Knights brace for potent offense
On paper, Colgate presented the Rutgers women’s soccer team a challenge much like Connecticut, a team agains which the Scarlet Knights lost, 3-1, in the first round of the Big East Tournament.
Colgate featured a high-scoring offense that averaged 2.24 goals per contest, second in the Patriot League.
But senior goalkeeper Emmy Simpkins noticed something she believes will be different Friday, when the Knights play Virginia in the second round of the NCAA Tournament.
“It is going to be a completely different atmosphere,” Simpkins said. “There was not a lot of soccer that was played [against Colgate]. On both sides of the ball, it was a very scrappy game, so Friday we can expect to play soccer.”
If Simpkins’ predictions play out on the field, Rutgers has a lot more to deal with on the offensive side from Virginia, one of the more polished teams the Knights face this season.
As the No. 2 seed in their portion of the bracket, the Cavaliers boast the No. 6 scoring offense in the nation with an average of 2.68 goals per game.
While Rutgers is one of the higher-scoring teams in the Big East, the Knights have scored three or more goals in a game only five times compared to Virginia’s 14.
Simpkins recognizes the high goal output Virginia can possibly register.
“They’re known for scoring a lot of goals and are known for scoring in bunches,” Simpkins said.
Forward Caroline Miller generates much of Virginia’s offensive output.
A Third Team All-American last season, the senior forward is 12th in the country this year with 17 goals. Rookie forward Makenzy Doniak, who has nine goals of her own, gives the Cavaliers a second option if Rutgers takes Miller out of the game.
Rutgers has kept opponents’ shots out of the back of the net recently with four shutouts in its last five games.
But the Knights’ lone blemish in those five matches came against the Huskies, who — like Virginia — feature a double-figure scorer in forward Danielle Schulmann.
Simpkins speaks highly of the defense, but she knows it need to be on the same page to limit Virginia’ s opportunities.
“As long as we focus on our game defensively, I think we have one of the best backlines and holding midfielders in the country, especially when we play together as a unit,” Simpkins said.
That backline features two seniors in Shannon Woeller and Tricia DiPaolo, who have been reliable for an otherwise young rotation on defense.
It is Woeller’s and DiPaolo’s responsibility to keep Virginia under control, but it is up to the offense to showcase the aggressiveness it had in a 1-0 victory at Colgate.
Simpkins’ teammates have two more days to perfect their approach.
“We don’t want to sit back and play their game,” Simpkins said. “We are a very aggressive team, and we came out very strong against Colgate. If we just keep that mentality within the tournament, there are going to be good opportunities for us early in the match.”
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