RU falls short in NCAA first round
MORGANTOWN, W. Va. — Senior goalkeeper Jessica Janosz broke the Rutgers women’s soccer postgame huddle after a consoling speech from head coach Glenn Crooks.
With tears developing, she was only able to sob the word “team.”
The Dick Dlesk Soccer Stadium was filled near capacity this past Saturday as 1,610 fans stood in excitement to watch the first round of the NCAA Tournament come down to penalty kicks.
The Scarlet Knights displayed different emotion, as they fell, 3-0, to West Virginia in deciding penalty kicks after going scoreless for 110 minutes.
Senior forward Jonelle Filigno entered as the Knights’ last hope battling a knee injury, having sat out the whole game. Her shot was saved after sophomore defender Erica Skroski’s and junior forward Amy Pietrangelo’s shots also found the goalkeeper’s hands.
The misses sealed the Knights’ fate after three Mountaineers buried their penalty kicks.
The stage was different, but the feeling was all too familiar for the Knights. The finish marked the third consecutive Rutgers match decided by PKs, as the Knights previously lost in the AAC finals.
The result was not just about finishing in the Knights’ third straight shootout — proving much more about the team.
“We shouldn’t talk about the PKs with this team. We should talk about how well this team represented the University,” Crooks said. “I thought we played very well and had the same effort we played with [in our past three games].”
Janosz anchored Rutgers’ defense, saving nine shots and tallying her ninth shutout of the year.
Janosz knows it was not all her own doing as she praised her teammates while holding back tears.
“We have a great backline, and they have each other’s back and they have my back and vice-versa,” Janosz said. “I think they really put their hearts out there. They got down for tackles, got first and second balls and helped out.”
West Virginia benefited from seeing Rutgers go to two shootouts before this game.
“They had a big advantage of watching our games last week and knowing where our shooters would take it,” Crooks said, “although their goalkeeper came up with big saves and give her tons of credit.”
During the two overtime periods, the only Knights scoring chance came off a free kick by defender Tricia DiPaolo. The seventh-year senior found sophomore defender Brianne Reed’s head, but Mountaineers goalkeeper Sara Keane saved it.
Crooks diagnosed Rutgers’ scoring struggles as the main issue.
“We had all clean sheets, so we haven’t been able to put the ball in the back of the net,” Crooks said. “We were really setting things up and getting close to putting the ball in the net, but this is our sport. The sport of soccer can come down to one goal.”
The chances for the Knights were slim in the first half, as they were outshot, 16-5 and 6-3 with shots on goal.
Janosz and the Knights’ defense held strong.
The Mountaineers’ first scoring opportunity came early, as they controlled possession for the opening minutes. The Rutgers box was crowded, and Reed had to defend a shot.
Rutgers turned it around and limited West Virginia to 10 shots, including three on goal, in the second half and two overtimes.
The Mountaineers’ last shot of regulation came in the 88th minute when forward Kelsie Maloney had a one-on-one with Janosz. The senior made the save and sent the game to overtime.
DiPaolo played her last game but was proud of the team.
“We were a solid defensive unit today,” DiPaolo said. “It’s tough — the overtimes, the traveling and the time of year when everyone is getting sick. I’m proud of everyone for overcoming that and battling through it with heart and strength.”
There was no disappointment from the head coach, only satisfaction.
“We played better football today than we had recently. The result is difficult, but I really enjoyed the experience,” Crooks said. “If this is the way we had to go out, we went out very well.”
For updates on the Rutgers women’s soccer team, follow Tyler Karalewich on Twitter @TylerKaralewich. For general Rutgers sports updates, follow @TargumSports.
Correction: A previous version of this article stated the Rutgers University Women's soccer team lost in the AAC semifinals.