Away games present problems for young team
When the Rutgers women's soccer team faces off against Syracuse and St. John's this weekend, it takes on a far tougher obstacle than the Orange or Red Storm.
The road has been a difficult host for the Scarlet Knights (8-7, 3-4) during the 2010 season, in which five of the team's seven losses came away from the confines of Yurcak Field in Piscataway.
"We haven't played well on the road. We're not a good road team," said head coach Glenn Crooks, whose Knights dropped their last four away contests. "We better turn that around very quickly. This year we're not getting results on the road. I just know how recent trips have gone. For the most part, road trips have not brought us many points in the [Big East]."
The Knights' last road victory in the Big East came on Oct. 23, 2009, in a 1-0 overtime thriller against Cincinnati.
Scarlet enthusiasts have to go back over a month ago for the team's most recent road win over a non-conference opponent: a 1-0 upending of Washington on Sept. 12 at the Nike Invitational.
"We went into last weekend [against Connecticut and Providence] and had a lot of confidence that we were going to win at home and get the job done," said junior Karla Schacher, who leads the team with five goals on the season. "Traveling, we were a little apprehensive and our confidence [against DePaul and Notre Dame] wasn't quite as good as last weekend."
Crooks tinkered with his lineup again in the team's two most recent road losses to the Blue Demons and the No. 5 Fighting Irish, inserting former starter Julie Lancos for major minutes to solidify the back four.
"Any eight or 10 of us can go in and still try to raise the level [of play]," Lancos said. "Whoever goes in goes in. We all know how to play. It was definitely nice to get some minutes again [last] weekend. Unfortunately we didn't get the results that we wanted. The next two weekends are going to be really big weekends."
Lancos played a combined 83 minutes on the weekend, in which the Knights gave up a combined five goals — the most the team conceded in a two-game weekend stretch this season.
By comparison, the Belford, N.J., native earned just 15 minutes total in the Knights' two wins against UConn and Providence the previous weekend.
The Knights' road woes helped demote the team into a fourth-place tie with Louisville in the Big East's National Division with just four games left on the schedule — half of which come on the road.
"Road games are always hard, especially when you're traveling the whole day before and there's a time change," Lancos said. "Obviously it's going to affect the team a little bit. You have to go in with a, ‘We're not going to lose,' mentality and whether you're home or away, it really shouldn't matter."
This weekend's road swing kicks off tonight with a date with Syracuse (5-7-4, 2-4-1), who comes into the Big East matchup having lost four of five conference affairs.
The Orange's lack of scoring shows most transparently on the stat sheet, where only seven players have registered goals on the season.
Sophomore forward Brielle Heitman — a Mahwah, N.J., native — catapults the Orange attack with four goals, followed by teammates Megan Bellingham and Tina Romagnuolo with three apiece.
The Orange sport a freshman in net in Brittany Anghel, who boasts a .772 save percentage in her first season in blue and orange.
"I know Syracuse is better," Crooks said. "I know Syracuse has given several teams a tussle. I'm not going to comment on their level [of play]. Do I think we were a better team than some of the teams in our league against which results have gone the wrong way? Maybe on that day they were the better team. We can't assume anything."
St. John's (5-8-1, 2-5) also comes into Sunday's matchup with the Knights having lost four of five matches, including a 1-0 heartbreaking defeat in overtime at the hands of West Virginia.
The Johnnies and the Orange make up two-thirds of the Big East American Division's bottom three clubs.
Red Storm freshman Amy Marron paces a St. John's offensive assault that managed just nine goals this season from only five different team members.
Junior netminder Kristin Russell notched five shutouts to date, while the Red Storm defense surrendered 16 goals on the year.
"Playing [at St. John's] is hard, it's a challenge," Lancos said. "Any road game is a little bit harder. There is really no easy game and that's why the next four games are all going to be very big games for us."