All-Big East seniors prepare for Duke

Jen Anzivino couldn't even remember if she was an All-Big East soccer player last year.

For the record, the Rutgers women's soccer team's senior back was a second-team All-Big East selection in 2008.

Last week, Anzivino was named to the 2009 All-Big East first team — an honor that caught her completely off guard.

"It's a great honor and it's something I'm really proud of," Anzivino said. "But I just wasn't expecting it because I really wasn't thinking about postseason awards at all."

For Anzivino and fellow senior Erin Guthrie, who won the Big East Goalkeeper of the Year for the first time this season, playing soccer was never about awards — although there have been plenty of them.

As they head into the final stretch of their college careers this weekend, Guthrie and Anzivino aren't defining their time at RU by the awards that they won.

For the two key members of one of the best defenses in the country, being a Scarlet Knight is about more than just what happens on the field.

"When I start to look back on my years at Rutgers, the one thing I'm definitely going to miss is just the team," Anzivino said. "These girls have become like a family to all of us and it's going to be so weird not being a part of it anymore."

Just yesterday, she was named the Mid-Atlantic winner of the Academic Momentum Award given by the National Consortium for Academics and Sports. The award goes to the top students in each region of the country.

Randi Larson, the Knights' academic advisor, said that Anzvino was deserving of the award.

"[Anzivino] is a true example of how hard work and dedication can lead to success," Larson said.

Guthrie and Anzivino, both senior captains, cite that off-field dedication as the biggest reason why their team is coming off its strongest four-year stretch in program history. And both point to it as the biggest reason why they both find themselves on this year's All-Big East first team.

"[Erin] has performed at a consistently high level since her arrival at Rutgers, and this award is the culmination of years of sacrifice and dedication to her sport. Erin is one of the most respected leaders in the history of our program," said Rutgers head coach Glenn Crooks. "Jenifer is perhaps the most talented player in our program. She was the best back I saw in any match this season. She is that good."

Though their final statement at RU is far from made, the legacy that Anzivino and Guthrie will leave at the end of this season is already being felt.

"Erin's my hero and I committed here because of Erin" said redshirt freshman Emmy Simpkins, a Concord, N.C., native backing up Guthrie in goal this season. "I came here Erin's freshman year to watch her play, and right away I just thought, ‘I want to train with this girl, I want to train with the best because I want to be the best.'"

Simpkins is living proof of what Guthrie, Anzivino and the entire Knights senior class gave to the RU women's soccer program.

And she is the first to say how instrumental Guthrie has been to her development both on and off the field.

"Erin is an amazing player but she's an even better person," Simpkins said. "No words can sum up Erin; she's the center of this team. She's the jokester, but she's the serious one. And Erin has gained her respect not just from the awards and honors and national accolades that she's gotten, but from the person that she is."

Though Guthrie and Anzivino both have professional careers awaiting them after college, both realize how unique their time at RU has been. Both will have those memories in mind Friday night against Duke in the first round of the NCAA Tournament.

"I'm just going to miss this routine that I've been in. I've enjoyed it for the last four years of soccer," Guthrie said. "I'm going to miss all of the friends I have here and just the environment everyday. So that's just a little bit of extra motivation this week because I don't want to see all of this end."

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