Conference road matchups await RU
Rutgers head women’s soccer coach Glenn Crooks said it himself last Sunday after the Scarlet Knights’ 4-1 loss to Georgetown: The Hoyas were hungrier.
When the Knights (6-3, 1-1) take on Pittsburgh tonight to open their second weekend of Big East play, Crooks does not expect it to be a recurring issue.
“It’s about possession, it’s about pressure and eventually it’s about being more effective on set pieces and defending in a more proper manner,” Crooks said. “We’re trying to keep it simple. I have no doubt this team will recover from what happened Sunday.”
But the test of facing the Panthers tonight and West Virginia –– which is in first place of the Big East American Division –– on Sunday is more taxing than usual, according to Crooks.
Pitt (1-6-3, 0-1-1) enters the match in last place in the conference, but surprisingly earned a 2-2 tie with last season’s Big East Championship runner-up, South Florida.
Although the Panthers are scoreless in four of their past five games while allowing 11 goals during the same span, there are no easy wins in the Big East, Crooks said.
“Our games with Pitt have always been a battle, whether they’re at or near the bottom or at the top,” he said. “I’m sure when we first got here there were teams in the bottom portion of the league that were probably automatic wins for some of the teams in the league. That’s not the case anymore.”
Pitt’s lack of offensive production is certainly a welcome sight for the Knights defense after Georgetown’s four-goal, 22-shot bombardment its last time out.
The last time Rutgers allowed four or more goals was against Princeton on Oct. 2, 2007, when the Knights lost to the Tigers, 5-1.
With a week of practice under its belt, the defense and junior goalkeeper Emmy Simpkins, who boasts a .98 goals against average this season, are ready for a pair of shutouts this weekend, Simpkins said.
“It’s a mentality. Now we know what it’s going to take,” Simpkins said of conference games. “We have a lot of freshmen on the field that really haven’t experienced that kind of game. It’s a whole different mentality when you start getting into conference play, and it’s a mental toughness that we need to learn to adapt to.”
But based on Pitt’s struggle to contain opposing offenses, Rutgers may also chomp at the bit to redeem its one-goal effort from Sunday, as well.
Freshman forward Stefanie Scholz recorded her first career goal against the Hoyas, but the rest of the squad failed to create scoring opportunities, evident in the team’s six total shots.
Increased production from Scholz, as well as freshmen forwards Amy Pietrangelo and Cassie Inacio, will be more than welcome this weekend as sophomore Jonelle Filigno continues to nurse an ankle injury.
“I don’t know if I’ll be able to do all that I can do for [tonight],” Filigno said. “We’ll see.”
The Knights could also use a lift from junior forward Stefanee Pace, who is second on the team with two goals.
But overall, the Knights are ready for redemption this weekend, even if the three-goal loss to Georgetown is truly far from their minds.
“Of course we do have a history with West Virginia, but I think after coming off Sunday’s game we know that we need to go 2-0 this weekend,” Simpkins said. “The team is very mentally prepared for that.”