Knights earn playoff berth with Senior Night draw
With the Rutgers women’s soccer team’s season on the line on the Scarlet Knights’ Senior Night, someone needed to step up.
So it is only fitting that with 17 minutes remaining and the Knights facing a one-goal deficit to Seton Hall, a pair of seniors answered the call.
Junior forward Stefanee Pace launched a free kick from near midfield in the 73rd minute, creating a scramble in front of the net as the ball squirted back to senior Jasmine Edwards.
Edwards then sent the ball back on net, where it found senior midfielder Ashley Medcalf and ultimately the back of the Pirates’ net. The goal tied the match at 2-2. The score stood after two overtime periods, giving the Knights a No. 5 seed in the Big East Championships.
“I’m really happy for the girls,” said head coach Glenn Crooks. “One of the things that made this so difficult was we had a stretch of games where our inability to finish really cost us. Those are things we worked on. I’m happy for them because of that.”
The Knights’ equalizer came only 56 seconds after Seton Hall took its one-goal lead.
Pirates midfielder Ashley Beamish blasted a corner kick past the outstretched arms of junior goalkeeper Emmy Simpkins to Kristina Meier, who tapped it in.
But it did not take long for the Knights to pick up their keeper, who made five saves.
“Emmy’s normally going to catch something like that, and that’s unfortunate, too,” Crooks said. “But I’m glad for her sake that we were able to get that equalizer back.”
For Edwards, Rutgers’ scoring play was reminiscent of one of the more memorable goals in recent Rutgers history. Edwards, then a freshman, scored the game-winner against then-No. 20 Penn State in the first round of the 2008 NCAA Tournament.
“It probably compares to when I won the game against Penn State my freshman year,” Edwards said. “I wish we won [Friday], but a tie is good, too, so we still go on and we’re still playing. “
The Knights first got on the board in 54th minute to tie the game at 1, as sophomore back Tori Leigh knocked the ball in off a deflection.
Senior defender Julie Lancos, who moved up in the Knights’ attack to spark the offense, charged at Seton Hall goalkeeper Jennifer Pettigrew. When the ball got away, Leigh was there.
The Hamilton, N.J., native saw an increased workload against the Pirates with the absence of junior back Shannon Woeller, who is on duty with the Canadian National Team.
“I think the defense did really well,” Leigh said. “We’re missing Shannon [Woeller] obviously, but I think we stuck it out really well. We have a lot of new people back there but we’re doing really well together.”
Perhaps the most memorable part of the evening occurred prior to the start of the match, when all five seniors earned honors in their final games at Yurcak Field.
All five — Lancos, Edwards, Medcalf, goalkeeper Casey Rupon and midfielder Karla Schacher — started the match, as well.
For Rupon, it marked the first start of her career in net for the Knights.
And for Schacher, who tore her ACL on Sept. 4 against UCLA, it was the final time she will step on the Knights home pitch as a player.
The Alberta, Canada, native jogged onto the field with a protective brace around her knee, met her teammates on the field and jogged off after Seton Hall respectfully tapped the ball out of bounds, allowing Schacher and Rupon to sub out.
“I’d like to personally thank [Seton Hall head coach] Kazbek Tambi and the Seton Hall staff because that had to be worked out ahead of time,” Crooks said. “I think the team enjoyed it. I think Karla and Casey enjoyed it, and it was a nice moment.”
With all the pressure of qualifying for the conference tournament gone, the team can now turn its focus to the new season.
For the Knights’ five seniors, going home is not an option yet.
“It means so much,” Medcalf said. “Our season’s not done yet. We’re in the Big East Tournament and the seniors aren’t done. We’re not ready to go home and be regular students yet.”