OT win keeps Rutgers alive amid postseason chase
Rutgers head women’s soccer coach Glenn Crooks knew no matter how the dominos fell around the Big East this weekend, his team needed to win in order to secure a playoff berth.
Although the Scarlet Knights (8-7-2, 3-5-2) escaped the weekend with only one victory and three points, the team carries the same focus into its final match of the season Friday against Seton Hall.
Not only does the match mark yet another meeting between a pair of in-state rivals, but it now serves as a play-in game for the Big East Championships.
“We came here this weekend to make sure Friday’s game against Seton Hall had meaning,” Crooks said. “That’s what we got, so it was a good weekend for us.”
A goal three minutes into overtime from senior defender Julie Lancos lifted the Knights against Cincinnati at Gettler Stadium and preserved the team’s playoff chances.
The Bearcats (6-8-4, 2-6-2) outshot the Knights, 20-11. Rutgers did not register a single corner kick, and were again without its most potent offensive weapon in sophomore Jonelle Filigno.
Lancos stepped in to provide the unlikely spark in the 93rd minute, which was undoubtedly the most significant of the Knights’ 16 goals to date.
“From freshmen to sophomores to juniors, they all know it means a lot of all of us,” Lancos said of making the postseason. “We’re a pretty tight-knit group, so it’s just as important to us as it is to them.”
In return, Louisville, which bested Rutgers, 2-1, Friday, blanked Seton Hall, 3-0, yesterday at home to complete the weekend sweep of New Jersey teams.
Had the Pirates won, the Knights’ Senior Day this Friday would be the last time Lancos and the other four Knights seniors stepped onto a collegiate soccer pitch. At least for now, it is the last time the group will play at Yurcak Field, with victory spelling a new season for the Knights.
The winner of the match seals a fifth seed in the Big East National Division with the possibility of earning the No. 4 spot if Villanova drops its final match against Georgetown.
“I’m pretty excited,” Lancos said. “Next Friday’s Senior Night. We’re going to be playing under the lights. We’re going to be playing in front of our family and friends. Everything is there. It’s just a matter of us getting the job done.”
Junior goalkeeper Emmy Simpkins returned to net yesterday after a fractured finger during practice set her back two weeks ago.
The Conover, N.C., native responded by making six saves and recording her first clean sheet since a Sept. 23 tie against Pittsburgh.
“It feels great,” Simpkins said. “I’m extremely proud of [junior] Jess [Janosz]. She did an awesome job and I hope she continues to do that, as well.”
Janosz started Friday’s match and made five saves in a 2-1 loss, allowing the first goals of her collegiate career after a pair of shutouts a week ago.
Crooks did not name a starter prior to leaving for Louisville on Thursday, and again declined to commit to either Simpkins or Janosz after yesterday’s victory.
“There are two No. 1 keepers in our program right now,” Crooks said. “Emmy had a great game.”
With Janosz and Simpkins both proving effective net, Friday’s match likely rests on the Knights attack’s ability to put goals on the scoreboard.
But what the Knights did or did not do in their first 17 matches does not carry much meaning Friday in Piscataway.
Crooks and Co. face a win-and-get-in scenario against their intrastate rival under the Yurcak Field lights, and the Knights know the playoffs unofficially start with Seton Hall.
“It’s a playoff game. Friday night’s game is a playoff game for both teams,” Crooks said. “It’s truthfully going to have a lot of intensity. It’s a local rivalry, the players know each other, we’re good friends with the coaching staff and there are a lot of good things about Friday night.”