No. 25 Rutgers looks to solidify postseason spot with win over Indiana
With two games left in the regular season, the Rutgers women’s soccer team looks to climb up the Big Ten standings and lock up a postseason spot as it travels to Bloomington, Indiana to take on the Hoosiers on Saturday at Bill Armstrong Stadium.
After a week on the outside looking in for the first time this season, the No. 25 Scarlet Knights (10-2-4, 4-2-3) snuck back into the Division I top-25 rankings this week after collecting four points over the weekend with a tie against No. 9 Penn State and a win over No. 19 Ohio State.
The week out of the top 25 did not go unnoticed by Rutgers.
“I think after last (road trip) we (went) into (last) weekend and realized that we have to play a lot better to keep our rankings and to keep moving forward,” said sophomore forward Carina Hendley. “So I think now we’re gonna focus on the little things so that we can keep our standings and keep moving forward in the Big Ten.”
And the Knights still have a lot to look forward to during these next two games.
Currently sitting in fifth place in the conference standings with 15 points, Rutgers still has not secured a spot in the postseason as the top eight teams go on to the playoffs. Three teams not in the top eight right now are still alive.
One of those teams chasing the Knights down the final stretch is Indiana (6-7-4, 2-4-3) and head coach Mike O’Neill is aware of that.
“It’s the same (situation) for them,” he said. “This game is important to them for postseason as well so we expect a very tough game, a challenging game and for us to be successful we need to be very good.”
Despite all the noise surrounding the team, Rutgers knows the motto all season long has been taking it one game at a time.
It’s gotten the Knights this far so this weekend should prove to be no different.
“I think we’re just going to take it one game at a time and we’re just gonna now focus on our habits and details,” Hendley said. “Making sure our possession is clean, our technical is clean and just so like we get all the little things down so we can be successful in the match.”
A big reason why Rutgers is in the position that it is right now is due to the efforts put out by the underclassmen.
Of the 28 goals scored this season, 20 have come from either a freshman or sophomore. In fact, the Knights should be in good shape for years to come as 21 of the team’s 28 roster players are underclassmen — with a lot of them logging impressive and important minutes this year.
“It’s definitely great,” said freshman midfielder Gabby Provenzano. “I feel like I have so much support whether that’s from the coaching staff or from the players. Everyone is behind me and everyone just wants the best for the team.”
Starting her collegiate career in the Big Ten has also sped up the transition for Provenzano.
“The biggest transition (from high school soccer to college soccer) is the physicality and the level of play coming into the Big Ten,” Provenzano said. “It’s such a physical conference and everyone brings a huge presence no matter who we’re playing.”
The same can be said about this weekend’s matchup against the Hoosiers.
So, Rutgers now controls its own future — win, or wait and see. The Knights would prefer to win.
“They recognize what we do these next two games will set up the postseason,” O’Neill said. “So the focus is the match, the focus is an understanding that we need to do well these next two games to have postseason and to get hopefully a good seed in postseason. That’s the motivation.”
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