Crooks' keeper rotation lacks offensive support
The wheels are in motion for the Rutgers women's soccer team, and that might not necessarily be a good thing.
Head coach Glenn Crooks opted twice last weekend to change goalkeepers after halftime for the first two times this year, when sophomore Emmy Simpkins and true freshman Samantha Perretty each saw time between the posts — further magnifying the keeper carousel.
"I want to play two keepers," Crooks said. "We have four quality keepers, but I thought down the stretch I would play both [Simpkins and Perretty] so that if anything happens to one of them, the other is ready."
Still, the move comes in the midst of a 2-4-1 stretch for the Scarlet Knights, whose recent problems can be attributed to a lack of offense.
Simpkins and Perretty combined to allow just one goal in last weekend's road contests against Syracuse and St. John's.
Both decisions went against the Knights because they failed to convert opportunities into goals for the fourth time in five road tests in the Big East.
"Overall everyone gave a great effort," said junior captain Tricia DiPaolo. "We played well. We just struggled to put the ball in the back of the net. We had our chances, but things weren't falling our way."
Perretty has given up only two goals in 290 minutes of action, while Simpkins sports a .750 save percentage in 15 games started this season.
Perretty previously started against then-No. 19 Georgetown and Villanova earlier in the season, when Simpkins recovered from a concussion she suffered against then-No. 5 Boston College.
Perretty, an American Heritage (Fla.) product, posted a shutout in her first collegiate appearance for Rutgers, but surrendered her first goal in a loss to 'Nova two days later.
"They both did great," said senior forward Ashley Jones. "They were strong on the ball. They didn't give up much. Their effort was outstanding."
Despite the positive showing, Crooks remains noncommittal about naming a consistent starter between the pipes, echoing back to his wait-and-see approach during the preseason.
"Part of the [decision] is if one of the two emerges on the way to the Big East Tournament and hopefully more, then perhaps I would go with that keeper," Crooks said. "But I like using them both right now. I think it's going well."
Rutgers' goalkeeping conundrum is something entirely foreign to Crooks, who relied on former Big East Goalkeeper of the Year Erin Guthrie for the past four seasons.
Guthrie posted a .885 save percentage last season and pitched 11 shutouts en route to a 14-4-3 record and appearance in the NCAA Tournament.
The Sparta, N.J., native has since moved on to Women's Professional Soccer with FC Gold Pride, leaving a major void to fill for Simpkins.
The Knights' opening-day starter in 2010 came into the campaign with just one career start, in which she registered one save and surrendered a goal on Aug. 27, 2009, in a 4-1 win over Stony Brook.
Despite sharing playing time, both Simpkins and Perretty responded well to their new roles, according to teammates.
"They cheer each other on and are each other's biggest fans," said DiPaolo. "That's really awesome about the two of them."
The netminding pair finish the season with home matches against Cincinnati and Louisville — teams in the middle of the pack in the Big East's National Division.
Louisville lost a pair of decisions last weekend, allowing Rutgers to hold sole possession of fourth place in the division.
Although the transition to equal playing time will not be exactly smooth, Simpkins and Perretty get the chance to finish out the season within the confines of Yurcak Field in Piscataway.
They also have the possibility of hosting a first-round match in the Big East Tournament if the results do not vary much.
If that is the case, Rutgers need only one more win before playing host to the semifinal and final rounds of the tournament at Yurcak Field — where the carousel may finally come to a halt.