Rutgers rookie flashes as starting goalkeeper
When she arrived on campus and seized the starting goalkeeper position, Casey Murphy showed flashes of brilliance.
Through her first few games, she looked like a seasoned veteran rather than an inexperienced freshman. Even without a goalkeeper coach to begin the season, Murphy excelled largely due to her raw talent and ideal build for a collegiate goalkeeper at the Division 1 level.
As the season winds down, the continuous strides made in Murphy’s game has the No. 20/10 Rutgers women’s soccer team brimming with high hopes for the future. Opposing Big Ten programs, meanwhile, cringe with the reality that they will have to deal with her for the next four years.
Through the first 12 matches of the season, Murphy has started in every contest. She has locked down opposing offenses between the posts, recording eight shutouts and one combined shutout along with a .902 save percentage — a mark that leads the Big Ten.
But outside the statistics, head coach Mike O’Neill has been pleased with Murphy’s growth as a leader on the field as the season continues.
“When [she came] in as a freshman, I think the experience that she gained club-wise … to bring those elements into preseason and into her freshman year are very important pieces to her success,” O’Neill said. “The more she gets comfortable, the more she gets command of communication and making sure people are where they’re supposed to be.”
O’Neill isn’t the only one who has seen an apparent growth in Murphy’s mentality. Sophomore midfielder Madison Tiernan noted her teammate’s increasing confidence with each game.
“She’s just playing with so much confidence, and I know when they’re taking shots, Casey’s going to save them,” Tiernan said. “I mean, she’s just playing like a veteran, so that’s what we need out of her, and she’s doing such a great job.”
Most recently, the Scarlet Knights knocked off No. 6/7 Penn State — previously unbeaten in Big Ten play — and the upset on the road came largely due to Murphy’s play on defense. She recorded three saves and secured the shutout in a 1-0 win over a Nittany Lions team that entered the game leading the conference in goals per game (2.85) and total points (102).
On a team plentiful with leadership from the upperclassmen and coaching staff, Murphy credited her surroundings for helping her development over the course of the season until this point.
“It’s just the environment we have at practice every day that allows myself and everyone else on the team to continue to improve,” Murphy said. “So yeah, there are a lot of aspects to my game that [assistant coach] Lubos [Ancin] and I are working on improving, but having so much time to prepare for [Penn State] helped a lot.”
Part of that improvement includes those that haven’t really seen the playing field much this year.
Behind her on the depth chart at the goalkeeper position includes junior Bree Benedict, junior Alana Jimenez and freshman Brianna Scarola. Murphy said the group’s collective effort at practice with Ancin has helped her learn a lot and grow as a competitor.
“I think our training environment is very competitive, and we push each other to work very hard day in and day out. That means coming in early or staying after,” Murphy said. “Our goalkeepers are a team, and we definitely stick together for each other.”
O’Neill said the other goalkeepers on the roster and Ancin were the “unsung heroes” in Murphy’s success.
“Lubos has been phenomenal with her, so they’ve developed a relationship, and the other [goalkeepers] — they push each other so much,” O’Neill said. “[It’s] not only the experience that she [gets] in games, but it’s how the goalkeepers train every day and [the] little growth between the three of them and Lubos. So when you see that development in all of them, then obviously that’s the case.”
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