Coach sees consistency in RU defender
While the Rutgers women’s soccer team’s offense has been less than spectacular in its past two games, the squad has combated that with solid defense.
The Scarlet Knights allowed only seven shots against Villanova in the Wildcats’ 2-1 overtime victory, and although Georgetown produced 15 shots, none were severe threats besides the lone goal scored in the second half against the Hoyas.
Two players have led a Knights defense this season that has produced five shutouts and kept Rutgers in games despite its lack of first-half scoring.
Sophomore defender Morgan Kennedy, who has been reliable all season in the back, is one of those players.
Head coach Glenn Crooks recognizes her efforts.
“She has been consistent,” Crooks said. “Her possession has gotten better and she is very difficult to get behind.”
Kennedy played in 19 games last year as a freshman, recording seven starts and averaging 60 minutes for the Knights, mostly in a reserve role.
The Wall, N.J., native started all 10 games this season and is among the top five in minutes played with 873.
“I’m thankful that the coaches have given me the opportunity to play,” she said. “Every time I go out there, I just work as hard as I can and hope that I get the job done.”
While Kennedy has played extensively at center back, Crooks admits the position was not always hers as the Knights entered training camp.
“Honestly, there was some competition this year at that position at the beginning,” Crooks said. “And early on her and [senior] Shannon [Woeller] developed a great relationship, and it didn’t take long for Morgan to secure that spot.”
Kennedy is thankful to have an experienced player like Woeller playing alongside her in the back four.
Woeller leads the team in minutes played this season with 913 and has rarely come off the field. The team captain has been a constant presence in the Knights lineup since her freshman year.
“Shannon is awesome,” Kennedy said. “She is always teaching me new things, and if I am ever struggling through a game she is always giving me advice. She is always there for me to learn from her example.”
Though having a veteran like Woeller is beneficial, Kennedy’s success can also be attributed to her work with her club team.
Kennedy played in the Player Development Academy, a soccer club based out of Somerset, N.J., that allows her to play throughout the summer. She has played for the club since she was in seventh grade against some of the best players in the area, she said.
Kennedy now has to take her early experience and help aid a Rutgers team in its first losing streak of the season.
With both South Florida and No. 24 Marquette on the home schedule this weekend, the young defender sees potential for the Knights to break the skid.
“I think we need to keep our confidence up,” Kennedy said. “We have a bunch of talent on the team and we just need to just keep putting it together.”