Junior keeper capitalizes on first career starts
It took 55 games, more than two and a half seasons and countless minutes of game action before junior goalkeeper Jess Janosz earned her shot.
When it arrived Friday against DePaul and again yesterday against Notre Dame, the 6-foot netminder knew she was ready.
“I don’t even have the words for it,” Janosz said. “It was literally the best feeling ever, and I’ve waited for this for quite some time. It feels great to finally be able to play with my team.”
The Ringwood, N.J., native made her collegiate debut this weekend, when she made her first two career starts and recorded 12 saves for head coach Glenn Crooks.
With Janosz standing tall in net, the Scarlet Knights (7-6-2, 2-4-2) posted consecutive clean sheets, giving the team four conference points after besting DePaul (3-11-1, 0-6-1), 1-0, and playing Notre Dame (7-5-3, 4-2-2) to a scoreless tie.
“Jess has been good in training,” Crooks said. “[Junior goalkeeper] Emmy [Simpkins] still has some discomfort in her finger, but what this tells us is that we have two very, very good goalkeepers and that’s great for our program.”
Whether the Knights could put a solid keeper in net against the likes of DePaul and the defending national champions was questionable after Simpkins went down earlier in the week with a dislocated finger.
Notre Dame especially put the pressure on Janosz in the first overtime, when the Irish registered five of their 21 shots.
Janosz made three critical saves early in the period to keep the Irish off the board, and by that point already shook the nerves she admitted feeling prior to the game.
There were opportunities for the Knights’ attack to break through, but a tough Irish backfield made it difficult for freshman forward Stefanie Scholz and junior forward Stefanee Pace.
The team’s best shot occurred when Pace sent a through ball into the box 19 seconds into the second overtime, leading Scholz behind the defense and onto goal. But Irish goalkeeper Maddie Fox met Scholz as the ball entered the box, pouncing on the pass and colliding with Scholz.
The Knights did not come close again for the remainder of the 10-minute period. The offense failed to push across a goal in consecutive games, but still escaped with a critical point with three matches remaining in the season.
With the tie and a 1-0 Villanova win against Cincinnati yesterday, Villanova and Rutgers are tied for the fifth and final playoff spot in the Big East National Division.
Although the Knights exited with points, Crooks was adamant in stating he was not satisfied with simply earning a tie.
“Rutgers plays for three points in every league game we play,” Crooks said. “I don’t care who we play. We respect everybody, we prepare for everybody and look, when we don’t win a league game, I’m disappointed.”
The Knights snapped their five-game winless streak in their first match of the weekend against DePaul, which continues to struggle in Big East play. A goal by Scholz in the 55th minute gave Rutgers a 1-0 edge it would not relinquish, and yielded a collective sigh of relief.
The goal was especially rewarding for Scholz, who came up empty on three scoring opportunities late in last week’s 2-1 overtime loss to Syracuse.
“Everyone can finally breathe,” Scholz said. “We have a little bit of pressure knocked off of us, so everyone’s really excited and I’m proud of everyone.”
But no one was more relieved than Janosz for earning the first playing time of her career.
The junior keeper went into her first career start Friday with something to prove and achieved the desired effect in the team’s most crucial weekend of the season.
“I really wanted to prove that I was able to play, and I really just wanted one shot,” Janosz said. “If I screw up, fine, then leave me alone. But after three years of working, I just wanted one shot. I’m really happy and thankful to my coaches that they finally gave me it.”
Judging by the way Janosz answered the call, another shot next weekend is not so farfetched.