July 20, 2019 | 85° F

Rutgers defender spearheads shutout season

Photo by Shirley Yu and Patrick D Morgan |

Senior defender Erica Skroski headed in the game-winning goal against previously undefeated No. 20 UConn on Sept. 13.

In the midst of a magical start to the season for the No. 15 Rutgers women’s soccer team, a steady influence both on and off the field for the Scarlet Knights has been senior defender Erica Skroski.

The Galloway, New Jersey, native is in her final season as captain of the Knights, leading a team that has started 7-0 for the first time in school history while also not allowing a single goal.

Her impact is felt all throughout the game as she solidifies the stout backline and makes her runs up the pitch to bolster the offense.

Head coach Mike O’Neill has seen her growth as a player and a leader during her four years at Rutgers and said Skroski is an integral contributor to the Knights’ historic start and their style of play.

“I think the idea is that when you go someplace, you try your best to make it better because you came there … and when I look at when Erica came in as a freshman to where she is today, the Rutgers women’s soccer program is better because Erica came here,” he said. “It’s been pretty special to watch her play and see her get better.”

Skroski, a member of the 2014 All-Big Ten Second Team, was the catalyst in the team’s biggest win of the year over previously unbeaten Connecticut.

In what was the first goal of her senior campaign, she scored what proved to be the game-winner on a header in the 12th minute.

She logged the full 90 minutes in the 2-0 victory, showing her stamina during the high-intensity match up.

Much like how her teammates spoke highly of her, Skroski is quick to credit teammates for entrusting her to be a leader of the team.

“Playing these games is normal by now because I really know what to expect,” she said. “Just having all the girls together before the game, helping everybody out and making sure we’re on the same page about what we’re trying to accomplish — I think it’s shown how close we are through our play by being 7-0 and having all shutouts.”

The senior has four points through the first seven matches, totaling one goal and two assists.

While she has shown clear production on the field, her presence is felt just as much during off-field preparation.

Sophomore forward Colby Ciarrocca is in her first season playing for the Knights after transferring from Vanderbilt and said Skroski was one of the first teammates she connected with at Rutgers.

Whether it be in-game suggestions on how to better position herself or advice on how to navigate around her new campus at Rutgers, Ciarrocca said Skroski has been invaluable to helping her adjust to her new school.

“Erica is awesome and she’s a huge leader for us on and off the field,” she said. “You know you can always look to her for advice, to pick you up and encourage you. It’s amazing what she does for the team.”

With the success she has had in her career and the highly promising start for the team in her final season, it looks as if Skroski will enjoy her best year yet with the Knights.

Along with continuing to focus on each game individually, Skroski said the team is also eyeing a mark that was set during assistant head coach Meghan Ryan's playing career at Rutgers.

Ryan was a three-year captain at center back for the Knights and in 2006 was part of a defensive unit that recorded 16 shutouts, which stands as the most in program history.

Now with Ryan as the main defensive coach for Rutgers, Skroski and the team see another goal bolsters collective motivation.

“My goal remains as it has been each year and that is to win every game,” she said. “Coach Ryan has the shutout record with 16, so before each game we say to each other, ‘Let’s go, let’s get another shutout today.’ As a team, we are looking to win every game and on the backline, we are looking to continue the shutout streak.”

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

Mike O' Sullivan

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