The nationally ranked No. 3 Rowan field hockey team closed out the 2022 regular season with a 17-1 record, a perfect 6-0 New Jersey Athletic Conference (NJAC) record and the NJAC Regular Season Championship.
Rowan is now entering the NJAC Championship Tournament as the clear favorites. As the playoffs’ No. 1 seed who outscored all NJAC opponents 35-5 throughout this season, the Profs realize they can’t allow any of these stats to make them complacent.
“That’s something we have really pushed this whole season that we can’t be looking forward to or underestimating any team. Wednesday is going to come first before Saturday,” senior goalie Abby Hainsworth said. “Saturday isn’t just going to be handed to us, we have to fight for it.”
To get to the NJAC Championship game, Rowan first has to get past the No. 4 seed Montclair State University on their home turf in the semifinals.
The Profs’ most recent matchup against the Red Hawks was less than two weeks ago on Saturday, Oct. 22. The game was one of the most highly contested ones that Rowan saw in NJAC play this year, as the 3-1 win was their lowest margin of victory against a conference rival.
“Montclair is definitely is going to come ready to play, it’s playoffs and they have something they want to prove,” Hainsworth said. “Coming out vs. Montclair in the beginning we were a little slow and there were a lot of changes we had to make in that game. So over practice the last few days and moving forward we’re going to make those little changes in what we did against them.”
During that matchup, Montclair put up the first goal within the first 20 minutes, and Rowan wasn’t able to return the favor until the third quarter despite outshooting the Red Hawks 15-6 in the first half.
“They played us extremely tough, especially in that first half,” Head Coach Michelle Andre said. “We didn’t capitalize on our corners right away, so I think that’s a piece of the game we need to focus on. They do a really nice job on their corner defense and they’re very disciplined back there, so I’m starting to look at that piece of the game because that’s an area we can definitely improve on.”
While the Profs and Red Hawks are squaring off in Glassboro, The College of New Jersey (TCNJ) Lions and the Kean University Cougars will be duking it out for the other spot in the NJAC Championship game.
“I think that’s going to be a tough game, it doesn’t matter at this point who comes out of it, everybody is interchangeable, they each have things they do well,” Coach Andre said. “I mean TCNJ took the first game, they did the same thing last year and then Kean beat them, so who knows what’s going to happen. That’s the best part about playoffs, you just don’t know.”
In terms of possible matchups for Rowan in the championship game, both teams would bring a challenge for the Profs. The Cougars are the only other nationally ranked team in the NJAC, currently sitting at No. 11.
On the other hand, the Lions were able to tie Kean for the most shots on goal from an NJAC opponent against Rowan with 11. The TCNJ-Rowan rivalry is also an important one for both schools.
“They’re our biggest rival and long-time rival,” senior Bridget Guinan said. “We know a lot of the girls so it’s always challenging playing them no matter who’s better.”
With a guaranteed trip to the NCAA tournament on the line, the NJAC is still an important piece of the puzzle for this Profs team to improve their already impressive resume.
“One of their long-term goals is to win the NJAC. So that is something that we are doing and we’re focused on right now. We know by winning the NJAC, there’s other rewards that come [like] the NCAA tournament,” Coach Andre said. “So we’re really focused on winning that right now to have destiny in our own hands.”
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