Newcomers adapt quickly, play pivotal role for Rutgers
Over the course of a season, teams hope to see progression from younger players that shows all the hard work and training pay off.
It can take a while for younger college athletes to truly come into their own, as they deal with experiences such as living away from home on top of getting comfortable with new coaches and teammates.
For the No. 12 Rutgers women’s soccer team, the growth of some key newcomers has been pivotal in winning matches down the stretch of the season.
The Scarlet Knights (12-2-2, 5-2-2) are coming off their biggest win of the year against then-No. 9 Penn State, with sophomore forward Colby Ciarrocca scoring the game-winning goal in the 1-0 victory.
She also scored a late goal to seal the team's 2-0 victory over Ohio State last week.
Ciarrocca leads the team with six goals and her emergence as an offensive force has been crucial to the Knights’ success.
“Colby has the great ability to score goals at the times when we need them,” said head coach Mike O’Neill. “Her impact is very important because, over a season, you’re going to need different answers (to score). With Colby and (junior midfielder) Madison (Tiernan) and other players coming out of the midfield, somebody needs to step up and score for us and Colby’s been able to do that for us the last two games. She’s a difference-maker for us.”
For her efforts over the last week, Ciarrocca was awarded the Big Ten Offensive Player of the Week and named a TopDrawerSoccer National Team of the Week Honorable Mention.
Her performances have caught the eye of her veteran teammates, who see the effect she can have on games, especially when Rutgers is in search of scoring.
“She has had a very big impact on our whole team,” said senior defender Erica Skroski. “She knows how to get it done, and those are not easy goals to score. But she gets herself in the right positions and can put the team on her back. Penn State was a huge game and we needed those three points, so it was great for her to get that goal.”
Another young standout making strides recently has been freshman defender Adora Moneme.
The Union, New Jersey, native scored the game-winning goal in the win over Ohio State, giving her two scores for the season.
She has seen more playing time recently, and was named Big Ten Co-Freshman of the Week for her efforts.
Moneme's presence as a physical force is essential for Rutgers establishing their tough defense, and her pair of goals has been an even bigger bonus for the team.
“It’s been very important for Adora to get going for us,” O’Neill said. “When you get your opportunities to contribute, it’s important to make sure that you are able to do so, which is exactly what she’s done. She has stepped up and contributed.”
Sophomore goalkeeper Casey Murphy was named Big Ten Defensive Player of the Week after her pair of shutouts last week.
She already has 23 shutouts in her career, which lands her in a third-place tie on the program’s all-time list.
For the season, she has 13 clean sheets, and is one away from tying Erin Guthrie’s 2006 school record for the most by a Rutgers goalkeeper in a season.
Murphy's emergence as a stabilizing factor in net over the past two seasons has been a major part of allowing Rutgers to play the physical style they like to exude, and now Moneme provides even more of that steadiness in front of Murphy.
“Adora is a big player for us,” Tiernan said. “We talk about being '30 Strong,’ and being strong coming off the bench, which she has done. She has really stepped up and when gets her minutes, she capitalizes on our time and makes our defense that much stronger.”
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