Senior has high hopes for last year at Rutgers
Injuries are a common setback in sports. Playing at the intensity necessary to compete in collegiate athletics, they are nearly inevitable.
JP Correa knows this all too well.
The fifth-year senior has spent his fair share of time on the table in the trainer's room at the Hale Center rehabbing his laundry list of injuries.
“Freshman year (at the) end of the season, I had hip surgery and was out for about six to seven months,” Correa said. “Came back for preseason, trained the preseason and played four games, had left hip surgery, was out for another six to seven months. Came back, was never really healthy for my sophomore season and last year, I injured my hamstring in the Northwestern game and I struggled in the end of that year. I got bumped in the preseason but it was very minor. I feel healthy this year, hopefully I stay healthy.”
Regardless of continuously suffering injuries, the forward doesn’t hold anything back on the pitch and continues to give 100 percent, never fearing the possibility of another.
“Injuries happen," Correa said. "If it’s going to happen, it’s gonna happen. There’s nothing you could do about it. Just gotta keep playing the way you’ve always been playing, can’t be thinking about those things.”
Rutgers head men’s soccer coach Dan Donigan is pleased with the return of his most experienced Scarlet Knight. Correa is the only player on the 2015 roster to be a part of the last team to make the NCAA Tournament for the Knights, when they reached the Sweet Sixteen in 2011.
But just because he’s been around the block a few times does not mean he has a guaranteed spot in the starting 11.
“He still has a lot to prove in my opinion,” Donigan said. “He still needs to be able to play Friday, Sunday. He still needs to be able to come out every game whether it’s against a Colgate or a Syracuse or a Wisconsin or an Indiana and perform at a very high level. Every single player across the board needs to be able to do that. That’s the difference between us having an average year or a good year.”
With freshman Brian Hawkins getting the nod from Donigan in every game thus far this season, Correa will have to earn minutes on the right side of the attack. His head coach, now in his sixth season on the Banks, sees the position battle to be a positive.
“I think it’s healthy as long as they understand it and they (maintain) it well and manage it well,” Donigan said. “… When other guys step in and get on the field that deserve to be on the field, it makes us a better group, a better team. It’s something we’ve lacked in the past. Guys haven’t responded well in these situations. Everyone wants to play, everyone wants to be a starter, everyone wants to be a 90-minute player, but that’s not possible. Some guys going to be disappointed or upset or pissed off, but how you respond to that is going to determine how we are as a group.”
While Donigan sees the competition as a positive, the players don’t even see it as a competition.
Hawkins respects the experience and skill of his fellow forward, so seeing Correa take his spot in the starting 11 wouldn’t intimidate the rookie.
“I don’t really look at it as competition. I look at it as JP has the experience, so if he plays in front of me, (I) learn from him, see what he does, see what I could take out from whatever he does,” Hawkins said. “He’s been here for so long, so I don’t see it as competition. I think he’s a great player.”
The Chesterfield, New Jersey, native had nothing but good things to say about his teammate, citing his willingness to help him adapt to life in Piscataway.
“He’s always there. He’s always helping me out, telling me to keep my confidence high,” Hawkins said. “He’s been a big help.”
Correa reciprocates the idea that there is no competition between him and Hawkins and recognizes the talent of his teammate.
“We don’t look at it that way. Whoever gets on the field, gets on the field,” Correa said. “I haven’t even thought about it as a competition. He’s a great player, he’s going to be great here for his four years so I don’t think about it as a competition at all.”
Being one of only two fifth-year seniors on the team, along with transfer Mitch Lurie, Correa has attempted helping the team by sharing his experiences at Rutgers with his younger teammates, reminding them of the similarities he sees between them and the team he played with his first year on campus.
“I’ve shared my experience with them as well," Correa said. "I’ve talked to them. Like I’ve said multiple times before, this team reminds me a lot of my freshman year. We have a bunch of older guys and a good young core that’s going to help us out. A lot of the same things from that year so it’s a good feeling.”
Making his final incisive passes and celebrating his final goals at Yurcak Field in the red and white stripes of the Knights this season, the Montville, New Jersey, native has no doubts regarding what he hopes to achieve in his final year on the Banks.
“We have to make the tournament,” he said. “We made it my freshman year, it’s been a few years since it happened and I feel, personally, for the team to have success going on in the future and attract people, we need to get into that tournament and win some games in there we know we can. So we just gotta play our best and hope for the best.”
For updates on the Rutgers men’s soccer team, follow @briannnnf and @TargumSports on Twitter.