Tourney begins with rematch
Three months ago, the Rutgers women’s soccer team traveled to Morgantown, W. Va., to face West Virginia in its opening scrimmage. The Scarlet Knights (13-4-4, 5-3-3) fell to the Mountaineers, 3-0.
Now the two former Big East members will battle it out again there in tomorrow’s NCAA Tournament opening round.
Head coach Glenn Crooks believes his team will not look back to the early-season loss.
“The preseason game will have very little impact on this match. It was so long ago,” he said. “I’m sure that both teams have undergone a metamorphosis. … We’re seeing some recent games to get an idea of what they’re doing now and who has an impact for them.”
The Mountaineers (16-3-2, 7-1) are coming off a 1-0 win in last Sunday’s Big 12 Championship against Oklahoma State.
It helps Rutgers that senior forward Jonelle Filigno, who missed the second half of last Friday’s semifinal and did not play Sunday because of a knee injury, is expected to be available for Saturday, Crooks said Tuesday.
But West Virginia enters the tournament ranked No. 12 in the NSCAA poll and No. 15 in the RPI rankings.
The Mountaineers boast another top-scoring offense, leading their conference with 47 goals on the season.
Forward Frances Silva leads West Virginia. The senior tops the Big 12 with 15 goals, 13 assists and 43 points.
The Knights have plenty of experience in stopping high-powered offenses. Rutgers’ backline held the AAC’s top-two scoring teams, Memphis and Central Florida, scoreless last weekend for 110 minutes apiece.
“I think those clean sheets are very meaningful and I think a lot of players really rose to the occasion, the entire team rose to the occasion,” Crooks said. “We never broke. There were moments when we did not have the run of it but we didn’t break. We did what we needed to do to prevent shots, to prevent entrance balls [and] to prevent service.”
Rutgers comes off a loss to UCF that ended 8-7 in a shootout in its third overtime match of the postseason. The loss allowed the Knights to analyze their accomplishments.
“We were all really upset at first, but then we took it into perspective,” said sophomore defender Brianne Reed. “We made it to the final, we made it that far, we gave ourselves that opportunity. We left it all on the field. There really wasn’t anything else we could do at that point.”
Filigno does not think the effects of that game will linger.
“I think our confidence is so high right now,” she said. “We know we can compete with the best teams and we know we almost had it and we were so close on Sunday. Although it hurts for a few days, we’re just going to get right back into it and just perform with everything we have.”
The AAC Tournament aside, the focus now shifts to the NCAA Tournament and Reed knows her team has a chance to move into the second round.
“We scrimmaged them in preseason and we lost and we all said right after that game, ‘If you would have given us another month or two, I know we could have them.’” Reed said. “I know they just won their championship, but we’re a better team now and I think we’ve got a really good chance to beat them.”
For updates on the Rutgers women’s soccer team, follow Lauren Green on Twitter @lgreenWPSoccer. For general Rutgers sports updates, follow @TargumSports.