Mountaineers end RU's season in Tourney matchup
The Rutgers women's soccer team knew it would return to Piscataway following its quarterfinal matchup with West Virginia in the Big East Tournament.
The Scarlet Knights (10-9-1, 5-5-1) could have advanced to the tournament's semifinals, hosted at Yurcak Field, or return to the Banks with their season over.
Unfortunately for head coach Glenn Crooks' team, the end result was the latter.
The Knights fell, 1-0, to the Mountaineers yesterday, marking the second year in a row that West Virginia (14-4-1, 9-1-1) ended Rutgers' conference season in the Big East quarterfinals.
"We played a great game of soccer," Crooks said. "We probably had two really excellent opportunities on goal and [West Virginia] had one. They had one shot on goal. So we know what happened with that shot."
Physicality characterized the first half, with fouls leading to free kicks for both sides.
Senior midfielder Gina DeMaio took multiple long shots outside the 18-yard box, one of which forced a diving save from Mountaineers goalkeeper Kerri Butler.
"We played really well," DeMaio said. "This was one of our best games of the season, but we were just a bit unlucky and that's happened a few times this season, which is unfortunate."
The Knights earned a corner midway through the first half that reached the foot of sophomore Stefanee Pace. The Kearny, N.J., native blasted a shot on net that deflected off of a teammate and out of play.
Pace also took a shot later in the half off of a pass from senior forward Ashley Jones, but it found Butler's glove without issue.
The Mountaineers earned a free kick just outside the 18-yard box on a questionable foul call against senior defender Allie Hambleton. A West Virginia midfielder promptly sent the ball into the box, leading to two near-goals for the Mountaineers.
Rutgers largely controlled possession in a first half that ended in a scoreless tie.
"Before the game we had the mentality to keep possession and knock it around," said junior captain Tricia DiPaolo. "If [the ball] wasn't on, switch it. If it wasn't on, switch it again. Sometimes we were a little too hesitant to pull the trigger."
The Knights entered the second half with sophomore netminder Emmy Simpkins remaining between the pipes for the first time in over three weeks. Simpkins split time with freshman Samantha Perretty in net over the past seven games.
West Virginia scored the match's lone goal in the 53rd minute, and the lead proved insurmountable.
"We came out, we executed the gameplan that the coaches gave us," DiPaolo said. "We were a little bit unlucky [yesterday]."
The combination of forward Frances Silva and midfielder Bri Rodriguez regularly tested the Rutgers backline, which surrendered only its second goal in three matches.
Silva sent a cross to freshman Blake Miller, the Mountaineers' leading scorer in the regular season, who buried a header into the left side of the net.
The Knights failed to muster an offensive attack over the match's final 20 minutes despite outscoring West Virginia, 8-4, over the match's entirety.
In order to improve the team's offensive play in the second stanza, Crooks opted to insert defender Julie Lancos at forward.
"We were not quite as deep [at forward] and we thought that we would give [Lancos] a shot," Crooks said. "We thought she could do some of the things, like hold the ball for us, but also have that opportunity to try and get that shot off."
Rutgers continued to play without the services of forward Jonelle Filigno, who prepares for qualifying with the Canadian National Team, and captain Karla Schacher, who is recovering from a concussion.
"It affected us not having one of our best forwards," DeMaio said. "But at the same time we have to deal with it and people like Kelsey [Dumont] really stepped it up, gave a great effort and really helped us out."
The NCAA announces its Championship Bracket on Monday Nov. 8, when Rutgers anxiously awaits its postseason fate.