RU collects at-large NCAA bid
A penalty kick loss to Central Florida in the AAC finals forced the Rutgers women’s soccer team to gain an at-large bid in the NCAA Tournament to continue its season.
But with prospects of continuing their season left to a selection committee, the Scarlet Knights were unsure about their fate after their loss.
“I feel bad for the players for how hard they work,” said head coach Glenn Crooks after the loss Sunday. “This is a team that is very much together and we are going to have to await 4:30 [Monday] to see if we get a bid.”
The NCAA selection committee chose to include Rutgers in the 64-team field — the Knights’ third appearance in five years.
Rutgers will travel to West Virginia on Saturday for the opening round of the tournament.
“I was fine with the selection and I’m excited for the game, but you can think about it a couple of different ways,” Crooks said. “For us, we were obviously planning on winning the conference championships because there is never a 100 percent certainty to get the at-large bid. The initial thought is we were very excited to get back into the NCAAs.”
The Knights have some experience against the Mountaineers. The teams played an exhibition Aug. 13, when Rutgers lost, 3-0, on the road.
“I was very happy with how we performed [against the Mountaineers],” Crook said. “Going back to their place having already played there gives us an edge. There is three months of season since then, so we will still have to base how we prepare off of recent film.”
In that contest, West Virginia made the most of its shots on goal, converting all three attempts. It also outshot the Knights, 9-6.
Since it was just a scrimmage, Rutgers should not take much from a loss where every player who traveled received time.
“West Virginia and Rutgers go back a long way and we know the staff very well, as they do us,” Crooks said. “It’s a good rivalry.”
The Knights were one of three AAC teams to make the tournament.
Central Florida — the AAC Tournament champions — claimed the third seed in its portion of the bracket and will face St. John’s. UCF finished the regular season 12th in RPI after winning the AAC championship.
Louisville gained an at-large bid too and will host its first-round game against Illinois State. For the season, the Cardinals finished 20th in RPI despite finishing third in the AAC Tournament.
Rutgers entered the NCAA Tournament with impressive play jumping it to 33rd in RPI.
The Knights have not allowed a goal in their last two matches and are currently on a four-game winning streak.
Rutgers’ postseason run has the Knights feeling prepared for the NCAA Tournament.
“I think what happened this past weekend has prepared us very well for the next step,” Crooks said. “We got clean sheets against two of the highest-scoring teams in the country. We really grew as a team, even in these latter stages of the season. It is unfortunate that we lost [Sunday], but when we work as hard as we did, good things can happen.”
For updates on the Rutgers women’s soccer team, follow Tyler Karalewich on Twitter @TylerKaralewich. For general Rutgers sports updates, follow @TargumSports.