Knights begin trio of vital matchups
Amanda DeVolk admits these next three games are an exciting time for the Rutgers women’s soccer team.
But with enthusiasm comes pressure.
“The energy has probably been at a level that I haven’t seen in a few weeks, and there is so much excitement,” the freshman forward said. “But this weekend means so much, and coming off [last] weekend, everyone is excited and back in it again.”
Those three games stand between the Scarlet Knights and the Big East Tournament, and Rutgers cannot afford to lose.
The Knights are in sixth place in the National Division of the Big East, ahead of Cincinnati and Seton Hall. Louisville sits fourth — ahead of Rutgers — and arrives to Piscataway today to face the Knights at Yurcak Field.
Head coach Glenn Crooks sees the energy DeVolk speaks of, but as far as what Rutgers focused on in practice this week, the routine has not changed.
“Each team brings a different special player or a different need defensively, but essentially we are doing everything very much the same way as we have been the last two weeks.” Crooks said.
Rutgers’ forward rotation also has remain unchanged. While Crooks has shuffled around his starting lineup in most of its matches, he has settled on the forward trio of DeVolk, junior Jonelle Filigno and sophomore Cassie Inacio to begin games.
He is also confident with the depth at the position and can afford to substitute all three, even if it means taking its leading scorer in Filigno out for a little during stretch runs.
“We have good people in reserve,” Crooks said. “We have been running five or six forwards and they can all run at players.”
The forward depth includes sophomore Stefanie Scholz, who found the back of the net in the first half of Rutgers’ 2-2 tie Sunday with No. 24 Notre Dame.
With depth in the front, Rutgers can aggressively attack Louisville’s back four to convert more opportunities around the box.
“It is important. If we can’t score games, we don’t win games, and we have been struggling to put the ball in the back of the net recently,” DeVolk said. “So getting in behind people and getting more opportunities will be huge for us this weekend.”
The Knights are running out of time to turn those opportunities into goals, wins and a trip to the postseason. After tonight’s matchup against the Cardinals, Rutgers hosts Cincinnati on Sunday and concludes its regular season next Friday with a trip to South Orange, N.J., to play Seton Hall.
The top-four teams in both divisions get an automatic spot in the Big East Tournament. The setup leaves two remaining spots for the 10-team postseason field, determined by points per game.
Rutgers sits in 12th in points per game, so with three league games remaining, it still has a chance to creep into the top 10.
But Crooks wants the team to take its approach with one team at a time, and that begins tonight against Louisville.
“The energy has been high, the intensity has been high when it needs to be,” Crooks said, “and I think they are aware of what is at stake this weekend.”
For updates on the Rutgers women’s soccer team, follow Bradly Derechailo on Twitter @BradlyDTargum.com.