Slumping squad enters key weekend
If the season ended today, the Rutgers women’s soccer team would look at a lost year. With only one point in their past four games and three consecutive losses, the Scarlet Knights stand in seventh place in the Big East National Division, two spots below the cut to qualify for a conference postseason berth.
But luckily for head coach Glenn Crooks, five games remain for the Knights, and all are against teams within their division.
Focusing on the team’s recent woes would be catastrophic, Crooks said.
“To feel sorry for yourself, it’s the wrong time, the absolute wrong time,” he said. “They won’t get any of that from me. They have to grow up quick, some of these guys.”
The Knights’ growth faces its first test tonight, when the Knights (6-6-1, 1-4-1) welcome lowly DePaul to Yurcak Field.
The Blue Demons (3-9-1, 1-4-1) enter the contest with an identical conference record as Crooks and Co., but own a significantly worse overall record as a result of struggles in non-conference play.
For a Knights defense that allowed only one goal in two of the past three games, a date with DePaul could not arrive any sooner.
The Blue Demons scored a mere 11 goals in 13 games this season, which is certainly inviting for a Rutgers team that snapped a 381-minute scoreless streak in its last game.
Overall, the Knights scored one goal in their past four outings in sophomore forward Jonelle Filigno’s absence. Filigno leads the team with six goals and could return today to the lineup.
But even if Filigno is limited or cannot play at all –– she is doubtful for tonight’s game — that does not raise the intensity for the defense and junior goalkeeper Emmy Simpkins, said senior defender Julie Lancos.
“I think there’s pressure on all of us,” Lancos said. “There’s pressure not to let any in, and there’s also some pressure to score some goals.”
Scoring goals is the real issue at hand for the Knights, who must improve the trend not only against DePaul tonight, but also for Sunday’s matchup with Notre Dame (6-5-2, 3-2-1).
The defending national champions carry consecutive 3-0 victories into a match tonight against Seton Hall before trekking to Piscataway for a matinee with the Knights.
The Knights biggest threat on the defensive side of the field is forward Melissa Henderson, who is tied for first in the Big East with 11 goals and first outright in points with 26.
The only Rutgers player to score in the past four games is midfielder Ashley Medcalf, who owns only four career goals.
And the only other Knight to tally a goal since Filigno went down Sept. 16 against Villanova is freshman forward Stefanie Scholz.
Despite what the numbers reflect during the Knights’ adverse situation, Crooks remains confident, as does Medcalf.
“Our goals are still not out of reach,” Medcalf said. “If we play well this weekend and get results, then I think we’ll be alright.”
Remaining confident in the Knights’ resolve is not something shared solely by the members of the locker room.
Crooks received an email from one of the program’s biggest boosters offering words of wisdom and encouragement earlier in the week, only days before the team’s biggest weekend of the season.
The head coach read the note to his team prior to practice, and hopes it can spark a sense of urgency in his players before it is too late.
For Crooks, there is plenty on the line and no time for dwelling on the Knights’ previous four contests.
“They have a lot of responsibility,” Crooks said. “They have responsibility to themselves, to their teammates, to the University, to their families and to alumni — it’s to everybody who’s put so much time into this program.”