Rutgers offense has eyes on execution
Soccer can be a frustrating game.
Over the course of a 90-minute match, there are moments where a team can be dominating the pace of play, making key passes and creating prime scoring opportunities.
But things can get tense when those chances are not converted into goals.
The No. 23 Rutgers women’s soccer team is in a stretch just like this. The Scarlet Knights (10-2-2, 3-2-2) have been playing aggressively on offense, but have not been able to turn their shots into goals.
Over their last two contests, a 2-0 win over Indiana and a nil-nil draw against Northwestern, the Knights have combined for 47 shots in the two games.
They have made it a point of emphasis to turn up the intensity on the offensive side of the ball to match their prowess on defense.
It has worked as far as sparking more scoring opportunities than they were getting in the beginning of the season, but they are still hoping to capitalize more often and efficiently on these chances.
“I never want to see us with our heads down because even though we haven’t been scoring like we want to, we’ve been putting together good performances,” said head coach Mike O’Neill. “From where we started the season to where we are today, we are a much better team now.”
O’Neill and his staff are evidently pleased with the aggressiveness the Knights have shown in their offensive attack since Big Ten play began.
Despite not scoring as much as they would like, their defense has remained stout and the strength of the team.
Rutgers — led by sophomore goalkeeper Casey Murphy and a veteran group on the backline — has already posted 11 shutouts on the season, which ties the mark from each of the last two seasons.
The stinginess of the defense has allowed the Knights to lead more counterattacks and attempt more passes against opposing teams.
Confidence still remains in the offensive attack. Rutgers players feel like they are on the verge of breaking through and turning their opportunities into scores.
Seven Knights have scored game-winning goals this season, the highest total since 2010.
“The scores will come if we keep being aggressive,” said senior midfielder Samantha Valliant, who has three game-winning goals on the season. “Wins are always going to be the most important thing going into the Big Ten Tournament, no matter how we are winning. We’re just hoping to finish more of our chances and put the ball in the back of the net.”
With the rest of the regular season’s slate of Big Ten games ahead, there are crucial points for the Knights in their quest to move up the conference rankings.
Rutgers currently stands tied for fifth place in the Big Ten with their next opponent, Ohio State.
The Knights maintain an NCAA RPI of 12, which is the second-highest in the conference.
Team veterans understand the importance of the last stretch of conference games and feel that the goals are on the way.
“We’re really happy with how we have been playing and are very confident with knowing what we can do on the field,” said senior defender Brianne Reed. “We only have a few games left in the conference schedule and we are just looking to ride it out with some confidence.”
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