Sisters, teammates reunite in match
When Emmy Simpkins saw that the Rutgers women's soccer team drew Duke in the first round of the NCAA Tournament, she just about burst into tears from shock.
Ever since Simpkins' sister Callie de-committed from Rutgers in favor of Duke — a school much closer to the Simpkins' Concord, N.C., home — the two sisters weren't sure they'd ever share the same field again.
"My sister is my best friend," said Simpkins, a redshirt freshman goalkeeper for the Scarlet Knights. "And this year, when that thing popped up on the screen saying that we were playing Duke, it was amazing. It brought tears to my eyes because it's not a guarantee that we'll play each other again."
It's been 11 years since the last time RU (13-3-4) and Duke met, but the two teams have ties that should make for an interesting match this afternoon at Eugene E. Stone III Stadium on the campus of South Carolina.
Flashback to the early years of this decade when future Knights stars Jen Anzivino, Gina DeMaio and Erin Guthrie were tearing up the country on their club team the PDA Wildcats.
"That was probably one of the best youth girl's teams ever to play youth girl's soccer — they were fantastic, they were unbelievable," said Rutgers associate head coach Mike O'Neill, who also served as head coach of the Wildcats during the team's incredible run between 2003 and 2006.
During that time, the Wildcats won the United States Youth Soccer Association national championship in 2003, advanced to the national finals in '05 and '06 and the semi finals in '04.
It was a crucial time in the development of the three RU seniors and it was one they shared with Sara Murphy and Elisabeth Redman — two members of the Blue Devils.
An injury sidelined Murphy all season, but Redman is a team captain that leads Duke with 12 assists and is second on the team with 18 points.
"She's dangerous," O'Neill said. "I think if you mark a player's career, you mark it by where you are in big moments and she's always in the front of the line. So she's a big player in big games."
RU head coach Glenn Crooks said he's aware of Redman and has spent this week trying to reacquaint his team with their former friend.
"The homework started right away, as soon as we found out," he said. "They play a system very similar to ours; they really like to build their attack. And they have great forwards. Two in particular, Elisabeth Redman and Kay Gummersall, are both very dangerous attacking players. So our ability to defend those two in particular will really be vital to what we do."
Duke is a team marred by inconsistency this year. The Blue Devils finished with an 8-8-4 record. They've lost to unranked UNC Greensboro, Central Florida and Virginia. But they beat No. 13 Virginia Tech 4-1 and tied No. 5 Florida State 0-0.
"That level of inconsistency, unless you're there with the program, you don't always know why that is," said Crooks, who is close with Duke head coach Robbie Church. "It could be an exam period, players could have been banged up, there could have been some freak goals scored. So we'll try to look at both sides. But they have a good coach and a great program so it should be a fun match."