PISCATAWAY, N.J. (August 21, 2013) – Rutgers women’s soccer has proven its synonymy with consistency. The program has reached 13-straight conference tournaments, second-most among schools competing in the American Athletic Conference in 2013. After obtaining its fifth at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament in the last eight seasons in 2012, RU returns 13 letterwinners “To the Banks” in 2013, including 84 percent of its scoring production from a year ago. With a solid mix of youth and veteran players returning to Piscataway, consistency will not be an issue for the Scarlet Knights in 2013.
With returning starters set to captain the Scarlet Knights in three of the team’s four position areas, leadership is one of RU’s staples heading into 2013. Tricia DiPaolo (Sparta, N.J.) returns for her seventh season “On the Banks” and will spearhead the youthful RU backfield as a fourth-year captain. Aiding her as captain in the backline will be Hayley Katkowski (Westford, Mass.), who last season earned a spot on the BIG EAST All-Rookie team. Katkowski was selected to the American Athletic Conference Preseason Team. Captaining the forwards will be junior Cassie Inacio (Freehold, N.J.), who has served as a starter since arriving to Piscataway in 2011.
Leadership roles will also extend to the Scarlet Knights’ seniors, as goalkeeper Jess Janosz (Ringwood, N.J.) looks to fill big shoes in net with the loss of Emmy Simpkins. RU will also look for leadership from Jonelle Filigno (Mississauga, Canada) – the team’s leading returning scorer – in her final season donning scarlet and white. Filigno was named the American Athletic Conference Preseason Offensive Player of the Year.
When it comes to experience, the Scarlet Knights’ front line has plenty to go around. A 2013 MAC Hermann Trophy candidate, Filigno leads a veteran group in her final season, as she looks to add championships to her string of individual accolades. Filigno, who was a unanimous selection to the 2013 American Athletic Conference Preseason Team, ranks in the top-10 in Rutgers history in nearly every offensive category. She is third in game-winning goals (12), fifth in goals (25), seventh in points (60) and ninth in shots (137).
The Mississauga, Canada, native led the squad with 15 goals and five assists (35 points) last season en route to a First Team All-BIG EAST selection – her second all-conference distinction – and a spot on the NSCAA All-America Second Team.
“We saw that Jonelle is a world-class finisher, and she scored some very important goals,” said head coach Glenn Crooks. “We’re prepared now for the players around her to provide a little bit more support. Rachel Cole (Teaneck, N.J.), Stef Scholz (South Hackensack, N.J.), Amanda Devolk (Frisco, Texas), Maria Gerew (Toms River, N.J.), and Cassie Inacio – those are all players that need to play at a high level consistently. It was a good spring for most of them in terms of making the move forward at this level.”
Cole looks to build off a strong rookie campaign in which she finished second on the team with eight points (three goals and two assists). Behind her are a number of seasoned fowards, as juniors Inacio and Scholz and redshirt sophomore Devolk all have the ability to change games. Scholz tied for THIRD last season with two goals, while Inacio ended 2013 tied for third with three assists. After redshirting in 2012, Kristen Siano (Hong Kong) provides RU with another scoring option heading into the year.
“We are deep at forward, yet we really only have one person that has proven to score consistently,” Crooks said. “We need to develop more scoring options to become a team that can advance deep into the American Athletic Conference Tournament and deep in to the NCAA Tournament.”
With returning starters Amy Pietrangelo (Laval, Quebec, Canada) and All-BIG EAST Rookie Team selection Katkowski set to lead the midfield again in 2013, the unit will not lose a step. Katkowski’s All-BIG EAST distinction was the 27th in Crooks’ 13-year tenure, and speaks volumes to her potential as a midfielder on the national stage. She tallied one point on one assist last season while logging a team-high 1960 minutes (89.09 minutes per match).
“We feel very good about our midfield both with returning players and incoming players,” admitted Crooks. “We’ll provide more depth in that area this year.
Pietrangelo, named the Canadian U20 Player of the Year in 2011, provides a wealth of international and collegiate experience to the midfield corps. The Quebec, Canada, native recorded five points last season on an assist and two goals, none bigger than her game-winner in RU’s NCAA Tournament opener against Colgate. Pietrangelo was limited due to injury last season, but a solid spring has the RU staff anticipating a strong return.
Adding to the midfield depth are Gabby Moreno (Severna, Md.), Erica Skroski (Galloway, N.J.) and Sam Valliant (Markham, Ontario, Canada). Moreno and Skroski started a combined 26 matches in their rookie seasons, as Skroski tallied her first career point by assisting on a Filigno goal against Dartmouth. Moreno did not record a point in her freshman season but built on her rookie experiences in the offseason, according to Crooks.
“Her level of consistency was something she needed work on and she took to the coaching very well,” Crooks said. “She had a fantastic spring and I think she’s ready to emerge as our consistent high-level player because she’s shown flashes of it.”
Valliant, a strong defender with a world of club experience with the Pickering Pythons and Hamilton FC, will see the first action of her career this season.
The RU backline has emerged as the backbone of the program in recent years, and will do its best to replace key contributors from last year’s squad.
The Scarlet Knights lost All-BIG EAST honoree Shannon Woeller to graduation and will also have to manage without Tori Leigh (Hamilton, N.J.) and newcomer, Shannon Phillips (Greenelt, Md.), who will both miss 2013 due to knee injuries
While inexperience exists, the unit’s youth will remain largely in check with the help of DiPaolo, entering her seventh year in Piscataway.
“It’s a pretty young group, but a really talented group. Tricia DiPaolo – she’s the veteran of the backline,” Crooks said. “It was somewhat of a new position for her last season – She’s normally been a midfielder up top for most of her career.
“But that’s where we thought she could help us best, and what was best for her and it really worked out well. Having someone with that much leadership in the back, it’s really important.”
Maggie Morash (Bernardsville, N.J.), Brianne Reed (Tinton Falls, N.J.) and Erica Sousa (Franklin Square, N.Y.) are expected to thrive as they enter their second seasons at the collegiate level. Reed saw action in 19 contests, while Morash started in 15 matches and logged over 1,300 minutes – the most of any returning back other than DiPaolo.
“Maggie had a very good year,” Crooks said. “She can play out wide or she can play in the middle. She had a good freshman year and had a lot of starts.”
In her final season donning Scarlet and White, Janosz will earn her shot to lead Rutgers women’s soccer between the pipes. Janosz has seen action in 12 career games, compiling a 6-3-1 record and 0.83 goals against average.
“For Jess – this is a big year for her as a fifth-year senior,” Crooks said. “The most she’s done up to this point is shared the starting job but this is her time.”
Janosz split time with Simpkins to start last season, recording 196:29 consecutive minutes of shutout soccer over a four-game span. Her best performance came against USF in one of her two games started in 2012, when she shutout the Bulls with five saves in 108:11 minutes off play.
Giving Janosz competition in net will be Alana Jimenez (Ocean, N.J.). The Ocean, N.J., native did not see action as a freshman last season, but her growth during the spring has the staff excited about her future with the Scarlet Knights. Jimenez has grown with RU assistants Mike O’Neil and Meghan Ryan over the years as a member of Rutgers and the PDA Charge.
The Scarlet Knights welcome nine newcomers to their squad in 2013. Joining RU is Jennifer Andresen (Franklin Lakes, N.J.), Nikki Hudson (Baltimore, Md.), Victoria Prager (Mount Laurel, N.J.), Jessica Puchalski (South Brunswick, N.J.), Alison Ryan (Bowie, Md.), Jenna Seddon (Galloway, N.J.), Erin Smith (Medford Lakes, N.J.) and Madison Tiernan (Voorhees, N.J.). Phillips will redshirt the 2013 season due to injury.
“This may be the most athletic class that has entered the program,” Crooks said. “In addition, it is a group that understands the game – the players come from club programs that have similar teaching methods and play a style that suits our program. And this group has personality. They are great people that come from supportive families and we cannot wait to add them into the mix of our returning players.”
Six of the nine players – Andresen, Puchalski, Seddon, Smith, Tiernan and Prager – hail from the Garden State, while the remaining three – Phillips, Hudson and Ryan – join RU from Maryland.
The class adds four midfielders to an already deep unit, creating opportunity for intense competition entering the season. Andresen, a Franklin Lakes, N.J., native, was a two-time All-America nominee and was placed in the NJSGSA State Top 20 in 2010 and 2012. Hudson, an eight-year member for the Maryland ODP, enters the NCAA ranks with a wealth of club experience.
Prager brings a winning mentality to Piscataway, as she led Lenape High School to three Group 4 State Championships.
Also at the midfield is Tiernan, ranked the No. 1 Girls Soccer Player in New Jersey coming out of high school. Tiernan was a two-time All-American (2011, 2012) at Eastern High School and an all-state selection in all four years of her high school career.
Puchalski and Ryan look to bolster RU’s goal-scoring ability at forward, as all three join the squad with leadership experience and substantial club exposure.
Smith, a four-year letterwinner at Shawnee High School, will have a shot to factor in defensively for the Scarlet Knights this season. The Medford Lakes, N.J. native was ranked No. 12 in Region 1 by TopDrawerSoccer.com.
Seddon also figures to see time as a back after making the switch from forward during the preseason.
As they do every year, the Scarlet Knights will play a tough nonconference schedule leading up to their first American Athletic Conference opponent, Cincinnati, on Sept. 27.
RU’s 18-game slate features three opponents – Virginia, UCF and Princeton – that qualified for the NCAA Tournament in 2012. The squad will also play 11 home matches in 2013, the most since matching that mark in 2009.
“It’s a really good schedule,” Crooks said. “We’ve got two very good scrimmages against West Virginia and Richmond, so I really like our preparation. Our independent games [Drexel, Army, Delaware, Fordham, William & Mary, Princeton, Virginia, Bryant, Villanova] – every one of them is a big challenge.
“That’s how we’re kicking it off, but then we go down to Virginia and that will be a particular challenge. There are no gimmes in the independent games or the conference games. It makes for a very tough schedule.”
RU opens the season at Yurcak Field against Drexel on Friday, Aug. 23. The Scarlet Knights last played the Dragons in 2011, when they opened that season by topping the Colonial Athletic Association foe, 1-0, at home.
Crooks will lead his squad to West Point, N.Y., on Sunday, Aug. 25 for 1 p.m. match against Army. It will be the first-ever meeting between the two schools. The following weekend marks RU’s first full weekend of competition “On the Banks,” as the Scarlet Knights will battle Delaware on Friday, Aug. 30 and Fordham on Sunday, Sept. 1.
The Scarlet Knights face the biggest test of their nonconference season on Friday, Sept. 6, when they square off with perennial NCAA powerhouse Virginia in the University of Virginia Tournament. The Cavaliers finished 2012 ranked No. 10 in the NSCAA Coaches Poll after besting RU in the second round of the NCAA Tournament. UVA fell, 3-2, in its Sweet Sixteen match against Duke.
Virginia was ranked No. 8 in the NSCAA Preseason Coaches’ Poll.
RU’s second match of the weekend will be against William and Mary, another historically dominant CAA opponent.
“We play Virginia, then William and Mary that Sunday, which is a very good team – a perennial NCAA Tournament team,” Crooks said. “That’s a very huge weekend for us in terms of moving closer to our conference games.”
Following its stint in Virginia, the squad returns to the friendly confines of Yurcak Field for three consecutive home matches. From there, RU will play eight of its final 12 matches at Yurcak Field, with five of those matches coming against conference opponents.
All three matches will be part of doubleheader action with the men’s soccer team, as RU’s match with Bryant at 5:30 p.m., on Friday, Sept. 13 will precede the men’s 8 p.m. meeting with Princeton. On Sunday, Sept. 15 the women’s squad faces in-state foe Princeton at 2:30 p.m., following a noon match between the men’s team and South Carolina.
The final doubleheader of 2013 will be played on Friday, Sept. 20, when long-time rival Villanova visits Yurcak Field for a 5:30 p.m. match. The men’s squad will follow by opening its American Athletic Conference schedule against SMU at 8 p.m.
Rutgers opens its conference slate on Friday, Sept. 27 at Cincinnati. RU has won the past four meetings against the two schools and holds an 8-2-1 advantage all-time.
The Scarlet Knights close out the weekend on Sunday, Sept. 29 with a trip to Louisville, before playing their next three matches – Memphis (Friday, Oct. 4), Houston (Thursday, Oct. 10) and SMU (Sunday, Oct. 13) – in Piscataway.
The squad will make a trip to the Sunshine State from Oct. 18 – Oct. 20 to play UCF and USF, respectively. UCF finished last season ranked No. 20 in the NSCAA Coaches Poll end enters the 2013 season ranked No. 21 in the preseason poll.
RU closes its regular season with a pair of home matches, taking on Connecticut on Thursday, Oct. 24 before celebrating Senior Day against Temple on Sunday, Oct. 27. UConn eliminated Rutgers in the first round of the BIG EAST Championships last season. The Scarlet Knights will play Temple for the first time in eight seasons.
The American Athletic Conference Tournament will be played from Oct. 31 – Nov. 10, as Rutgers looks to qualify for its 14th consecutive postseason tournament. Crooks guided RU to 13-straight trips to the BIG EAST Championships.
NCAA Tournament play begins on Friday, Nov. 15 and runs until the championship match on Friday, Dec. 6. RU looks to capture consecutive NCAA Tournament bids for the second time in program history and first time since snagging bids in 2008 and 2009.
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