September 23, 2018 | ° F

Knights kick off five-game league homestand

When the Rutgers women’s soccer team takes Yurcak Field tonight to face St. John’s, it will likely mark the team’s fourth consecutive game without sophomore forward Jonelle Filigno.

Though the Scarlet Knights would like to have their leading scorer in the lineup –– Filigno scored six goals this season –– head coach Glenn Crooks is not dwelling on the prospect of life without his star forward.

It gives more time for freshman forwards like Stefanie Scholz, Cassie Inacio and Amy Pietrangelo to develop.

“[Filigno] came into the office and said she wanted to try to warm up [yesterday] and try to get through this, and I said, ‘Fine, go for it,’” Crooks said. “But the other thing I told her was when she does come back that she’s going to find a more seasoned unit of young forwards. The things they’ve done without her have been very good.”

Although it may not reflect in the stat sheet, the Knights (6-4-1, 1-2-1) did well in maintaining their attack and offensive pressure in Filigno’s absence, according to Crooks.

The only thing left for them to do is finish, which is also the most difficult component of the game.

The freshman trio totaled only three goals with less than half the season to go, leaving a burden on junior forward Stefanee Pace, who is second on the team with two scores.

But the way Pace sees it, there is no added pressure with Filigno out of the lineup.

“I feel like it really has nothing to do with Jonelle being out,” Pace said. “Maybe it puts pressure on someone to maybe stand out and lead, but other than that I think there’s been a constant pressure to score from the beginning of the season until now.”

Sophomore Maria Gerew also saw an increased workload since Filigno’s injury, earning the first significant time of her career in the Knights’ 2-1 victory against Villanova.

She added her first career goal in the contest, making it a four-way tie between herself and the freshmen trio at one goal apiece.

But there is still a degree of uncertainty on the offensive side of the field, which makes preventing goals all the more important.

St. John’s (6-4-1, 2-2) enters the contest with one more conference win than Crooks and Co. and 14 goals scored this season in 11 games.

That means two more than the Knights, who scored one goal in their three-game winless streak.

Syracuse (3-4-3, 2-2), the Knights’ opponent Sunday, scored only seven goals this season.

“We always go into a game with the goal of not allowing the other team to score, but obviously if we’re having trouble scoring, it does become more important that we don’t let any in the net,” said junior back Shannon Woeller. “I think we just have to have the same mindset as always.”

Despite allowing an overtime goal to West Virginia in a 1-0 loss Sunday, Woeller and the rest of the back four feel another strong outing can translate into the next two matches.

So, too, does junior goalkeeper Emmy Simpkins, who allows only .88 goals per game for the Knights in net. Overall, Simpkins allowed only 11 goals this season, which is good for fourth best in the Big East.

“The motto of the week has been six points,” Simpkins said, “You’ve got to get three points [today] and three points on Sunday, and hopefully both are shutouts.”

But if the Knights’ past three games are any indication, shutouts do not guarantee wins.

With six crucial points at stake for Crooks and the team this weekend, the Knights’ youthful offense will likely be called upon to win a pair of pivotal conference games.

For Pace, the prospect does not add any more pressure.

“They’ve been doing a great job so far,” Pace said. “They’re freshmen, so to come in and play this big of a role not even halfway through the season, I think they’re doing a really good job.”

By Anthony Hernandez

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