Senior class comes full-circle in '09
The 2006 season was supposed to be a rebuilding year for the Rutgers women's soccer program. Not even the incoming freshman class — ranked 16th in the country — was expected to immediately fill the void left by players like future Olympic superstar Carli Lloyd.
But the Scarlet Knights wasted no time in doing what's become something of a habit over the last four years: proving people wrong.
The '06 Knights, led by that highly touted freshman class, earned the program's first ever trip to the Big East Championship and an at-large bid to the NCAA tournament while setting school records for wins (16), shutouts (16) and conference victories (8).
Since then, the '06 freshman class, now seniors, has been the backbone of what's been the most successful four-year stretch in RU women's soccer history.
"Our class is obviously a big part of this team on the field," said senior goalkeeper and four-year starter Erin Guthrie. "But what really makes this team special is the way we are off the field. I think we're probably the closest team that you're going to come across at Rutgers or anywhere else that I really know of.
"I think that's why we have such great chemistry on the field, and that's a tribute to the seniors because we've been here for four years and we've kind of shown the way."
The road that led RU to where it is now — the No. 9 team in the country — has not been without significant obstacles. The injuries the team has had to overcome are well documented. This season, they've even lost two key members of the senior class, Caycie Gusman and Gina DeMaio, to season ending ACL tears.
But if there's one thing that's got the Knights through all of those tough times in the past, it's the confidence and trust that they have in each other.
"All of the things we've gone through have just helped to give us experience," Guthrie said. "So even when things aren't perfect, we know we have experience fighting through difficult situations. And, this year, we've been able to kind of help the underclassman, and really make the senior year that we've always wanted."
Head coach Glenn Crooks has, over and over again, shown his faith in this year's senior class. He gave all seven members of the class significant playing time from the moment they set foot on the Banks. Four members of the '06 freshman class — Karla Schacher, Jenifer Anzivino, DeMaio and Guthrie — were regular starters as freshman.
And, last year, when Crooks had to decide which four players would take penalty kicks for the team after two overtimes against Oklahoma State in the second round of the NCAA tournament, three of the four players he chose — Anzivino, DeMaio and Becky Wise — were from the '06 freshman class. All three netted their shots, vaulting RU into its second Sweet Sixteen in program history and adding another chapter to a storied four years.
"I just think our class just has great leadership," Gusman said. "Ever since we came here we knew what we wanted to do. We knew we wanted to win and do it together. And it's not just all about the seniors; it's everyone on the team. When one of us goes down someone else steps up, it's always just been a really good winning mentality."