Rutgers women’s soccer became the pride of New Jersey during Carli Lloyd’s explosive summer in the World Cup. The Scarlet Knights fueled the flames last week with a win over No. 1 Virginia and plan to take it to the next level in the College Cup.
For New Jersey native Cassie Inacio, it is a special season and her last days with the program.
Inacio is a fifth-year senior and team captain for Rutgers with strong post-season performances in her final season.
Inacio converted her penalty kick in the 7-6 shootout win over Virginia and scored one of the four goals in the Sweet 16 to defeat Connecticut.
Her last ride, Inacio is fully aware of what this run means for Rutgers athletics.
“We talk all the time about leaving the program in a better place than when you started it," Inacio said. "I think that this group, especially the seniors, have brought this team to where it is now. It's such a special thing to be a part of, especially for me because I've been here for five years. I've seen the program grow a little bit. The amount of support that we've gotten from Rutgers athletics and people in New Jersey in general has been truly amazing.
"I would never have imagined the amount of support that we've gotten. We can't go anywhere without someone coming up to us and saying congratulations. We're rooting for you. We watched the game. It really is an amazing thing."
On a roster that is 77 percent New Jersey high school players, Inacio said the pride is strong in representing the Garden State on a national stage.
“You want to keep the best players in New Jersey and you want them to play for New Jersey,” said Inacio, who attended Englishtown (N.J.) Manalapan High. “I think I’ve gotten so much support from my high school and my friends from home and all of that. When I came here, I wanted my family, I wanted my friends to be able to see me play. To be able to share all of this with my family, especially just from a selfish standpoint for my family to come here and watch this team do so well, it’s truly something special. They’re memories that I’m always going to have.”
The greatest memory, perhaps, is yet to come as the Scarlet Knights face Penn State Friday at 5 p.m. from Cary, N.C. The Big Ten rivals each won games at home this season and the rubber match at a neutral site raises the stakes.
Rutgers lost 2-0 to Penn State in the Big Ten title game from State College, Pa. Inacio expects this time to be different.
“We’re definitely ready,” she said. “We know they’re a good team We’ve played them three times before and we’ve gone at it every single time, it’s been a tough match. But we’re ready. This team is focused and we believe in ourselves. The only thing we’re worried about is how we’re playing. We’re not worried about any other distractions or any other outside influences. It’s just how we play on Friday. That’s all that matters.”