Home-field advantage in playoffs remains at stake
With only two games remaining in the Rutgers women’s soccer team’s regular season, the pressure to perform is high.
Rutgers currently sits tied for third in the AAC, six points behind first-place UCF, and only one point ahead of fourth-place Connecticut.
For the Scarlet Knights (11-3-2, 4-2-1), tonight will feature a critical matchup when Connecticut (10-7, 4-3) comes to Yurcak Field.
“These last few games are critical. I’m just happy that we have them at home,” said head coach Glenn Crooks. “Spirits around the team are still high, but obviously this weekend has some major playoff implications.”
The Knights are currently in position to host a quarterfinal game in the AAC Tournament as a top-four seed, but should the team fall to fifth place or lower, it will have to go on the road.
A home playoff game would be ideal for the Knights, who are currently 9-0 at Yurcak Field, but only have a 2-3-1 record on the road.
“We are taking things one game at a time and just trying to get as many points that we can this weekend,” said senior defender Tricia DiPaolo. “Our goal is to get a home playoff game.”
Connecticut comes into the game winning two of its past three games, but is only 1-3 on the road this season.
The Huskies boast the reigning AAC Offensive Player of the Week in sophomore forward Stephanie Ribeiro.
Riberio and freshman forward Rachel Hill will be the Rutgers backline’s focal points, also featuring the recent AAC Goalkeeper of the Week in senior Jessica Janosz and sophomore defender Erica Skroski, who was named the conference’s Defender of the Week.
“We are going to have to stay together as a unit on game day,” Skroski said. “The back line has been amazing this year, and at this point we just need to stick to our game plan.”
The goalkeepers will be the matchup to keep an eye on, as both have had solid seasons for their respective teams.
Janosz is 11-3-1 in net and boasts a 1.13 goals against average this season.
Her counterpart in net, Emily Armstrong, has started all 17 games for UConn and has a 1.17 goals against average.
In the second contest of the weekend Sunday, Rutgers will face Temple on Senior Day.
A pregame ceremony will honor the four Knights seniors that include DiPaolo, Janosz, forward Jonelle Filigno and forward Maria Gerew.
Rutgers faces an Owls team (6-9-1, 1-6) that has struggled in AAC play.
“These last two games make for a really important weekend,” Skroski said. “Everyone gave everything last weekend and we’re prepared to do it again to try to get six points.”
The Knights offense will need to break through the Owl’s defense, which is only allowing 1.13 goals per game.
Filigno, along with junior forward Stefanie Scholz and freshman midfielder Madison Tiernan, will all need to continue their success.
The trio has combined for 22 goals and nine assists for a total of 53 points this season, making for a lethal combination on the attack.
“We’ve showed this season that we are capable of playing with any team,” Filigno said. “It going to come down to us doing our research, sticking to the game plan, and showing what kind of heart this team has.”
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