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#10 Rutgers Field Hockey Looks Ahead To Big Ten Tournament

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Rutgers Field Hockey closed the regular season with a 13-4 overall record and a 4-4 conference record, and looks to earn its first NCAA bid in 32 years with a successful showing at the conference tournament.

(Ben Solomon/Rutgers Athletics)

Even before the season began, there was a buzz surrounding the Rutgers Field Hockey program. Last season, they went 9-9 overall and 3-5 in conference before falling 4-3 to Northwestern in the first round of the Big Ten Tournament. But each season, there has been steady progress and the team is ready to take the next step.

Seeking its first NCAA tourney bid in 32 years, Rutgers Field Hockey finished the 2018 regular season with a 13-4 overall record and a 4-4 conference record. They had a program record five ranked wins and four conference victories, and they finished the season on a five-game winning streak. The team’s nine shutouts are the most they’ve had in a single season since they also had nine in 1993. Their national ranking at 10th this week in the latest coaches poll is the highest in program history. Their RPI ranking this week is 7th in the country as well.

Rutgers began the regular season with wins at home over Richmond, Hofstra, #18 St. Joe’s, Cornell, and #6 Princeton. The 1-0 victory over Princeton was the highest ranked win in program history. They began conference play on the road and would lose their first game of the season to #10 Michigan, 3-1.

The Scarlet Knights would bounce back against Longwood and Michigan State before falling in a tight penalty shootout to then #23 Ohio State, 4-3. They also lost a close 3-2 game to #7 Penn State but defeated #19 Delaware on the road, 2-1.

Their fourth and last loss of the season would come at #2 Maryland, 3-1; they were not shut out once this season. Rutgers would conclude with five straight wins over Georgetown (7-0), #15 Northwestern (2-1), Indiana (4-0), #7 Iowa (1-0), and American (1-0 OT).

When I spoke to senior Nikki Profita earlier in the season, she mentioned that this season is all about “trusting the process” and so far, it seems to be working. When I asked Head Coach Meredith Civico about “trusting the process”, she spoke about how preparation for this season really began last spring and how the veterans on this team embraced the newcomers, making the transition almost seamless.

Civico said, “I think that the culture this team has, I think that chemistry and that closeness is a big part of our process. I think that the next piece is really just taking every day day-by-day and taking every game as it comes. Not getting caught up in the outcome and not getting caught up in the big picture but just staying very focused and very present in the moment. I think that comes from the team and that comes from the captains and really comes from Nikki [Profita] and Linde [van Schaik] in particular as well as the returning players.”

Sophomore goalkeeper Gianna Glatz, a key returning player, is one of the biggest reasons the Scarlet Knights have been as successful as they have. She has started every single game this season and her nine shutouts lead the country. She has an impressive 1.07 goals against average (seventh in the country and second in the Big Ten) and a .795 save percentage (third in the country and first in the conference). Glatz was named Big Ten Defensive Player of the Week this past week for the third time this season, along with numerous other honors, national recognition.

Civico describes meeting Glatz for the first time when she was in middle school and how she knew that Glatz was going to be a big part of this program’s future: “She came up to me at a clinic or a camp and asked if we were recruiting a goalkeeper. I looked at her and said to her, ‘Why, yes we are” and right away from that moment we knew that having Gianna on our campus when she was that old, she was going to be a player who was going to impact our program.”

Watching Glatz on the field makes you feel like she’s been playing for decades. Her poise and composure are unparalleled. Civico says, “She’s always, regardless of her age, been somebody who’s approached the game in a really competitive and professional manner. She’s a player that the coaching staff and the team has a lot of trust in. She’s a fantastic goalkeeper and I think she’s only going to get better.”

Sophomore midfielder Daphne Groothuis finished the regular season as the team’s leading scorer with 12 goals and 37 points. She has the sixth most points and seventh most goals in an individual season in program history. She always seems to come through in big moments, including scoring the overtime winner against American, and thrives in those situations. Groothuis has been a consistent offensive powerhouse and is only going to get better (which should scare opposing goaltenders).

When asked about Groothuis and her impact, Civico says, “Probably one of the most competitive players on the team and I think she trains every single day the way she plays in games. She just has such good energy and competitive and I think she’s really matured over this last year. She has players around her that compliment her and she compliments them.”

One of the players Groothuis has incredible chemistry with is senior and Captain Linde van Schaik, who was second in team scoring with 20 points, a career high. van Schaik has started all 69 games of her Rutgers career, and ranks seventh all-time in goals and points in program history. She was also selected for the NFHCA Senior Game.

van Schaik is a tremendous leader both on and off the field. Civico remarks, “Linde is someone who has taken every experience, positive and negative, and has learned from it and has come out wiser and stronger. She really has the respect of her teammates and our coaches and she’s earned that respect and she’s a competitor. She wants to win and she knows the game and I think she’s done such a great job leading this group.”

The most exciting thing about this team is that they’re young and they’re only going to continue to improve. They’re getting scoring across the board from underclassmen who are going to be a part of this program for a few years. There is a solid corps who will do bigger and better things in the years to come.

But they still have business to take care of this season. The Scarlet Knights are seeded #5 for the Big Ten Tournament and they will look to avenge their regular season loss when they face #4 seeded Ohio State Sunday afternoon at Columbus in the opening round.

They faced each other on September 23rd in Piscataway and the game was a back-and-forth affair with the Buckeyes scoring first and the Scarlet Knights immediately responding. Ohio State would take the lead again but Rutgers would score again to tie and then take the lead late in the first half but Ohio State would tie it in the second. There were two scoreless overtimes and the game would go to a penalty shootout; both teams scored four times out of the first five opportunities (next to score would win) and the Buckeyes escaped with a win. Profita had a two-goal game and Glatz made nine saves; Groothuis also scored.

Let’s hope that Sunday’s game has a different outcome and Rutgers moves one step closer to the NCAA Tournament.