Repeat story: week off before NCAAs
It has been a season of bizarre, unpredictable ups and downs for the Rutgers women's soccer team.
Through it all, the Scarlet Knights find themselves in the exact same position they were in at this time last year.
Just like Sunday's 1-0 loss to West Virginia, a hobbled RU suffered a major upset in the quarterfinal round of the 2008 Big East Tournament.
As hard as last year's loss was, the players and coaching staff were adamant about the importance of having time off to recover before the start of the NCAA Tournament.
Those feelings turned out to be prophetic when the Knights landed in last year's Sweet 16. This week, RU is echoing those sentiments from a year ago.
"We would love to be playing for the Big East Championship, but with how many people we've been playing with this rest is well needed," said redshirt freshman forward April Price. "Part of the reason we did so well last year is because we had that time to recover. It really is important."
Last year's team entered the tournament with barley enough healthy players to field a team, but, thanks largely to having two weeks off before the NCAA Tournament, the Knights had the stamina to top Penn State in a double overtime first round match and a second round match against Oklahoma State that went into penalty kicks.
Like Price, redshirt sophomore Tricia DiPaolo comes off a season of wear and tear on a surgically repaired knee.
DiPaolo suffered a setback against West Virginia when she collided with an opposing player, aggravating her injury. While DiPaolo said the collision set her back, she said that she'll definitely be ready for the NCAA Tournament and that the time off beforehand has already been beneficial.
"I think a lot of us are really tired right now," DiPaolo said. "Our bodies are sore, it's been a tough year, but we had two days off of practice and that was good. We're getting back into it [today] and we'll be ready for the NCAA Tournament."
Of course, the Knights have to get into the NCAA Tournament first.
But the NCAA releases its brackets Monday night, and all indications are that the Knights are a lock for an at-large bid.
"Our expectations are that they're going to have a tough time keeping us out," said Rutgers head coach Glenn Crooks.
The Knights not only expect to be in the tournament, but the team fully expects to be home for the first two rounds — just like last year.
"As far as the home game, just with the way the regional structure is set up I think we have a good shot," Crooks said. "If we don't get one, it would be disappointing. But I trust the selection committee and their process so I wouldn't argue with it. But being at home would be nice."