Rutgers faces Cornhuskers after 2-0 weekend
Two weeks ago, the Rutgers women’s soccer team crashed the NCSAA Top-25 party by sneaking in with the No. 25 ranking.
Starting out the season in dominant fashion with a 4-0 start, the Scarlet Knights surged into its first Big Ten road test at Maryland.
The energy and buzz surrounding the start, the official mark of a new conference, and credibility of a top-25 ranking beckoned through the team.
After suffering a 2-0 defeat, Rutgers bounced right back with two big wins in its first two Big Ten home games against Michigan and Michigan State. The Knights pulled off two 1-0 shutouts.
The pair of wins was impressive enough to catapult Rutgers back into the NCSAA Top 25 once again.
Similar to how they did going into their showdown with Maryland, the No. 25 Knights (6-1, 2-1) will be tested in their second conference road game of the season when they venture through the cornfields Thursday to take on Nebraska at 4:30 p.m.
The Huskers (4-4-1, 0-2-1) opened the season boasting a No. 13 ranking, but have fallen off since. In its last two games against Illinois and Wisconsin, Nebraska was outscored by a total of 6-0.
Despite the apparent drop off and a matchup with an elite Iowa (8-1, 3-0) team looming on Sunday, sophomore forward Madison Tiernan emphasized the focus surrounding the team to zone in on each game as it comes.
“We’re just at the beginning of our conference play, and every team’s good, so we just have to focus on the task at hand and really go at them and especially on the road,” Tiernan said. “We need to stay on top of it and keep the wins coming.”
For just the second time in the regular season, Rutgers plays on a Thursday. Normally, the Knights are accustomed to a week-long layoff with games scheduled on Fridays or Saturdays.
After a day off on Monday following the win over Michigan, Rutgers hit the ground running on Tuesday before packing its bags for yesterday’s travel out to Lincoln.
Despite the short week, junior backer Brianne Reed noted how hard the Knights have worked in an effort to get their first Big Ten road win of the season.
“It’s a really quick turnaround, so the coaches are already giving us the information we need to know,” Reed said. “[We] played a quick 11 v. 11 [intersquad scrimmage], you know, applying on the field what kind of formation [Nebraska is] gonna play and how to address their attack.”
Rutgers will be tasked with slowing down forward Jaycie Johnson, who leads the Huskers’ offensive attack with 14 points and is tied for fifth in the Big Ten with six goals.
The shortened time frame for preparation clearly throws a curveball in how Rutgers is accustomed to preparing. It doesn’t help that the team has to fly 1,288 miles out to Nebraska midway through the week, followed by a five-hour bus trip to Iowa right after.
But head coach Mike O’Neill and the Knights know that none of that serves as an excuse.
No matter how monumental this past weekend may have been in the history of the program, O’Neill’s focus had already shifted to how to prepare for the next weekend with the challenge of squeezing it into half of the time they are normally allowed.
“I think any time you travel it’s difficult, but you still have to overcome it because there’s a game to be played,” O’Neill said after the game on Sunday. “…Starting right after this interview, the coaching staff will break down Nebraska and Iowa, and we’ll have a plan for those guys by the time we step on a plane on Wednesday to travel.”
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