Rutgers travels to Washington D.C. to face No. 5 Georgetown in second round of NCAA Tournament
The old proverb states "revenge is a dish best served cold," and the Rutgers women’s soccer team will have a vital opportunity to taste some sweet payback Friday when the team faces Georgetown in the second round of the NCAA tournament.
The last time the two programs met was Sept. 2, when the Scarlet Knights were the higher ranked team and the Hoyas were not even in the Top 25, according to the National Soccer Coaches Association of America.
That day, over two months ago, Georgetown (17-2-3) defeated Rutgers by a score of 2-1 in overtime and then proceeded to go unbeaten in its next 11 matches, eventually reaching the team’s current standing as NSCAA’s fifth-best squad in the country.
The Hoyas have achieved this level of success largely from their impressive offense, which scores an average of 2.57 goals per game, the fourth-highest mark in the nation.
“Georgetown is a well-coached team that is always prepared with a game plan, which they usually execute perfectly,” said associate head coach Meghan Ryan. “It’ll be a battle of two talented teams on the field, but a win would mean even more to us because they’re the only team that beat us on our home turf.”
That loss was, in fact, the Knights’ lone failure at Yurcak Field this season, as the team won seven and drew three out of the other 10 games they played at home.
Rutgers (12-4-6) has a lot of pride in being undefeated in New Jersey, so that defeat at the hands of the Hoyas was a real wake-up call for the players.
“It gives us an extra edge going into Friday,” said senior captain Madison Tiernan. “We want redemption, but at the same time we have to worry about how we play over anything they’re doing.”
That type of introspection has been the Knights’ calling card all year following a result of any kind, as the team constantly looks to the next match on the schedule as the most important.
Friday’s 1:30 p.m. showing will be extremely crucial because there is much more than redemption at stake, as the losing side’s 2016 campaign will be over.
“Whether it’s the freshmen or the seniors, no one wants this season to end,” said senior captain Tori Prager. “Our team has gotten so close, building a ton of chemistry, and having a ton of fun at practice together, and we know how to turn it one come game time to stay alive in the tournament.”
Rutgers will need to utilize its family atmosphere as well as its ability to play with passion and purpose when the outfit hits Shaw Field in Washington D.C., especially considering the high octane offense it will be facing.
Forwards Grace Damaska and Rachel Corboz have lead the Hoyas’ formidable attack with both making the All-Big East First Team.
Damaska, a senior, has scored the most goals for Georgetown, as she has tallied 14 on the year.
Corboz, meanwhile, is a junior and she has compiled the most points on the team with a remarkable total of 34. Her brother Mael was a member of the Rutgers men's soccer team in 2012 and 2013 and their sister Daphne plays professionally for Manchester City in England.
She has notched 10 goals and 14 assists, helping steer the Hoyas toward winning the Big East Championship.
With that title, Georgetown earned a two seed for the NCAA tournament, which is why the Knights are the visitors Friday.
Despite the rankings, Rutgers isn’t fazed by playing against a supposedly better opponent, especially after downing both Penn State and Northwestern in the Big Ten postseason.
“We’ve been the underdog recently in the Big Ten tournament, and that didn’t stop us from coming out on top in almost all those games, so we’re not concerned,” Prager said. “We know that if we play to our strengths, no one can stop us.”
The Knights have won 3 of their last 4 matches, outscoring their rivals 7-2 in the process.
After beating Harvard 3-0 Saturday, Rutgers is riding a wave of momentum and will look to keep it going versus Georgetown.
“From Harvard our younger players gained a lot of confidence and encouragement, which will be big on the road,” Ryan said. “Hopefully we’ll be able to use that to execute and move forward to the next round.”
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