Knights take tourney position in stride
It was 8:24 Monday night when the Rutgers women's soccer team found out how it is spending this weekend.
At that moment, with the team gathered inside of head coach Glenn Crooks' office in the Louis Brown Athletic Center, the Scarlet Knights erupted in cheers ranging from joy to shock.
By 8:25 p.m. there wasn't much time for the Knights to think about anything more than how they are going to beat Duke Friday night.
"Instantly, when you see your name up there, it's like a jolt of excitement," said senior goalkeeper Erin Guthrie on watching the NCAA Tournament selection show on ESPN News. "Just to see your name in the brackets and see the potential and the things you can do and how far you can go, it's just really exiting."
To the surprise and dismay of many, the Knights did not get the home game they were hoping for, nor did they get the high seed that many felt the No. 12 team in the nation deserved.
Instead, RU travels to South Carolina's campus to take on Duke, a team ranked as high as No. 11 during the regular season. To get back to the Sweet 16, RU likely has to get past SEC Champion and No. 2 seeded South Carolina in a second round matchup.
It's not an ideal scenario, but right now the Knights are just happy to be playing soccer this weekend.
"Of course I would have loved to play at home," Guthrie said. "But we'll play anywhere and we're still going to play well, so the home field isn't going to be a factor and it's not something we're really focused on right now."
One of the major factors that likely prevented RU from receiving a better spot in the tournament was the its RPI.
The Ratings Percentage Index, the ever-complicated mathematical formula used to determine a team's strength, is a major consideration to the NCAA selection committee. Though the Knights are ranked 12th in the country in the NSCAA national poll, they are only the 35th ranked team in terms of RPI. Conversely, Duke's sits at 38 in the RPI poll and South Carolina is ranked 17.
Still, with a 13-3-4 overall record this season and with an elite national ranking, the Knights expected to play Friday night at Yurcak Field.
"I had hopes that we could host," said head coach Glen Crooks. "We thought we had done enough to be in that kind of position and our facility is one of the best in the country. But the selection committee has a very difficult job, because they have restrictions in terms of mileage and flights and how to organize every group of four. So I'm certainly not questioning their decision."
Instead, all of Crooks' energy is focused on getting his team through a short and incredibly hectic week of preparation.
"There are a lot of things you have to think about in a short amount of time," Crooks said. "But our immediate concern is finding out as much about Duke as possible."
Questions of right or wrong, fair and unfair became irrelevant to RU the moment its name popped up in a tournament bracket Monday night.
Either way, the Knights are off to South Carolina this weekend for the first of what they hope will be their biggest matches of the season. Home or away, they fully expect to be playing next weekend too.
"Traveling really doesn't bother this team," said senior back Jen Anzivino. "I think we've done well on the road and I think we'll be fine."