Rutgers tangles with Terps in College Park, Maryland
Having finished its non-conference schedule unscathed, the No. 15 Rutgers women’s soccer team opens up its Big Ten slate on Friday when it visits Maryland.
The Scarlet Knights (7-0) enter conference play riding on the best start in program history, not allowing a goal through 630 minutes of play.
They are coming off their biggest win of the season over previously unbeaten Connecticut, defeating the Huskies, 2-0, at home on Yurcak Field.
But now they are readying to take on a tough conference opponent on the road, which is never an easy task.
“It’s going to be a tough game at Maryland and we’ve got to make sure we’re healthy and ready to go,” said head coach Mike O’Neill. “We’ll keep working hard and focusing on us, seeing which areas of our game we need to improve upon. Maryland is a very good team and we’ll have our work cut out for us.”
The health of senior defender Brianne Reed is a bit of concern for the Knights. She left Sunday’s match with an undisclosed injury, but hopes to play against Maryland.
Reed has been a major contributor on a Rutgers backline that has stifled opposing offenses this season.
Rutgers and Cornell remain the only two teams in the country who have yet to concede a goal, although Rutgers has won all seven of their games, while Cornell is 4-0-2.
Behind the backline, sophomore goalkeeper Casey Murphy was named the Co-Big Ten Defensive Player of the Week for her shutout efforts against Drexel and Connecticut last week.
She and her teammates enter a stretch of three consecutive Big Ten road matches hoping to continue their hot streaks on offense and defense, knowing that tougher competition is on the way.
“The big thing for us against Maryland will be to keep possession and winning the ball out of the air,” said senior defender Erica Skroski. “We have to keep the ball when we have it, find the midfielders and then get it to the forwards. If we can keep possession like that in every game, I think we’ll be in good shape.”
Maryland (5-3) enters after its most lopsided win of the season, a 5-1 victory over Yale, a game in which the Terps totaled 30 shots.
Maryland's explosive offense should challenge the Knights, with much of the Terps' firepower coming from forward Alex Anthony, who has five goals on the season.
After seven convincing victories, Rutgers has moved up to No. 13 on the TopDrawerSoccer.com poll.
Though they continue to move up in the rankings, the Knights know they cannot get complacent and must keep striving to get better.
“The players set their goals and are really self-motivated and always fight till the end,” O’Neill said. “They take so much pride in everything they do on both sides of the ball and we’re going to stay hungry and humble.”
Big Ten play is a big deal to all of the Knights who experienced it for the first time last season as well as for the newcomers.
Sophomore forward Colby Ciarrocca enters her first conference game at Rutgers after transferring from Vanderbilt.
“We have to work on being the best we can be, working hard every day and making each other better,” Ciarrocca said. “It’s the first Big Ten game and we know we’ll have to be ready to go.”
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