August 18, 2019 | 81° F

Rutgers seeks win versus in-state rivals on road

Last year, the Rutgers women’s soccer team entered its game against Princeton early in the season with an impressive 5-1-1 record before ultimately downing the Tigers, thanks to the offensive performance by then-junior forward Stef Scholz. 

Scholz erupted for four goals in the contest — the most in a single game for the program since 1984 — and the Scarlet Knights cruised to a victory over their neighbors from down Route 1.

One year later, the table has been similarly set. 

The Knights boast a 3-0 record, not including the two preseason wins over Villanova and West Virginia in which they won handily. Rutgers has not lost a game in regulation in eight matches dating back to last year. 

Princeton, which opens up its season tonight against Rutgers at Myslik Field at Roberts Stadium, appears on paper to be a team that can easily be chalked up as a win. 

Sophomore midfielder Madison Tiernan and the Knights know not to get sucked into that mentality.

“We’re more worried about us than Princeton. We don’t take anyone lightly,” Tiernan said. “Just because last year’s result was really in our favor, it doesn’t mean anything. So, we have to take it as serious as any other game and go at them.”

Rutgers has outscored its opposition by a total margin of 7-2 in its last three matches. 

Suffocating defense has subsequently opened up the window for opportunities on the offensive side of the ball, with the Knights firing 32 total shots in their last two games against Vanderbilt (19) and Seton Hall (13).

With an eight-day lapse between games, head coach Mike O’Neill and his staff have worked diligently throughout the week to map the proper preparation for the Tigers. 

After a few days of rest during Labor Day Weekend, the team hit the ground running for the week on Tuesday. Fighting through the 90-plus degree heat, the Knights got to work out on the field before a strength-and-conditioning circuit inside the Hale Center.

O’Neill was impressed with what he saw.

“It was hot out there — and they were good,” O’Neill said. “We got out and trained for 45 minutes and it was perfect. It was a good session.”

As the game approached, O’Neill said the main goal in practice shifted to scheme and tactical elements. The Knights will look to counter a Princeton team that posted 15 shots on goal in last season’s contest with a continuance of their stout defense. 

Although the specifics of preparation may have shifted throughout the week, the lone aspect that remained was the fact that Rutgers cannot underestimate the Tigers. 

With the buzz and excitement over the inaugural Big Ten conference opener at Maryland looming, it would be easy to overlook a seemingly overmatched Princeton team.

But junior midfielder Hayley Katkowski reassured that the Knights are zoned in on tonight’s game and nothing else.

“We can’t take any team lightly at all. Every team will give us a good run for our money,” she said. “I just think it’s important that we play like it’s one of the best teams in the country.”

For updates on Rutgers women’s soccer team, follow @TargumSports on Twitter.

Garrett Stepien

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