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Filigno responds to leadership role with success

Female Athlete of The Year

Junior forward Jonelle Filigno’s performance this year was expected by Rutgers head women’s soccer coach Glenn Crooks.

It also was not a surprise why The Daily Targum’s Female Athlete of the Year was constantly double teamed as the season progressed.

“One of the things that happened as the season progressed was she was getting more pressure on her and she was playing so much with her back to the goal that she wasn’t getting good goal-scoring areas,” Crooks said. “We made some adjustments tactically.“

Those adjustments allowed Filigno to tie the school record with four other players for most goals in a single season with 15.

The Mississauga, Canada, native led the Big East with that total, while also topping the league in points with 35 and game-winning goals with seven.

For Filigno, the total was a result of year-long aspirations to help her team succeed.

“My [personal] goal this year was to try to set a record in some area, whether it be scoring goals or getting assists,” Filigno said. “So, in that aspect ... I think that was a big accomplishment in itself for me personally and something I was really happy about.”

It was her late-game heroics that made her stand out this season, as she was instrumental in delivering key wins.

Crooks said the two victories which propelled the Scarlet Knights into the NCAA Tournament were early-season wins against Ohio State and at Dartmouth.

Filigno led the team in both contests. She found the back of the net against the Buckeyes on August 19 in the 101st minute, which secured an overtime win.

After trailing 1-0 Sept. 9 at Dartmouth, she scored two second-half goals against the Big Green, including a strike with less than two minutes remaining for the game-winning score.

Crooks expected the opportunities, but the offense was not always intended for Filigno.

She was usually just in the right spot at the right time.

“It was never really like, ‘get the ball to Jonelle’,” Crooks said. “She certainly was the leader of the front line and they are not all in the same spots. There are three up there that are left to interchange. ... We never really necessarily geared the attack to get the ball to Jonelle, but we also understood we wanted her in front of the goal as much as possible.”

The Knights finished 13-8-1 this season and made their first appearance in the NCAA Tournament since 2009.

Rutgers delivered a win in the first round against Colgate, 1-0, but faded in its second-round matchup against Virginia, losing to the Cavaliers, 6-1.

While the loss obviously disappointed Filigno, she said there were other events from the season that cancelled out the defeat.

That included playing in her first full season in a Rutgers uniform, the first in her collegiate career as she dealt with injuries that plagued her playing time in previous years.

Besides her offensive production, playing all 22 of the Knights’ matches this season was her biggest individual success.

“I survived a full season without being injured, which I have never been able to do,” Filigno said. “So to be able to play in every single game this season has been amazing to me whether or not I scored goals.”

Filigno’s international experience also aided in her ability to stay on the field, as she was a member of the Canadian national team that captured the bronze medal in last summer’s Olympics.

She scored one goal in the games as a reserve, and her playing time with the national team was an important reason for her success this season, according to Crooks.

“But for us, she was just so sharp, fit — just her game was just at a high level,” Crooks said. “So when she came to us and we started our season, Jonelle was prepared like no one else could be because she was obviously on a tremendous international stage for the previous month and prior to that preparing for it.”

Filigno will hook back up with the national team this summer but will also take some action off to spend time with her family back home in Canada.

But, just as she has done her whole life, she will prepare for the Knights’ new season.

It is a chance for her to eclipse her already impressive totals from last year. Right now, she can just look back at the successful year she had for Rutgers.

“I can’t really think of any disappointments, that’s kind of the positive mentality I have,” Filigno said. “It was a good season.”

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