Rutgers sets sights on AAC title match
The Rutgers women’s soccer team finds itself in a position it has not been in since 2006.
With a win tonight, the Scarlet Knights then play for a conference title.
Before the Knights (13-4-2, 5-3-1) can jump into the AAC final, they cannot overlook their semifinal matchup with seventh-seeded Memphis (13-7-0, 4-5-0).
The two programs first met Oct. 4 at Yurcak Field, which resulted in a 3-2 Rutgers victory. Junior forward Stefanie Scholz picked up an early score in the game, and senior forward Jonelle Filigno added two goals.
While the Knights won, Filigno noted a major takeaway from that match.
“We have to stay up and not step back on our heels and defend for most of the game once we’re up,” she said. “So our goal is just to continue to go at them with attacking from the first minute to the 90th minute or 110th minute.”
The Tigers enter the match with a four-game winning streak in which they have outscored their opponents, 16-2. The Tigers also lead the AAC in goals scored with 51.
Head coach Glenn Crooks is aware of Memphis’ attacking strength.
“I look at Memphis and they’re the most creative attacking team in the league, I think, and they have legitimate goal scorers from both the front line and the midfield,” he said. “So they’re very difficult to defend. They’re the leading goal-scoring team in the league, so they’re very dangerous.”
Memphis also boasts the top-two goal scorers in the AAC in forwards Valerie Sanderson and Christabel Oduro, with 17 and 15 goals, respectively.
The Tigers toppled No. 2 Louisville on Sunday in double overtime, 2-1, behind two Sanderson goals, breaking the single-season scoring record for a freshman at Memphis.
Oduro knocked in four goals in seven minutes in last Friday’s 6-0 win against Houston in the Tigers’ first-round match. Forward Kaitlyn Atkins leads the conference in assists with 16, averaging 0.84 per game.
The trio accounts for 33 goals, 27 assists and 93 points.
Senior goalkeeper Jessica Janosz knows what her team needs to do defensively to stop the Tigers’ talented frontrunners.
“I think that we need to stay tucked in. I think that we need to be good in the air,” she said. “And I think we need to have strong communication between the backline to make sure that the midfielders are tucked in and that we drop together as a line and step up together as a line.”
Crooks stressed the importance of playing a complete game after Sunday’s last-minute win over Cincinnati.
“One of the things that we do need to be better at is being more consistent throughout the match,” Crooks said. “You hear coaches say it all the time in football, ‘you need to play 60 minutes.’ In soccer it’s playing a full 90 or whatever overtime you may have to play.”
For updates on the Rutgers women’s soccer team, follow Lauren Green on Twitter @LGreenWPSoccer. For general Rutgers sports updates, follow @TargumSports.