Final homestand gives chance to clinch berth
The Rutgers women's soccer team wraps up its 2010 regular season this weekend, but more than just a strong close to the campaign is on the line.
The Scarlet Knights (8-8-1, 3-5-1) come into tonight's matchup with Big East-foe Cincinnati (8-8-1, 2-7) at Yurcak Field in sole possession of fourth place in the conference's National Division — a half-game ahead of Louisville.
If the Knights can muster some semblance of an offense this weekend, then they may find themselves hosting a match in the first round of the Big East Tournament.
If the team continues on its rough 0-3-1 stretch, it could find itself as the odd-man-out in a crowded race for Big East legitimacy.
"The results in the division have kind of fallen our way," said head coach Glenn Crooks. "Getting one point [last] weekend is quite honestly disappointing, but we're still in control of our own destiny."
No. 4 Notre Dame, Georgetown and DePaul already clinched playoff berths, leaving just two spots up for grabs in the division.
Rutgers, Louisville, Seton Hall and the Bearcats have just two games each to state their last case for a postseason spot.
The Knights make their first argument tonight in Piscataway against a Cincinnati team that has lost three of its past four conference games, including a 1-0 upending last weekend at South Florida.
For their part, the Knights are up to the challenge.
"It's a big advantage," said senior forward Ashley Jones. "We like playing at home. We always do well at home. It's really crucial that we have our last two games at home. It's going to play a big part in us playing well this weekend."
Rutgers comes into the night match converting just two opportunities in its past four contests.
"We've had ups and downs, but overall we've gotten better at working together and understanding how [we play]," said sophomore defender Shannon Woeller.
Luckily for Crooks' team, Cincinnati has a penchant for going through scoreless droughts of its own.
The Bearcats managed just four goals in as many games and their lack of scoring is a key reason the team owns just two Big East victories on the year.
But it remains to be seen who will attempt to prevent them from getting the ball in the net for the Knights. Regular starter Emmy Simpkins split time with true freshman Samantha Perretty during Rutgers' past two road games.
"I was really impressed with how [Simpkins and Perretty] were able to take on their new role," Woeller said. "They both did really well. The team responded well to the both of them and had a lot of confidence when each of them was in net."
For Crooks, the emphasis is on the results — not on who is in net.
"[We can] finish in the league fourth, which would give us a home game in the first round of the Big East Tournament," he said. "We just have to control what we can control, which is getting six points next weekend. Then we'll know — worst-case scenario — that we're fourth place."
Rutgers closes out the regular season Sunday, when fifth-place Louisville (9-7, 3-6) comes to town with major conference implications.
The Cardinals dropped back-to-back decisions last weekend, including an overtime heartbreaker to then-No. 16 Marquette.
If ever there was a time to tune out the competition and focus concentration inward, however, now would be the occasion for the Knights.
"We know that we're a good team," Woeller said. "If we just focus on ourselves and playing … the way that we can play, then we should be able to come out and beat them.