Defensive breakdowns sour roller coaster weekend
Never did Sir Isaac Newton's theory of gravity describe the Rutgers women's soccer team's 2010 season so well.
The Scarlet Knights (6-5, 1-2) fell, 1-0, to Villanova yesterday in Villanova, Pa., despite outshooting the Wildcats (6-5, 1-2) by a 15-10 margin.
"Later on there were a couple of breakdowns, mostly in the area of just losing possession," said head coach Glenn Crooks, whose team failed to score first for the fourth time in six games. "[Villanova forward] Katie Ryan got behind our back four, which was one thing we noted in pregame. She had good pace and she was a good finisher."
The match's lone goal came in the 37th minute, when Ryan took a through-ball at the top of the 18-yard box and put it past Rutgers freshman keeper Samantha Perretty.
Ryan, a Wayne Valley High School product, tallied her sixth goal of the year on an assist from Heidi Sabatura, a Lawrence N.J., native.
Perretty made her second start of the season yesterday, while regular netminder Emmy Simpkins recovered from a concussion she suffered a week ago against then-No. 5 Boston College.
The Parkland, Fla., native stopped four shots on the afternoon, giving her seven saves in her first two career starts in a Rutgers uniform.
Rutgers stepped its offensive pressure up a notch in the match's final 30 minutes, when the team fired seven shots and took four corner kicks.
"I wouldn't say we played a complete game — not at all," Crooks said. "I think that's a challenge for every team, but that's part of the disappointment. We played with much more urgency over that period of time now that we were down a goal. That's when it becomes more psychological."
The Wildcats managed just one shot during the same timeframe.
Junior Karla Schacher gave the Knights their best opportunity of the match in the 63rd minute, when her header hit the post.
Fellow captain Gina DeMaio offered up a shot with 11 seconds left in the match. The delivery veered wide left of goal, reinforcing the idea that what goes up must always come down.
"At the end we just didn't have enough time," Crooks said. "If there was more time left on the clock, then maybe we would've had it. That's why you have to play that way from the outset. It just hasn't happened the last three games."
The Knights began the weekend on a high note with a 1-0 win over No. 19 Georgetown, marking the first time since Sept. 13, 2009, that Rutgers defeated a ranked opponent.
Perretty earned a shutout in her first career start after getting the official nod Friday morning from Crooks.
"[It's] amazing. We came off a two-loss weekend and we needed a win, wanted a win," Perretty said. "We came out with whatever we needed [Friday]. We had a good week of practice and this is just what we needed."
After a lull in play through the match's first 20 minutes, Crooks opted to replace half of his back four by inserting freshman Tori Leigh and sophomore Lindsey McNabb.
"Everyone stepped up when we needed people to step up," said senior defender Allie Hambleton, who played all 90 minutes in the victory. "As you can see, we have a really deep bench. Everyone who came on the field [Friday] really contributed, especially in the back."
McNabb got into the action early when she sent a header just over the crossbar on a corner by DeMaio.
"Obviously tonight things weren't going well. We made some changes and it made all the difference," Crooks said. "The match turned on that. We all know Julie [Lancos] and Rhe [Sleiman] got subbed for and they've been starters every match of the year. It just wasn't going their way [Friday night]."
Rutgers' sole goal came on another DeMaio corner, when a redirected ball found the foot of senior midfielder Ashley Medcalf.
The Waipahu, Hawaii, native sent a shot that deflected off of the crossbar and landed just inside the net in the 23rd minute.
Medcalf's tally, the second of her career, marked the first Rutgers goal in the first half since a 2-1 loss on Sept. 10, against then-No. 4 Portland.
"Conference play is about the points," Crooks said. "We always talk about that. Georgetown — I've seen them a couple of times — they're a quality team. They're deserving of their top-25 ranking. [Head coach] Dave [Nolan] has built a very nice program. I just think in many ways we grinded it out. It wasn't great soccer all the time, but I think we worked very hard."