Swaby returns as Rutgers gets set to host Monmouth
The countdown to conference play continues for the Rutgers women’s soccer team as it comes home to face Monmouth in a Jersey vs. Jersey clash this Friday night.
The Scarlet Knights (4-0-1) will look to stay undefeated against the Hawks, who are off to their best four game start since 2015, and are looking to avenge a 4-0 loss to Rutgers last year.
“Whenever you have two New Jersey based programs face each other there’s always that extra ‘umph’,” said head coach Mike O’Neill.
The match against Monmouth will also mark the first game back for junior backfielder Chantelle Swaby, who rejoined the team this week after a 10-day stint with the Jamaican national team.
Swaby participated in Jamaica’s CONCACAF Women's Championship, dominating opposing Caribbean based national teams as they won all four matches by a combined score of 23-2. Her insertion back into the lineup brings both veteran and now international experience into a defense that has already impressed in the early part of the schedule.
While Swaby was abroad, the defense only gave up 1 goal to Saint Joseph's and has put up two shutouts in the two games since.
“Her habits and understanding of the game at the collegiate level is very high, so to bring that back into the mix is very important. But, also she comes back with international experience from playing with Jamaica for the last ten days,” O’Neill said.
In those 10 days the Knights have turned to freshman backfielder Shea Holland to play Swaby’s usual role in the backfield.
Holland has filled in the spot in a big way early in her Rutgers career and has rarely been off the field during Swaby’s three-game absence. She has averaged more than 96 minutes a game of playing time in her three starts.
Holland, a Toms River native, joined the Knights as a four time all-division selection at Toms River East. She was also a part of the Players Development Academy 2016 ECNL Championship team, where she played alongside her current teammate and fellow freshman, goalkeeper Meagan McClelland.
“This is definitely a bigger challenge coming into college with a different group of girls, getting to know them and the way they play,” Holland said. “I’m just happy to be a part of it. They’re all willing to make new bonds and chemistry with us on the field, so they just made my adjustment coming in feel special.”
With a full backfield, O’Neill has not yet made a decision about how he will split time between Swaby and Holland, but insists that the depth is an asset.
“That’s a decision as we get closer to the game,” O’Neill said. “To have depth is very, very important, we know that between Chantelle and Shea we have two very talented players and two very versatile players, so we will make our decision based on where we feel we will have success against Monmouth.”
That depth will become even more of an asset when Swaby returns to Jamaica in October for the Women’s World Cup qualifying round.
Rutgers will be right in the middle of a stretch of 11 matches against Big Ten opponents when Swaby departs again, so Holland’s presence in the backline will again be emphasized later in the season, even if it takes a step back over the next few weeks.
“It’s gonna be a bummer missing all these games for Big Ten, even with school it's gonna be hard. I’m trying to figure out if I want to stick with all the same classes I am (in), because I’m gonna be missing so much," Swaby said. "But, I think it’s gonna help me get better too, so I think that taking these big steps and experiencing these things will help me when I get back here."
For the time being, Holland is prepared to embrace whatever role O’Neill and the team has for the versatile freshman.
“I want to be someone they can count on to play any position ... I just want to be a force anywhere they need me to be,” Holland said.
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