The Rutgers Scarlet Knights women’s soccer team has been a major bright spot for the school since the university’s move to the Big Ten in 2014.
In his three-year tenure, head coach Mike O’Neill has been able to maintain the level of success his predecessor, Glenn Crooks, instilled early in on the program’s history. This season is shaping out to be O’Neill’s best year, with the Scarlet Knights having started the year off with a ten-game undefeated streak, going 8-0-2 before dropping to Minnesota in week 11 rematch from last year’s Big Ten championship game.
Now standing at 9-2-2 (3-2-1 in conference play) the 23rd ranked Lady Knights are on a warpath, setting their sights higher than just being the best in the Big Ten. However, to get to the top, they are going to have to get through the rest of the league, specifically No. 21 Ohio State and No. 22 Michigan.
The good news for Rutgers is they have the perfect mixture of youth and experience on their side, with a strict emphasis on youth. Coach O’Neill’s recruitment efforts have reflected very well for the Lady Knights, especially with this year’s freshman class.
Reserve forwards Nneka Moneme and Alaysia Lane have provided great depth for the Scarlet Knights- posting three goals, an assist, and seven total points in a span of 11 games.
The true shining star behind this youthful offensive push has been starting forward Amirah Ali. Coming into college as the number one ranked women’s soccer recruit in the country, Ali has shown flashes of former Rutgers great Carli Lloyd in her style of play, netting five goals and three assists for 13 points in 13 games, trailing senior forward Colby Ciarrocca for the team lead.
An influx of youth and raw talent has been a great catalyst for this team. According to the official roster, 75 percent of the team consists mainly of sophomores and freshmen, indicating a great deal of hope and prosperity for the coming years.
While this would usually bode well for a team on the rise, youth does not come without its drawbacks. In a span of 13 games, Rutgers has been flagged 23 times offside, showing a lack of patience and discipline down the pitch. What is worse is that these flagrant calls have been costing Rutgers points off the board. Against Minnesota, Rutgers had a goal that would have tied the game taken back from them late in the second half due to an offside call.
If the Lady Knights can keep discipline and formation down the pitch, waiting patiently for opportunities to open, they might have a chance to run the table.
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