After a historic 2018 season, #11 Rutgers Field Hockey lost 5-0 to last year’s defending national champions #5 UConn in their first round opener of the NCAA Tournament. The Huskies outshot Rutgers 17-7 and had a 6-3 advantage in penalty corners.
Rutgers came into Friday with a 13-5 regular season record; they lost 1-0 in double overtime to Ohio State in the first round of the Big Ten Tournament. This was the team’s first NCAA bid in 32 years.
Ten minutes into the first half, UConn scored the opening goal (and eventual game-winner) courtesy of Svea Boker, the Huskies’ second-leading scorer. Five minutes later, Austyn Cuneo, who has had a great season, made an excellent defensive play in front of the net to preserve the 1-0 deficit.
However, UConn would add to their lead five minutes later; their leading scorer and the Big East Defensive Player of the Year, Cecile Pieper, scored to the double the lead with her 23rd goal of the season. The Huskies would score twice more in the first half to take a commanding 4-0 lead into halftime.
The Scarlet Knights played a much better second half, putting more pressure on goalkeeper Cheyenne Sprecher and UConn’s defense but Sprecher stood tall and turned away every shot she saw. Final score was 5-0.
Head Coach Meredith Civico said, “I am incredibly proud of this team and the effort they put into not only today, but the whole season. It’s obviously a very disappointing result, but being here in the NCAA Tournament, and playing the defending National Champions was a great experience. It’s one we will learn from and hopefully we will use it achieve even more in 2019. I am so grateful to the players, staff, administration and family of the Rutgers Field Hockey program for a truly historic season. I can’t thank them enough for everything they have done to help us achieve success this season.”
Rutgers fans will have plenty to look forward to next season. 2018 was historic! They had their third most wins in a single season (13), their nine shutouts were the most they’ve had in a single season since 1993, they had five wins over ranked opponents, and their highest ranked win in program history came against rival then #5 Princeton.
There is a lot to build on for next season. As Coach Civico and many of the other players have echoed, this is about trusting the process. The program has come a long way under Coach Civico and is built for great things going forward. They earned one more conference win this season and four more wins overall.
Most of the team will remain intact aside from the graduation of senior captains Linde van Schaik and Nikki Profita who will both be missed. van Schaik finished her career seventh all-time in goals (24) and points (65), and 12th in assists (17). With the seasons that Daphne Groothuis and Gianna Glatz had, in addition to the rest of the team, next season could be even better and see them going further, taking another step forward. They won’t rest until they’ve accomplished what they set out to do.