Another week brings another conference battle for the Rutgers women’s soccer team.
The No. 23 Scarlet Knights (9-2-1, 2-2-1) take on Indiana at home on Thursday night, which gives them another chance to pick up a Big Ten win at Yurcak Field.
With the Knights now in the midst of their Big Ten schedule, each game becomes more imperative as they look to move up the conference rankings.
“Each game is critical at this point of the season and we understand what we need to do to prepare for each one,” said head coach Mike O’Neill. “We’ve gone through our usual week of practice and feel like we are ready to play Indiana and to try to get some more points at home.”
The Knights are unbeaten at home, posting a 5-0-1 record overall at Yurcak Field.
This match marks the end of a three-game homestand, which has thus far proven to be a nice bounce back from a troublesome road trip when they fell to Illinois and Northwestern.
Even more important for the Knights: they are starting to get most of their roster healthy.
They had missed veteran leaders like senior midfielder Samantha Valliant and junior midfielder Tori Prager for the last few matches, but O’Neill expects a return to health and the ability to deploy most of the roster against Indiana.
“The team is healthy,” he said. “I think I made the right decision by letting Sam Valliant and Tori Prager stay home over our last road trip so that they could rest and recover. Sam contributed last Friday (against Michigan State) and Tori contributed on Friday and Sunday (against Michigan), so the health of the team is good and the depth is very important.”
The Hoosiers (3-5-5, 0-2-3) are still searching for their first Big Ten victory.
They are coming off a scoreless draw against fellow Big Ten foe Iowa, which means both Indiana and Rutgers enter Thursday night’s matchup after playing 110 minutes of soccer in their previous contests.
Both teams’ depth will be put to the test in the match, as they are both entering the game on a short week following overtime matches.
“The biggest thing for us against Indiana will be to finish the opportunities we get,” said senior midfielder Hayley Katkowski. “We’ve been creating a lot of chances lately, but we need to work on finishing those chances by making the final pass. If we do that, we should see more of our shots get into the net.”
When these two teams met last season at Yurcak Field, it was the first ever meeting between both sides. The Knights were able to defeat the Hoosiers, 1-0.
Casey Murphy recorded a career-high eight saves in last year’s matchup against the Hoosiers. The sophomore goalkeeper knows she will have to be ready to face their aggressive attack.
Despite the small sample size of competition between both teams, the Knights feel good about the matchup and will try to keep the game at their own pace.
“All of our games really come down to us and trying to play with our good habits,” Murphy said. “If we can keep playing our style of game, we’ll be able to get three points.”
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