they were putting in the work, while Glatz worked even harder.

One of the most shocking points of the game was that Rutgers had two shots in total for the entire game and only one shot on goal, which happened to make it in. Their stats were so minuscule, that just by looking at the stats, you would not think that the Knights were able to come out with a win.

Since then, Princeton had an overall successful season, with only one loss from No. 1 North Carolina and three other dominating wins, while Rutgers has had an even 3-3 schedule. 

“We need to be ready to play a very fast and high-tempo game,” said head coach Meredith Civico. “We know they like to play direct. We know they like to play fast. We know they like to play and create a lot of attack through Julianna Tornetta, she’s a really excellent player. They also have Clara Roth, who’s creating a lot for them. We have to shut down their key players.”

In their past few games, the Tigers' Tornetta and Roth have really been pushing the team to success. Against No. 17 Penn State, Tornetta had two shots and one on goal.

Roth managed to get 2 goals and three shots on goal. Against Albany, Tornetta had three assists, showing that she is also a team player, not just the main offensive player. Just between the two of the most consistently dominant players, the Knights have their work cut out for them.

“Playing at Princeton, I think there’s gonna be a big crowd, and it’s a night game, which I think will be fun for our team. There will be a Jersey fan section, and it’s always a big rivalry. We love playing Princeton, we love playing Monmouth because it’s really close in-state rivals," Civico said.

This rivalry extends through many years, but it was only within the past few years that Rutgers has been playing the Tigers. It started in 2017 with then-No. 12 Princeton beating then-No. 22 Knights in a 4-1 loss. 

Last season, Rutgers had the highest ranked win in its field hockey history. This rivalry hasn’t been as extensive as the Knights and Monmouth, which ended in a win back in 2015.

Previously having three losses in a row was a tough place for the Rutgers to be in. When comparing this year to last year, the Knights have a major game coming up on Friday night. 

The Tigers will be looking for a win after their biggest fall of last year. While both teams have slightly different rosters this year, the energy is the same. Both teams want a win over the other, and both will have to work harder than the other. 

The stage will be set in Princeton, and while this comes as a disadvantage for Rutgers, it certainly doesn’t stop them. The Knights are known for powering through the challenges to come out with a win, and this Friday will have to be the determining factor.

“They’re feeling a lot more confident,” Civico said. “After losing to St. Joe’s and losing to Delaware in such close games, it was a little bit frustrating. I think we knew that we had to go to Monmouth and come back with a win. The team stuck to the game plan and worked hard and we played really hard on Sunday.”

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