August 25, 2019 | 77° F

New game plan prioritizes up-tempo ball movement

Photo by Shirley Yu |

Junior forward Stephanie Scholz scored four goals, a career high, in Rutgers’ 5-1 victory Sunday against Princeton. In two games last weekend, the Knights combined for nine goals, a team high this season.

After a dominating performance this weekend, the mantra for the Rutgers women’s soccer team this week has been simple: Stay focused, and keep improving.

The Scarlet Knight returned to the basics after a disappointing showing at the Nike Soccer Invitational, as they lost, 6-0, to Virginia and drew a 1-1 tie with William & Mary.

The Knights improved last weekend with victories against Bryant and Princeton, as they outscored both a combined 9-1.

Senior forward Jonelle Filigno said the team was looking for that.

“We ended the Virginia weekend on a bad note so we had to get back to the game plan, and a weekend like this past one gives us some confidence as we move forward,” she said.

The Knights wasted no time showcasing their improvements. On offense, they were able to control possession and fluidly move the ball.

Players like Filigno and freshman midfielder Madison Tiernan benefited from the Knights’ offensive game plan, as both worked in space and had opportunities to win one-on-one matchups with their defenders.

Once Filigno and Tiernan established themselves as offensive threats early Friday against Bryant, it opened things up for the rest of Rutgers’ attack.

“We enjoyed scoring like we did this past weekend, especially after a weekend in which we only scored once,” said head coach Glenn Crooks. “Our team has a lot of potential, and it was good to see what that potential can look like.”

Four players scored goals against Bryant. It was Rutgers’ season high in goals until Sunday, when junior forward Stephanie Scholz scored four goals, a career high. Tiernan recorded a fifth goal in the contest.

In both games this weekend, Rutgers succeeded in lobbing the ball over the defense to streaking attackers downfield.

While it opened the field for the Knights’ dynamic offensive weapons, the timing needed to be perfect for the style to work as intended.

“Last week we were working on having more fluid movement with the ball, and to continue that our forwards need to keep playing well on their runs,” Scholz said.

While the offense can benefit from a lob, it can also become a risk. If the players’ timing is not right, officials may call offsides.

For Rutgers, this can sometimes be a problem as it was called for four offside infractions in the first half alone against Bryant.

Once the Knights get in sync with each other the offense will benefit, considering their number of weapons.

With Villanova set to visit Friday, the team is more concerned with improving this week before turning its focus to its opponent later in the week.

“For now we just need to continue to make progress in training throughout the week,” Crooks said. “Everything we ask is to just get a little better because right now we are more concerned about ourselves as a team.”

For updates on the Rutgers women’s soccer team, follow @TargumSports on Twitter.

By Jim Mooney

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