Sophomore adds scoring option for RU
While most teams in the Big East spread out their scoring, the Rutgers women’s soccer team’s offensive philosophy has functioned differently.
The midfield pushes the ball aggressively and advances it to the forwards, where junior Jonelle Filigno is usually the one on the receiving end of a pass.
Filigno has 10 of the Scarlet Knights’ 19 goals this season, and while the system worked in the Knights’ out-of-conference schedule, the team has scored only five in league play — three from Filigno.
Rutgers changed its approach Sunday at No. 24 Notre Dame, receiving two goals from two different players, one of them from forward Stefanie Scholz.
The sophomore took a cross from senior forward Tricia DiPaolo in the 36th minute and buried it for her first goal of the season.
“With the conditions, coach emphasized whether the ball would skip a lot or not, so I thought Trish was ready to kick it across and I could stop it,” Scholz said. “At first I thought the goalie had control of it, but she dropped it. [The goal] felt good”
Head coach Glenn Crooks admitted entering the weekend he would not have cared if Filigno scored all of the team’s goals, since the Knights entered last Friday’s match against DePaul with no goals in their last three games.
But the distribution of converted scoring opportunities can only help in taking pressure off of the Big East’s second-leading goal scorer.
“The more variety you have in goal scoring the harder it is to defend,” Crooks said. “Any time we have other players contribute like that, it takes the pressure off Jonelle. We made a conservative effort to make sure to take that pressure off of her.”
And while the goal spread out the Irish defense, it also represented a positive for Scholz as she continues to return to her old form.
After starting 18 of the Knights’ 19 matches last season as a freshman, the South Hackensack, N.J., native was diagnosed with mononucleosis during the summer.
She could not return to training until early September, but by then Crooks had settled on a rotation of forwards.
“There is a lot of competition on our team, and some days have been better than others for her,” Crooks said. “She has to develop a consistency, but unfortunately for Stef, that made it a lot more difficult.”
Scholz did not see her first action this season until the Big East opener against Villanova, where she played 15 minutes in a reserve role.
Her minutes have steadily increased as she continues to come off the bench, but Scholz’s focus is more team-related.
“I’m just trying to help the team out with whatever I can do and whatever minutes I get,” Scholz said. “Just trying my hardest whenever I am on the field to try and help my team out.”
As the team continues to push for entry into the Big East Tournament, Crooks has seen what Scholz can contribute with full strength.
She was second on the team last season with seven points off three goals and an assist, so a healthy Scholz represents another threat to take the pressure off of Filigno.
“A lot of energy and great pace,” Crooks said of what a healthy Scholz brings. “She is, at full strength, certainly one of the fastest players in the league, and that enables her to stretch the field and create space for the midfielders and the other forwards. So to have someone who can run behind the defense like that is really a important element.”
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