Rutgers hosts Purdue in its annual Pink Game
October in the 21st century means more than just the changing leaves and strong breeze, as it is recognized as Breast Cancer Awareness Month in the United States.
Similar to how many teams in the NFL will wear pink apparel spanning from wristbands to cleats to mouth guards, the Rutgers women’s soccer team will be honoring the cause in their own exceptional way.
The Scarlet Knights (8-2-2, will be sporting pink uniforms for their annual Pink Game, Thursday night at 7 p.m.
In addition to the rose colored jerseys, Rutgers will be handing out 250 pink rubber bracelets to raise awareness.
The Riot Squad, which is a group of students who are passionate about attending the athletics games, will be supplementing the team’s efforts by handing out 75 pink shirts of their own.
Although gathering funds and awareness for breast cancer is hugely important, there is still a match to be played and the team that’s visiting town Thursday is Purdue.
The Boilermakers are 3-8 so far this season, including one win and four losses in the Big Ten.
Despite the losing record, Purdue did defeat a Illinois team by two goals that the Knights struggled against.
Rutgers was dominant in the entire match controlling the possession and tallying many more shots, but ultimately could only muster a 0-0 draw.
The Knights will look to avoid another setback like that on Thursday, especially with the significance of the night.
“I think it’s a great thing to display awareness and support such an important cause,” said freshman midfielder Nicole Whitley. “We want to make sure we perform well to keep the night on a high.”
Whitley and her teammates seem ready to earn the victory versus Purdue, but they know it won’t be easy.
Though the Boilermakers haven’t seen a ton of success this season, they do have a few weapons that could prove dangerous come game time.
Purdue has six players who have scored and three who have two goals each.
Senior forward Hannah Leinert, who has accrued three assists as well as the two goals giving her seven points for 2016, leads the wide variety of attackers the Gold and Black have to offer.
Right behind her are junior midfielder Andrea Petrina and senior defender Mikayla Lasky, who have six and five points respectively.
The issue that the Boilermakers have encountered is the wealth is too well spread and no one has stepped up to be a star player.
This has also occurred in net for Purdue as both junior Erika Yohn and senior Jordan Ginther have seen over 450 minutes of game action.
The two keepers have both saved 28 shots, but Yohn has blocked 10 percent more of the attempts she’s faced.
While the visitors are still finding their identity, Rutgers has more defined roles on the field.
Whitley in particular has impressed many coaches and fans with her ability to make an impact in her first year on the Banks. She has shined as a playmaker, leading the Big Ten conference with nine assists.
Meanwhile, senior forward Madison Tiernan and junior forward Colby Ciarrocca have established their place as the finishers of the Knights, scoring five and four goals respectively.
Those players, as well as an excellent defensive line and a few super substitutes, have placed Rutgers in the National Soccer Coaches Association of America’s top 25.
The Knights are ranked 24th in the nation by the NSCAA, 22nd by Soccer America and TopDrawerSoccer.com, trailing only Michigan and Penn State in the competition of Big Ten conference teams.
Rutgers is currently third in the Big Ten standings and hoping to move up, which makes each conference battle that much more crucial.
“Every match in this league is tough fight,” said head coach Mike O’Neill. “You can’t overlook anyone and we’ve learned that this past month.”
Drawing Illinois and losing to Michigan in September were low points, but the month has ended and the Knights are a respectable 8-2-2 with three wins, one loss and one tie in Big Ten play.
Now in October, Rutgers is excited to show off its pink flair for a great cause and hopefully get three points in the process.
The squad is motivated to go undefeated the rest of the way and truly believes that’s a realistic possibility.
“Recently we’ve stated that our goal as a team is to go 7-0 and get 21 points in the remainder of our conference schedule,” Whitley said. “We’re going to stick to our game in each match and if we play to our potential we can’t be beat.”
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