If a loss in the Big Ten title game for the second straight year is any sign, then Rutgers women's soccer is in line for quite the NCAA tournament run.
The Scarlet Knights drew Harvard in the first round of the tournament. In the same region as Virginia for the second straight year, coach Mike O'Neill and his players plan to mirror last year with a trip to the Final Four.
“I don't necessarily believe people thought we would be there,” O'Neill said. “But the team did. When you lose the players that we lose last year and you lose one of the best keepers in the country, there's always going to be some questions but we knew the type of talent and character that we had here and the type of character and talent that we were bringing in. We knew that Alana Jimenez would step up to Casey Murphy's role [as goalkeeper]. We didn't know how well she would play just because of the day to day of being inside the goal. Alana has had a tremendous year.”
Jiminez and other first-year impact players expect to make a run after the example set in last year's Final Four appearance.
“It hurt yesterday but you've got to bounce back from it and our new season starts today,” Jiminez said. “We're looking forward to make a long run in the NCAA and everything that happened before that is in the past. We're going to build off that, and try to get a win.”
The run begins Saturday at home against Harvard.
“Being in the NCAA tournament is nothing to take for granted,” said captain Tori Prager. “Getting a spot in the top 64 is such a blessing. We're excited to face Harvard, especially having a home bid. It brings more excitement. There's nothing like playing soccer in the NCAAs at home.”