June 23, 2018 | ° F

Freshman rides scoring streak into No. 4 foe

Redshirt freshman Jonelle Filigno admittedly didn't expect the first five games of her Rutgers women's soccer career to play out the way they have.

Most soccer enthusiasts might think Filigno, who injured her knee just seven minutes into the team's first scrimmage last year against Montreal, would be happy with three goals in her first five career contests.

If that was the case, they clearly do not know Filigno personally.

"No, I envisioned one [goal] every game," said Filigno, the former Canadian Soccer Association U-20 Female Player of the Year. "So I'm down two right now."

Filigno later said she was kidding, but she isn't the only one placing high expectations on herself.

Head coach Glenn Crooks didn't anticipate Filigno's long layoff to affect her goal-scoring output or ball skills at all.

"I know the kind of player Jonelle is and that's absolutely the kind of production [I expected]," said Crooks, whose No. 24 Scarlet Knights won two games in a row following an upset loss to Monmouth. "I'm sure she would agree with me that she should have a few more."

Filigno, like teammates Gina DeMaio and Ashley Jones, spent the entire offseason rehabbing from injury to ensure a return for the Knights' season-opening win against Stony Brook.

The Mississauga, Canada, native got on the scoreboard for the first time with a tally over Fordham on Aug. 14, in the team's final preseason scrimmage. Filigno added another goal for good measure in the Knights' first victory of the year over SBU.

"Filigno hasn't been in a live-game situation for a pretty good amount of time," Crooks said. "She got a few games in this summer with her club team, but it's not the same with what we're doing here. I'd say out of the five games Jonelle has been very effective in four of them. One of them — it just didn't go as well for her."

Following the Knights' loss to Monmouth, the team's most glaring anomaly, Filigno responded by scoring twice in the next two games, including her first career game-winner against Princeton.

For Rutgers (4-1) to succeed this weekend at the Nike Invitational in Portland, Ore., Filigno needs to maintain her offensive output against some of the nation's most high-powered offenses.

The Knights take on No. 4 Portland on Friday in a virtual home game for the Pilots.

NCAA champions in 2002 and 2005, Portland (5-0) already owns two wins this season over teams from the "Big Six" conferences — Wisconsin and Oklahoma State. Rutgers, however, is the Pilots' first matchup against a ranked opponent.

Back for the Knights is sophomore outside back Shannon Woeller, who missed the past four games while playing with the Canadian National Team. Woeller's return significantly improves the Rutgers back four, which couldn't find a consistent first substitute at outside back.

"I think it's great," said freshman Tori Leigh, who filled in as a starter during Woeller's hiatus. "Shannon does so much for us in the back four. I'm just happy I got a chance to, you know, try to fill her shoes. Shannon's a great player, so we'll be happy to see her again."

During Woeller's absence, Crooks utilized sophomore Maura McLaughlin, normally a midfielder, at outside back against Monmouth. Later Crooks opted for sophomore Lindsey McNabb as the first defensive sub versus Princeton.

"With Woeller gone, we tried a couple of things," Crooks said. "Lindsey got rewarded for having a good week of practice. Every one of these players is told, ‘You can earn things through training.' We have a large roster. We have depth."

After matching wits with a top-five power, Crooks' squad does battle with Washington (3-1-1), who took down its first Big East team Sept. 3 when it trumped Syracuse, 4-0.

The trip west is the Knights' first extended road trip of the season.

"For us, you have to figure out how to win on the road," Crooks said. "The road was not a problem for us last year and that's because of the girls we have in the program. Many times on the road they become even closer because you're together so often."

Tyler Barto

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