Crooks finds stability in unlikely Hawaiian recruit
The first time senior midfielder Ashley Medcalf spoke to Rutgers head women’s soccer coach Glenn Crooks, she had no idea what — let alone where — Rutgers was.
“He walked up to me and said, ‘Oh hi, I’m Coach Crooks from Rutgers,’ and I’m thinking to myself, ‘Rutgers? It’s probably some small, crappy school,’” Medcalf said. “But then I ended up coming on a visit and I’m here.”
A native of Waipahu, Hawaii, Medcalf always planned on playing collegiate soccer, but she never predicted her aspirations would take her 5,600-plus miles away from home to Piscataway.
And Crooks never thought his second consecutive trip to Hawaii to help coach the Olympic Development Program would lead to him landing an immediate recruit, especially so late in the process.
“The 14’s or 15’s that I was coaching during the week, I thought there I’d maybe see some players that I’d want to start contact with and then go from there,” Crooks said. “These were senior games, and we were just fortunate that we were able to figure out a way to do it within the program.”
Medcalf did not commit to Rutgers until May of her senior year of high school and arrived on the Banks as a center back for Crooks and his staff.
But it was not long until Crooks bumped the 6-foot freshman to the midfield, where Medcalf since grew into a model of consistency for the Scarlet Knights.
Her commitment to Rutgers was the second through the ODP program in two years for Crooks, who assisted the same program in 2006, when he landed forward Caycie Gusman.
Gusman thrived as a goal-scorer during her time in a Knights uniform, notching 14 career goals, including eight in 2008 to lead the team.
While Medcalf’s career has not yielded the same output –– she owns four career goals –– her consistency for the Knights is invaluable, Crooks said.
“Over her time here she’s probably been our most consistent midfielder,” Crooks said. “You just know what you’re going to get from Ashley.”
Her consistency is vital for the Knights’ backfield as well, as Mecalf’s height allows her to win a number of head balls and keep the ball out of Rutgers territory.
“She’s really solid and it’s really good to have her right in front of me and [junior back] Shannon [Woeller],” said senior back Julie Lancos. “She wins pretty much every ball in the air, so it makes it a lot easier.”
But her height is also something Crooks hopes can become more of a weapon for the Knights as they head into a pivotal Big East weekend at home.
While Medcalf scored the Knights’ only goal in a 2-1 loss to Syracuse Sunday, it occurred on a set piece. Medcalf knocked it into the bottom right of the net with her foot.
“She’s never scored off her head since she’s been here. I always tell her things like, ‘I’m 5-foot-4 so that’s ridiculous. If I had your height I’d have a bunch,’” Crooks said. “But at the same time she’s been very close. Over the last few years she’s been a lot more accurate with her headers.”
It will be a valuable tool for Crooks to have at his expense over the weekend, when DePaul and perennial conference powerhouse Notre Dame pay a visit to Yurcak Field. The Knights take a three-game losing streak into their first match Friday, and for Medcalf, the team’s performance in the midfield is crucial for snapping the skid.
Based on how she fared throughout her career at Rutgers, consistency in the midfield is the least of Crooks’ worries.
“That’s a critical part of the field to win, and she’s done such an excellent job of it,” Crooks said.