Minutes up for grabs against another NJ foe
The Rutgers women's soccer team learned Tuesday that it dropped eight spots to No. 24 in the NSCAA poll following its 1-0 loss Sunday to visiting Monmouth. The Scarlet Knights (2-1) learned earlier, however, how to play from behind for the first time.
Needless to say, the lesson did not receive a rave review.
"I don't really know to be honest," said senior forward Ashley Jones of Rutgers' inability to score first. "I don't know, mixed feelings. There's mixed feelings."
The abrupt transition arguably affected fifth-year senior captain Gina DeMaio the most. The Parsippany, N.J., native logged more minutes in Sunday's loss than in the first two matches.
Playing 74 minutes, DeMaio recorded two shots, one of which was on goal.
"Gina's not ready for 90 [minutes]," said head coach Glenn Crooks after dropping his first game back on the sidelines following a two-game suspension. "I probably pushed her past what she was even ready for. She's not ready for 90 yet."
Forced into her first real-game fitness test since tearing an ACL nearly a year ago, DeMaio's corner kicks suffered the most down the stretch as the second half wore on. Despite struggling with the corners, the Knights still left multiple opportunities for a put-back on the pitch.
"It's something I'm used to as a player," said DeMaio of the increased field time. "But coming off this injury, it's a process. It's taking me a while to get back. It's a little bit frustrating not being able to come out right away and do the things I used to be able to do. But I just have to keep a positive attitude."
In the aftermath of Sunday's early-season loss, Crooks said the team handled the week's adversity well.
"I would classify it as a good week of training," he said. "If there's one thing that's certain is that we've got a good group of kids and we have a common goal. I do think we came together more as a team this week. Every year it's a work in progress and sometimes it comes together quicker than others."
The veteran head coach needs a refreshed unit tonight, as visiting Princeton offers the Knights their second-consecutive New Jersey showdown.
For the Tigers, it's the first opportunity to earn a decision this year in their season-opener.
Last year's 2-0 Rutgers victory tied for the most goals Princeton gave up all season. With two-time first-team All-Ivy League goalkeeper Alyssa Pont and conference Co-Rookie of the Year Alison Nabatoff returning on defense, scoring opportunities could once again be scarce.
"One thing we might do is share the minutes a little bit more," Crooks said. "We may manage the game plan a little more strictly in terms of certain players getting certain minutes. We've got to manage Friday and Sunday together. Some starting players, for a variety of reasons — mostly because they're coming off of injury — are not prepared to go 90 minutes yet."
Sunday offers the Knights their first road test when they travel to Lewisburg, Pa., to take on Patriot League foe Bucknell and talented Christa Matlack, the conference's Preseason Player of the Year.
The Bison (1-2) come into Sunday's matchup on the heels of a loss to another Big East team. Louisville blanked Bucknell, 2-0, in the final of the Gamecock Courtyard Cup.
"How we play, how we stay together and how we handle adversity … are really important considerations over the next two weekends," Crooks said. "One thing we've learned with our group is … that they won't tolerate anything else either. We feel good about the weekend."