Knights see obstacle in first round
The Rutgers women’s soccer team picked the right time to perform at its peak peak, going 4-0-1 in its last five games.
But in the Scarlet Knights’ last match at Seton Hall, head coach Glenn Crooks saw things the team needed to improve despite its two-goal victory.
“We thought against Seton Hall that we weren’t particularly sharp,” Crooks said. “We have these foundation items which we review and one of the things was transition, which is huge. We felt our transition against Seton Hall was just average.”
Transition has to improve at Connecticut, which hosts the Knights (12-6-1, 5-5-1) tonight in the first round of the Big East Tournament.
Crooks said the Huskies are one of the better teams at advancing the ball to their forwards, and when UConn (8-7-2, 4-3-1) gets around the box, it likes to attack.
The Huskies are third in the Big East this season in shot attempts and fourth in goals scored with 35.
But despite the high offensive total, UConn is only 1-3-1 in its last five matches.
The mixed results confuse Crooks.
“They are very good at getting behind the ball after they lose it,” Crooks said “They are a high-energy team. They are a talented team. I’m very impressed with their attacking team and the level of talent and athleticism. I don’t know how they lost seven games [this season].”
Forward Danielle Schulmann leads that attack with nine goals along with midfielder Jennifer Skogerboe, who scored twice in the Huskies’ last game, a 3-2 victory against Providence.
With a fast attack, it is important for Rutgers to push the ball quick up field. It is up to the forwards to convert on scoring opportunities while also getting back to help counter an attack.
“If their best attributes are offense, than that is what we really need to focus on,” said sophomore forward Cassie Inacio. “We need to make sure we come out from the beginning and don’t give them anything.”
The Knights have been good in that aspect of late, finding the back of the net 13 times in their last five games, including multiple goals in their last four.
And while Rutgers has to worry about a balanced attack from UConn — four players are in double figures in points this season — the Huskies have a problem of their own in containing Jonelle Filigno, the league’s second-highest scorer.
The junior forward begins the game with 14 goals this season and leads the conference with seven game-winning strikes.
But Inacio knows the forwards have to play on both sides of the ball against Connecticut to pull out a win, something they worked on in practice this week.
“In the back line, it is important that we don’t let them out and have a free service,” Inacio said. “So in practice we focused on passing the ball and the forwards getting up there and denying service. If they can’t get [the ball] up there in three seconds, then we need to drop, stay compact and defend.”
Rutgers left for the match yesterday, when Crooks said it trained before viewing video today of Connecticut and resting before the game.
It has to use all of its time wisely in preparation for a style of play Crooks believes the Knights have not seen this season.
“We haven’t played nor have I seen a superior attacking team,” Crooks said. “They are very mobile, and I am very impressed with their attacking players.”
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