Inconsistency shows through in road sweep
The more things change, the more they stay the same for the Rutgers women's soccer team.
The Scarlet Knights (8-7, 3-4) fell, 3-2, to No. 5 Notre Dame (13-1, 7-0) Sunday in South Bend, Ind., in a game that was televised on ESPNU. Head coach Glenn Crooks' team's last victory over the Fighting Irish came in 2001.
Notre Dame's Rose Augustin kicked off the scoring in the 14th minute, when she put home a shot in the lower left side of the net.
The Knights answered back less than a minute later, when pressure on the Irish's backline forced an own goal — the final score of the first half.
Rutgers went into the locker room outshooting Notre Dame by a 4-3 margin.
The Irish opened up the floodgates 20 minutes into the second half, when Big East Preseason Player of the Year Melissa Henderson registered her 12th goal of the season.
Notre Dame teammate Erica Iantorno widened the Irish lead less than two minutes later, when she beat Rutgers goalkeeper Emmy Simpkins for the Irish's third and final goal of the contest.
The loss Sunday marked the second match this season that Simpkins and the Rutgers defense allowed three goals in a game.
The Irish threatened again over the next 10 minutes, when they registered another three shots against the Knights' defense.
Junior captain Karla Schacher kept the Knights close when she scored her team-leading fifth goal of the season in the 76th minute.
"[Notre Dame is] definitely a top-caliber program," Schacher said. "But at the same time, we competed with them really well. We hung around with them the entire game. We even attacked them well at certain times in the game. It was just an unfortunate two errors on our part … that led to unfortunate goals on us."
Schacher's goal marked the last Rutgers shot of the match until redshirt freshman Jonelle Filigno's off-balance shot found the hands of Notre Dame netminder Nikki Weiss.
"It was a great college soccer match," Crooks said. "We were especially good in the first half. It's safe to say we had the better first half. [Notre Dame] was putting a lot of pressure on us, which is what I expected. We just had a tough time keeping the ball in the second half, and ultimately that led to what [Notre Dame] got."
Rutgers started the weekend off on the wrong foot against DePaul on Friday, when the Blue Demons (9-4-2, 4-2) blanked the Knights, 2-0.
The loss Friday was the fourth match this season in which Rutgers was shut out.
DePaul came out swinging in the match's early going, when it took three shots and earned a corner in the game's first five minutes.
Blue Demon midfielder Tara Strickland beat Simpkins for an early goal during the same span.
DePaul got on the scoreboard again in the 23rd minute, when Ashleigh Goddard blasted a shot off Simpkins to provide the Blue Demons with a two-goal cushion.
The Knights tallied a few opportunities on net, including a shot by senior midfielder Gina DeMaio that was deflected.
The match ended with Rutgers being outshot, 8-4, despite earning four more corner kicks than the host Blue Demons.
"It was kind of disorganization," Schacher said. "We weren't ready to start the match. It showed in our warmup that we just really weren't ready for the [DePaul] game. I don't know if it was coming off the plane or traveling, but you could tell in our warmup we weren't ready for that game."
The Knights' two-loss weekend came on the heels of well-played victories over Connecticut and Providence the weekend prior.
Rutgers failed to put together a three-match streak without a loss this season, magnifying the team's woes with consistency.
"We came off of a great weekend like last weekend and then played a poor game against DePaul," Crooks said. "[Inconsistency] is exactly what it is. There's still time and we still have a chance to be a special team, but there's a hell of a lot of work left."
Struggling Syracuse and St. John's welcome the Knights next weekend for the team's last road contests of the season.
The Orange and Red Storm make up two of the Big East American Division's bottom three teams, but Rutgers has no room for error over the season's final four matches.
"Every game left is a must-win game. We cannot lose another game," Schacher said. "That's really drilled into our heads right now. We know that going into next weekend. It doesn't matter who we're playing or where we're playing right now, we just have to win