Nightmare at Yurcak
After nearly 30 minutes of lying on the field surrounded by paramedics, family members, coaches and teammates, Ashley Jones, in obvious excruciating pain, was taken away in an ambulance.
"The biggest part of this game is that you can imagine how emotional the team was for this injury — there were a lot of tears for all the girls," said Rutgers head coach Glenn Crooks after yesterday's 2-1 double overtime victory against DePaul. "For them to recover from this shows that they are a special group."
On a 50/50 ball just inside DePaul's 18-yard box, the Rutgers women's soccer forward did what she's done countless times in her three years as a Scarlet Knight.
She went for the ball as hard as she possibly could.
An instant before Jones got to it, an opposing player slid full speed at the ball — following through into a violent, full-on collision with Jones' right shin.
The result — occurring in the 28th minute of the match — was one the Knights have become frighteningly familiar with over the last two years.
"There's no final word yet on the injury," Crooks said. "The fear is a broken leg, but pretty severely."
Coming into RU's match with DePaul, Jones was the team's leader in assists, with three, and goals, with eight. The junior has notched four game-winners this year, leaving her two game-winning goals shy of the RU single season record.
The junior was a key piece in the Knights' ability to vault themselves into the nation's top-10 while fighting through the team's numerous other injuries this season.
The Knights now have six injured starters. Four of those injuries, not including Jones', are season ending injuries.
"These are my girls," Crooks said. "I'm distraught. But I think the team made a statement today and the win today is a credit to the players. We've lost a lot of talented kids, and it looks like we've lost another one who's been obviously integral to what we've done this year. We wouldn't be here without Ashley."
Jones' injury comes two days after one of RU's most promising performances of the season — a 1-0 loss to No. 8 Notre Dame.
It was a hard fought, physical and emotionally driven match. It was everything it was advertised to be. And it was one the Knights controlled for most of the game's 90 minutes.
But with 6:05 left in the second half, Notre Dame caught RU on its heels. And in that one moment the Fighting Irish stole a victory, extending their Big East unbeaten streak to 58 games.
"I like the way we played. We defended very well, we did some great things on the attack, and I really thought we were going to get one on a set piece tonight," Crooks said. "But that's soccer. Give them credit; they finished when they had an opportunity."
Notre Dame's goal came less than a minute after RU nearly scored on two consecutive set pieces, both initiated by brilliant set-ups by sophomore back Julia Lancos.
The first was a free-kick in the 82nd minute that Lancos nearly netted herself, but Notre Dame goalkeeper Nikki Weiss pushed the ball just wide of the net.
Weiss' save led to a corner kick that initiated a scramble inside the box, with RU flurrying shots at Weiss until she finally gobbled up the ball and cleared it.
On Notre Dame' next possession in the 83rd minute, forward Jazmin Hall crossed the ball to teammate Lauren Fowlkes, who sent a perfectly placed shot from inside the 18-yard marker that flew past senior goalkeeper Erin Guthrie's outstretched arms and into the top-right corner of the net.
"It all happened so fast," Guthrie said. "I thought we marked them pretty well, everything was organized. [Fowlkes] got her foot on the ball somehow and it went in."
The Knights once again had Notre Dame on its heels after the goal and nearly converted on several solid scoring chances in the match's final minutes. But Weiss, who finished with six saves in the match, stopped all of them.
In total, RU outshot the Fighting Irish 12-9 and took four corner kicks to Notre Dame's two.
"I think we played awesome," Guthrie said. "Besides the score, everything on the scoreboard at the end of the game showed that we outplayed them. And I think that's amazing. This is the best we've ever played against them."