Rutgers hopes to get back on track at Yurcak against Cornell

<p>Freshman Brittany LaPlant has contributed two goals in the first five games of the season, including the equalizer in a 1-1 draw with Providence.</p>

Freshman Brittany LaPlant has contributed two goals in the first five games of the season, including the equalizer in a 1-1 draw with Providence.

The Rutgers women’s soccer team lost its first game at home since 2014 last week but it isn't letting it affect it as it looks to rebound in a big way against a formidable Ivy League foe this weekend.

The No. 23 Scarlet Knights welcome Cornell (2-1) to Yurack Field this Friday night at 7 p.m. 

“Cornell is well organized and well coached,” said head coach Mike O’Neill. “It should be a really good match.”

Rutgers has three wins, a draw and a loss, including both a signature victory versus then-No. 10 UConn and a defeat on its own turf to Georgetown.

The freshmen appear to be fitting right in as many of them have had an immediate impact.

First-year forward Brittany LaPlant scored two goals including a vital left footed finish that would end up being the equalizer that earned Rutgers a tie with Providence.

Classmate Amanda Visco also proved extremely important as the only player to not come off the field so far throughout the season.

Visco notched the game-winning goal against Saint Joseph’s, leading the Knights to a narrow 1-0 triumph.

Nicole Whitley, another rookie, assisted on Visco’s clutch second-half goal. She has recorded two other assists and a goal of her own in her debut season.

Whitley provided some much needed offensive firepower for Rutgers, helping to fill in for last year’s senior class.

In just a few weeks of competing together, Whitley and the other freshman have not only brought a  spark to the team, but they also understand the magnitude of formulating bonds with their teammates.

“Building relationships is key,” Whitley said. “We have high expectations to win championships and in those tough moments, we will be in sync if we are close as unit.”

The Knights will have an excellent opportunity to display their blooming peer connections this Friday night in front of a home crowd.

Normally opponents find it difficult to succeed in front of the Scarlet faithful, but if there’s a bunch to rise to the challenge, it would be Cornell.

The Big Red are 2-0 on the road, albeit against admittedly weaker opponents.

The Ivy Leaguers pulled out back-to-back 1-0 triumphs versus Siena and Loyola University.

They then lost a nail biter to Syracuse by a score of 2-1 in extra time.

But Rutgers has had its share of struggles in overtime as well, failing to knock one into the net in three opportunities.

The Knights drew Providence after two extra periods and suffered defeat to Georgetown just a mere 25 seconds into overtime in their most recent match.

Despite this, Rutgers is feeling confident, especially with senior captain Madison Tiernan leading the way.

Tiernan, a midfielder and forward, is first on the team with three goals and seven points.

She is also only 10 points away from tying for 10th on the Rutgers women’s soccer all-time list.

Tiernan is focused on making sure the team doesn’t dwell on previous games and concentrates on moving forward.

“We’ve got to put it behind us,” Tiernan said. “As a ranked team there’s a target on our backs, but if we stick together as a team we will succeed.”

O’Neill reiterated the sentiment of one his team’s captains, explaining that it’s imperative to take the season one game at a time.

“We always say the next game is the most important,” O’Neill said. “Our players are aware of our prior success at home so there is some extra initiative to win this one.”

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

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