Improved defense overlooked in RU's resurgence
Lost in the offensive outburst last weekend for the Rutgers women's soccer team was the steady performance of the defensive back four.
Starters Lindsey McNabb, Allie Hambleton, Shannon Woeller and Rheanne Sleiman combined to allow only one goal in their past four games, when the Scarlet Knights went 3-1. Providence's late goal yesterday came against late-game replacements and backup keeper Casey Rupon.
During that time, Woeller moved inside to the center back position in place of earlier starter Julie Lancos, who saw minimal action last weekend.
"Shannon plays center back for the Canadian National Team, so I think that's where her natural position is," said assistant coach Meghan Ryan, who anchored the Knights' defense in 2006, when the team set a school record with 16 shutouts. "She does a good job of calming down the back line."
McNabb came off the bench and started the Knights' past two matches at left back. The Montville, N.J., native saw significant minutes this season and supplanted freshman Tori Leigh as the first defender off the bench.
A natural left footer, McNabb took corners from the left side of the pitch last weekend when senior Gina DeMaio was not on the field.
The Knights' six goals last weekend were the team's most in consecutive games during the 2010 season.
Crooks' team tallied a combined five goals in early September matches against Princeton and Bucknell, but big-time goals against Big East teams take precedence, Crooks said.
"You look at Portland and Washington [matches from the Nike Invitational] … those were good [matches]," he said. "We played well that weekend up there, but honestly we played better soccer this weekend. It's the best soccer we've played all year."
Yesterday's 4-1 victory was the biggest win over a Big East opponent since a Sept. 22, 2008, 5-0 thrashing of Villanova.
The Rutgers bench erupted after senior Ashley Jones' screaming shot yesterday outside the 18-yard box found the back of the net.
The goal was Jones' second of the season and first since a 3-0 win Sept. 5 against Bucknell.
"That was an Ashley Jones goal," Crooks said. "Even though she scored earlier in the year against Bucknell, [it was] a Big East game, bigger stage. The whole place erupted. It was really nice."
It took redshirt freshman Jonelle Filigno only three minutes and 16 seconds yesterday to find the back of the net after junior Karla Schacher's initial score.
The two goals marked the shortest span between scores for the Knights since an Aug. 25, 2009 win over Maryland-Baltimore County.