Take Me Home
It's hard to understate the importance of having home field advantage in the Big East Tournament.
But the fact that the Rutgers women's soccer team finished second in the Big East means the Scarlet Knights get a bye Friday and do not have to play until Sunday when West Virginia comes to Yurcak Field
And, any way you look at it, the Knights could use the rest.
"It'll be nice to for team to get that rest this week," said Rutgers head coach Glenn Crooks. "From that perspective, what we accomplished [last weekend] worked out very well for us."
As someone who has coached in the Big East for the last 10 seasons, Crooks knows just how rare it is for a team with the Knights' depleted depth have to be where they are this weekend.
"Our depth has taken a beating this year," Crooks said. "And, over the years, the deepest teams at the end of the season tend to rise to the top. So for us to be where we are this weekend is significant."
West Virginia finished third in the Big East American division with a 5-3-3 overall record in conference play this year.
The Mountaineers finished with an 8-5-6 overall record and their résumé this season includes wins over Penn State when the Nittany Lions were the fifth ranked team in the country. The only other top-20 opponent the Mountaineers faced this season was Virginia which was ranked ninth in the country when the Mountaineer tied them Sept. 11 1-1.
The Knights did not play West Virginia this season but pulled out a dramatic 1-0 win over the Mountaineers last season. At the time, West Virginia was the No. 13 team in the country.
Though West Virginia failed to garner a national ranking this season, they have been a solid team this decade, earning a bid to the Sweet Sixteen in the NCAA Tournament in 2007.
The Knights are trying to bounce back this year after a disappointing showing in last year's tournament.
A third-place finish in Big East last season had the Knights traveling to Milwaukee where they lost to Marquette 1-0 in the quarterfinal round of the conference tournament.
The 2008 Knights had an equally, if not more depleted roster than this year's team. But RU went on to make it to the Sweet Sixteen, where they lost 1-0 to Stanford.
Crooks sees no reason why his team this year cannot top that success.
"I think with what we've gone through already this season, a less strong, less resilient team might not be able to deal with it the way we have," he said. "We've learned a lot about each other over the last two years, and the biggest thing I've learned is that we don't make excuses, we don't belabor the fact that we don't have everyone in our fold. What we do is we deal with it and we move on."