Late rally pushes Rutgers past UMass
PISCATAWAY — In a match that played out in very similar fashion to the 1-0 victory over Villanova on Friday night, the Rutgers women’s soccer team scored late to defeat UMass (0-2-1,) 1-0.
The No. 24 Scarlet Knights (4-0) thoroughly controlled most of the action in the contest, outshooting the Minutewomen, 19-2, with sophomore goalkeeper Casey Murphy only needing to record one save.
They maintained offensive possession for the majority of the match, with their lone goal coming in the 84th minute from Colby Ciarrocca, who tapped in the ball by the far post on the assist from junior defender Erin Smith and senior forward Cassie Inacio.
The crowd of 609 at Yurcak Field was on its heels waiting for the goal and erupted when Ciarrocca, a sophomore transfer from Vanderbilt, put the ball in the net for the lone goal of the game.
It was a crucial moment for her and the Knights not only in this game, but moving forward as the season picks up.
“Colby’s a goal-scorer, so she needed that to get her off and running, and to feel less pressure,” said head coach Mike O’Neill. “Now, she can just go and enjoy her soccer. It was a big moment for us today and should serve us well for the rest of the season.”
Scoring her first goal as a Knight with a game-winner was a pivotal milestone for Ciarrocca. The match was strangely similar to Friday’s victory, in which they scored their only goal in the 81st minute.
Although it can be frustrating to not score, especially when a team has dominated possession as much as Rutgers has through their first four games, its last two victories give the team confidence with playing in control.
“We’re a very confident group and I like how we’ve been playing so far,” O’Neill said. “Our players stay focused and always understand what they need to get done, but we’d just like to do a bit more.”
Ciarrocca is not a stranger to Yurcak Field, as she played there as a Vanderbilt Commodore in a road contest last season. She was elated to score her first Rutgers goal at her new home, especially one that gave her new team a victory.
“It felt really good to score that goal and I’m really happy to be here at Rutgers,” Ciarrocca said. “The coaches are awesome and my teammates are so welcoming. It was a good win for us.”
The coaching staff has stressed the importance of winning at home, which Ciarrocca realized early on.
“I know that we take a lot of pride in winning at home here, and the coaches have taught us that it is like a tradition,” she said. “The crowd was great and we can all feel the pride.”
Of their 19 shots, the Knights had six shots on goal, three of which came from Inacio.
Being aggressive in her attack and doing her best to create chances, the Manalapan native nearly scored in the 12th minute but was denied by UMass goalkeeper Cassidy Babin.
“Our energy was up in the first half and we were looking to get behind their defense,” Inacio said. “My teammates put me in (a) good position to get the ball at the appropriate times, so I have to thank them for that. Now, I just have to take the next step and finish them by scoring goals.”
Like her coach, Inacio understands that the team won't benefit from worries about scoring late, recognizing the importance of pressing opposing defenses as they have been thus far.
Another shutout also allowed Rutgers to become the first team in program history to record four straight clean sheets, another reason to give the Knights confidence.
“It’s still early in the season and we’re building relationships and finding people in different places,” Inacio said. “It’s hard when you have such a short preseason and are thrown into games where you have to figure it out. … But we will figure it out and have tons of confidence in ourselves.”
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