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No. 21 Rutgers field hockey prepares for 2022 Big Ten Tournament

Sophomore midfielder Lucy Bannatyne and the Rutgers field hockey team face a tough matchup in the first round of the Big Ten Tournament, challenging Northwestern on Thursday. – Photo by Rutgers Field Hockey / Twitter

After securing a 3-0 Senior Day victory over James Madison on Sunday, the Rutgers field hockey team sets its sights on the 2022 Big Ten Tournament in Columbus, Ohio. The No. 21 Scarlet Knights (8-9, 3-5) will look to defend their conference title as the sixth-seed in the bracket.

Rutgers finished the 2021 season with a 19-4 record and six Big Ten victories. In the postseason, it hosted and won the Big Ten Tournament — the first Big Ten title for any Knights team — and lost to Liberty on penalty strokes in the NCAA Tournament. This year’s program has not been quite so dominant but has still shown flashes of brilliance.

After being outscored 7-1 in its first two games of the season, Rutgers bounced back with three consecutive victories, including two in overtime over ranked opponents. Since then, the Knights have teetered back and forth around a .471 record, playing a schedule filled with ranked opponents.

Sophomore goalkeeper Sophia Howard has not put up dominating numbers in the net, unlike her predecessor Gianna Glatz, but Howard has continuously stepped up in clutch moments all season long, particularly in Big Ten play. 

Offensively, while the team lost several notable contributors from the 2021 campaign, others have stepped up.

Junior back Iris Langejans, senior forward Rachel Houston and sophomore midfielders Guillermina Causarano and Lucy Bannatyne have found success while newcomers such as graduate student midfielder Marique Dieudonne, freshman midfielder Indy van Ek and freshman back Puck Winter have played key complementary roles. 

No Rutgers player has scored more than 5 goals this season, but six players have tallied at least 3, demonstrating teamwork within a group that can beat opponents in many different ways.

The Knights’ defensive unit has had its struggles but has also performed well when it matters most, allowing just more than 2 goals per game as a team. Additionally, with Rutgers playing in four overtime games this season and winning three of them, the backline is certainly battle-tested.

The Knights will open the tournament on Thursday at 5 p.m. against third-seeded Northwestern. The No. 4 Wildcats (15-3, 5-3) are one of the most dynamic teams in the country with one of the best players in the country in Bente Baekers but already lost 2-1 to Rutgers in Piscataway last month. 

In that game, the Knights were aggressive right out of the gates, scoring twice in the first 10 minutes and never looking back, while Howard made three crucial saves. 

A victory over Northwestern would set Rutgers up to face the winner of a matchup between Ohio State and Maryland. The program beat the No. 18 Buckeyes (11-7, 3-5) in Piscataway during the regular season and showed plenty of resilience in a wild 4-3 loss to the No. 2 Terrapins (16-2, 7-1), a game where the Knights notched 2 goals in the last 2 minutes to tie up the game before Maryland secured a game-winner in the final seconds. 

Thursday’s game will be broadcasted on Big Ten Network+. If Rutgers is able to advance past the Wildcats, the next game will be on Friday at 4 p.m. on the Big Ten Network.

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

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