Knights earn bye with emphatic wins
The Rutgers women's soccer team came into last weekend on the fringe of the Big East Tournament, having not earned a victory since an Oct. 3 win over Providence.
The Scarlet Knights (10-8-1, 5-5-1) not only clinched a spot in the tournament following a 2-0 weekend, but earned a first-round bye and the No. 3 seed from the National Division.
Head coach Glenn Crooks' team takes on No. 2 seed West Virginia on Oct. 31 in Morgantown, W. Va., in the Big East Quarterfinals.
The Knights paved their way into the tournament yesterday, when they erupted for three second-half goals en route to a 3-0 rout of visiting Louisville (10-8, 4-7).
"Without the victories, we might not even be playing again this year," Crooks said. "There's so much going on and then with the seniors [yesterday]. The seniors did a great job. You look at the weekend and we knew what we needed to do. It's nice because we feel like we've played quality ball like this against some opponents and didn't come away with a result."
Despite the fanfare surrounding Senior Day, the first half with the Cardinals ended inconspicuously in a scoreless draw.
The Knights had one of their best opportunities of the half in the 35th minute, when senior captain Gina DeMaio dribbled along the right endline and found junior Jasmine Edwards in the box.
The San Diego native sent a short cross that just evaded sophomore April Price on the left side of the box.
Price also sent a left-footed shot that forced a diving save Louisville goalkeeper Taylor Vancil as the first period elapsed. The Knights forced five saves from Vancil in the half.
The Knights ended the first stanza with nine more shots than the visiting Cardinals, who struggled to muster an offensive attack against a solid Rutgers backline.
Sophomore keeper Emmy Simpkins continued to see limited action in the process, registering just one save in 45 minutes of play.
As per usual, freshman Samantha Perretty replaced Simpkins in net in the second half for Crooks.
Junior captain Tricia DiPaolo served as the team's catalyst, tallying the first Rutgers goal in the 61st minute on an assist from midfielder Gina DeMaio.
"Ever since we moved [DiPaolo] into the midfield, she's been all about it," Crooks said. "I'm really enjoying looking at the goal scorers. Trish has worked so hard to get back."
DiPaolo's goal was her second in as many games.
"Every weekend playing I get more and more comfortable," DiPaolo said. "I'm becoming more dangerous and more comfortable dribbling at players … opposed to playing one- and two-touch."
It took Rutgers less than three minutes to get on the scoreboard again, thanks to a header from Price on a one-touch cross from DiPaolo.
Price's goal tied her for the team lead and marked the least amount of time between Rutgers goals this season.
Junior Ashley Medcalf capped off the Knights' scoring in the 81st minute with her second tally of the season.
Rutgers started the weekend Friday with a 2-1 victory over visiting Cincinnati.
The Knights dominated play for the match's first 85 minutes before the Bearcats' first corner allotted the team a late goal. Moments later, the Bearcats (8-9-1, 2-8) earned another corner before the Knights put the match to rest, earning a berth in the Big East Tournament in the process.
DeMaio started off the scoring in the 13th minute, when a deflected shot found her left foot. The Herrman Trophy candidate took on touch with her left boot before putting a finesse shot in the top left of the net.
DeMaio was at ease in the midfield all evening, sending in cross after cross with a lot of space to maneuver.
"That's kind of how we scouted [Cincinnati]," DeMaio said. "Coach [Crooks] said that in the midfield we would be able to turn and go at them. I wanted to really take advantage of that [Friday] because I thought that during the season I could have done a better job of it, but I was happy with it [Friday]."
DiPaolo added her second goal of the season just three minutes later. Junior Karla Schacher sent the ball into the box, where DiPaolo capped off the mad scramble in front of the net with the Knights' final tally.
The two goals marked the first time since a season-opening win over Stony Brook that the Knights scored twice in a match's first stanza.
"When we can come out here and get things done early, we relax and get fresh legs in the game — things like that," DeMaio said.
Rutgers outshot Cincinnati, 14-4, by halftime and earned four corners in the process.
Despite registering 26 shots — the team's second-most on the season — the Knights could not manage a second-half goal, keeping a Bearcat team with just two Big East wins in the match.
"We have to play a more complete game," Crooks said. "What we have to ask is, ‘Why didn't we put [Cincinnati] away?' That's a problem. I knew we were going to come out and play well [Friday] — you could just feel it. We have to carry that same feeling."