Rookie keeper capitalzes on starting nod
Less than 24 hours before the Rutgers women's soccer team's match last Friday against No. 19 Georgetown, Samantha Perretty got the call.
Perretty, a true freshman goalkeeper for the Scarlet Knights (6-5,1-2), knew regular starter Emmy Simpkins battled with concussion-like symptoms the entire week.
Still, Perretty's status for Friday's match with the Hoyas was not official until she got the call.
"It had been on and off the whole week because we didn't know how Emmy was, but coach [Glenn Crooks] actually gave me the call [Friday] morning and told me I was going in," said Perretty, the Knights' sole freshman recruit from the Class of 2010.
Less than 10 minutes into her first collegiate appearance in a Rutgers uniform, Perretty already experienced a baptism by fire against a Hoya team ranked in the top 25.
Crooks was so discouraged by the play of his back defensive line that he substituted two starters within as many minutes during the first half of Friday's 1-0 Rutgers victory.
"I'm confident with any of my teammates back there, so we really didn't miss a beat," said senior Allie Hambleton, the sole member of the back four that played a full 90 minutes against Georgetown. "I missed playing with Julie [Lancos], but I'm confident with whoever's back with me."
Inserted for the experienced Lancos and senior Rheanne Sleiman were true freshman Tori Leigh and sophomore Lindsey McNabb, who came into the 2010 season with just six appearances in her career.
"When [good play] isn't on your back line, that can be tragic to the outcome of the game, and with a brand new keeper in," Crooks said. "We've got players playing without discipline and energy on the back line when we've got a brand new keeper in — a freshman in her first match. If I'm back there, I'm going to do everything in my power so that it doesn't even get close to her."
Despite the turmoil, Perretty still answered the call.
Crooks trotted Perretty out between the pipes at Villanova on Sunday, when team personnel deemed Simpkins again unfit for play.
Although she recorded three saves on the day, a through-ball for 'Nova's Katie Ryan proved costly for Perretty and the Knights defense, as Ryan finished the play for the match's lone goal.
"Villanova took advantage of an opportunity. They didn't have many, but they had two very good ones early in the game," Crook said. "Samantha made a fantastic save on a point blank shot early in the match and just a little later on … there were a few breakdowns."
Forgive Perretty if she is not used to losing.
Sunday's defeat at Villanova marked only the second loss for a team for which Perretty played in the last two seasons. Perretty's American Heritage High School, ranked No. 7 nationally by the N.S.C.A.A., rode a 28-1-1 record to a 2009 Florida state championship.
A two-time All-Florida nominee, Perretty shut out 15 opponents her senior season, excluding four in the postseason that propelled the Parkland, Fla., native's school to the state finals.
Despite her experience and accolades, however, Perretty still did not know what to expect in the Knights' second Big East game of the year.
"Everything you do prepares you for college, but once you get to college it's the next step," she said. "I was so amped up and ready to come play that I can't really compare it to high school because it's not high school anymore. It was just a lot of fun."
Perretty, whose American Heritage squad reached the state finals from 2006-2009 with her in net, prepares for every game with a starter's mentality, she said. She doesn't let that attitude affect her relationship with Simpkins and the Knights' other pair of netminders, however.
"I've been working with the starters all week at practice, but even at practice all of us just work together," Perretty said. "We don't ever really feel real anxious when we go into a game."
As Simpkins continues to recover from the concussion she suffered against then-No. 5 Boston College, Crooks has an important decision on his hands.
He can choose to go with the incumbent Simpkins, who worked all offseason to earn starter's duties, or opt for the Big East's Freshman of the Week for Sept. 27.
If Crooks goes with the latter, Perretty will be there to answer the call.