No. 3 Rutgers field hockey field advanced to the Big Ten Championship game with a 2-1 victory over No. 7 Penn State on Friday evening. It marks the first time in program history and the Scarlet Knights will face No. 2 Michigan at 12 p.m. on Sunday at Bauer Field. In addition, the win set program records with their 11th ranked win of the season, a fifth top ten victory and 17 wins in a season (17-3).
With a vocal home crowd of 1,241 in attendance, Rutgers scored early to take a 1-0 lead in the 7th minute. Captain Katie Larmour sent a shot to goal and after Penn State failed to clear it, Bridy Molyneaux scored her 8th goal of the season.
The score remained the same until late in the third quarter when Milena Redlingshoefer sent the ball in the box off of a penalty corner and Kassidy Shetler finished near the net.
Trailing 2-0 entering the fourth quarter of the Big Ten semifinal, the Nittany Lions put the pressure on the Rutgers defense. They broke through with a goal from Sophia Gladieux assisted by Anna Simon with 8:50 remaining in the game. PSU continued to press and in the final minute had one last penalty corner with a chance to tie the score. Instead, captain Kerrie Burns made a tremendous defensive save and the clock expired soon after.
The clock ticks down are RU is heading to the Big Ten title game for the first time!! pic.twitter.com/uqjqCOQ58h— Rutgers Field Hockey (@RUFieldHockey) November 5, 2021
“The last minute of the game, we knew what was on the line. Our whole mindset is that nothing gets past us,” Burns explained of the final defensive stand. “Our defensive penalty corner unit does a great job. The whole defense was incredible, across all lines from the defense to the backs. We took our chances, we got our goals, so that was a positive. But it was total team defense, every player behind the ball. It was awesome.”
Rutgers has now beaten Penn State four consecutive times in 2021. Twice last spring and twice this season, all of them coming with the Nittany Lions ranked in the top ten nationally.
“I’m so proud of this team and this program,” head coach Meredith Civico. “We knew this game would be a battle. Playing back-to-back in this tournament is so challenging. Penn State played really well, but I’m so proud of our team for how we defended, how we were able to take advantage of our opportunities and get ourselves into the Championships. That’s incredible. I had a real vision for this program and we put our heart and souls into this.”
Penn State held a 9-6 shot advantage in the game but Big Ten Co-Player of the Year Gianna Glatz made three saves in net.
“We knew that Penn State had some really good individuals,” Iris Langejans said. “My goal was to be so focused on their key players, and that helped us be successful. We took our opportunities in the attacking zone, and our corners were really effective, that all worked well together. Our crowd was insane, it was so overwhelming. I feel so lucky to be here. Playing this next game on our home turf will be a big advantage.”
“I told the team, I can’t stop smiling. I can’t believe it,” Kerrie Burns said. “But I can believe it. The hard work that this team has put in, even over the past five years since I’ve been here. Today was incredible. The feeling from the fans, the noise they made helped carry us over that line, so big shout out to Rutgers Nation for that. It was incredible.”
Barely 24 hours after winning the program’s first ever Big Ten tournament game, setting the program record for most wins in a season and celebrating head coach Meredith Civico’s 100th career victory, Rutgers showed tremendous poise and focus to beat a very good team for a fourth straight time. This team has such strong leadership with its veteran core.
The Scarlet Knights will now face Michigan for the Big Ten Tournament title on Sunday at noon. The game will air live on the Big Ten Network. The Wolverines upset No. 1 Iowa on Friday 3-2 to advance to the Finals. Michigan beat RU earlier this season 3-0 in Ann Arbor. However, the rematch will take place in Piscataway.
Rutgers is the No. 2 seed but ranked No. 3 nationally. Michigan is the No. 4 seed but ranked No. 2 nationally. As for the updated RPI rankings, Rutgers is No. 1, Michigan is No. 2, Penn State is No. 3, Iowa is No. 4 and Maryland is No. 5. That’s how good the Big Ten is this season.
With the NCAA Tournament field of 18 set to be announced Sunday night, the conference should have at least five teams earn bids with Northwestern the potential sixth team with an RPI of No. 7. Two of those teams will be playing for a Big Ten title prior to the selection show and one of them, Rutgers, will look to win it for the first time in program history.