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Netherlands' connection in game against Delaware

 – Photo by The Daily Targum

In the Rutgers field hockey team's most recent win over Delaware on Sept. 30, 2018, two Netherlands natives jumped on the scoreboard rather quickly. The Blue Hens' (4-0) Femke Strien opened the scoring 11 minutes in, but then alumnus back Linde van Schaik tied up the game 5 minutes later.

Delaware would go on to lose that game 2-1, but one thing's for certain: The Dutch connection permeates the sphere of collegiate field hockey, especially in the Mid-Atlantic region, including Delaware and New Jersey.

It's no surprise that the Netherlands is one of the top countries in the nation when it comes to field hockey. The Dutch National Team is ranked No. 1 in the International Hockey Federation (FIH). In the 2016 Rio Summer Olympic Games, it made it to the gold medal match for the fourth consecutive time since 2004, falling to Great Britain's National Team for the top spot.

Head coach Rolf van de Kerkhof of the Hens hails from the Netherlands. A graduate of the Fonty's School in Tilburg, the sixth-largest city in the nation approximately an hour and 20 minutes outside of Amsterdam, he emigrated to East Lansing, Michigan, to join the Michigan State coaching staff.

Whether it was with fifth seasons at the helm of a Spartans program that won the Big Ten Championship in 2009, or in Newark, Delaware, where he compiled a 114-57 record through eight seasons, de Kerkhof has a knack for recruiting Dutch field hockey players.

This year's Delaware team features six student athletes from the Netherlands, two of which are graduate student transfers. Tessa Gote, a midfielder, played the previous season at Duke, but has her undergraduate degree from two universities in the Netherlands. Milan Spooren earned her undergraduate degree at the University of Amsterdam before arriving to the United States.

But, the No. 19 Scarlet Knights' (2-2) head coach Meredith Civico is no stranger to de Kerkhof's versatile Dutch lineup. She owns the most recent victory over the Hens in 2018. 

This Friday evening's meeting will be Civico's third with Delaware, owning a 1-1 record. But, the Hens are a team that she has known throughout her coaching career. Her second job in the college field hockey sphere was an assistant coaches job at Towson in 2009, a season where she lost to Delaware in a close 6-5 game.

After starting last season 5-0, Rutgers has had a slower start. It shutout No. 24 Maine to start the season and edged out Ball State. But, this past weekend, the Knights went winless against top-ranked teams in No. 4 UConn and No. 17 St. Joe's.

While Rutgers is without its lone Dutch representative, van Schaik last season, fifth-year senior back Austyn Cuneo has emerged as the team's leading goal scorer with 4 goals and 10 points through the first four games. Named a Big Ten Preseason Player to Watch, Cuneo is 2 goals shy of tying her number from last season.

The Knights will be the third-ranked team on Delaware's agenda for this season. Holding opponents to 2 goals this far into the season, the Hens have a talented backline and a semi-Dutch midfield that can contend with some of the top teams in the nation.

For updates on the Rutgers field hockey team, follow @TargumSports on Twitter.

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