It’s a big week for Rutgers head women’s soccer coach, Mike O’Neill. The Scarlet Knights begin their Spring schedule tonight. The six-game slate comes as the Upper 90 Fund, a program designed to increase the competitiveness and overall student-athlete experience, gets off the ground.
Despite off-season busyness, Rutgers head women’s soccer coach Mike O’Neill, made time to stay awake past midnight earlier this week to watch his star goalkeeper, Casey Murphy, represent the Under 23 squad of the United States Women’s National Team (USWNT) on the west coast.
“We’re about family here.” O’Neill said. “We enjoy her [Murphy] when she’s here and we miss her when she’s gone.”
Murphy remains on the other side of the continent this week when Rutgers opens the spring schedule against Monmouth in Westhampton, NJ on Sunday. Friday’s game v. Villanova was rained out.
Due to poor weather conditions ☔️ tonight's spring game vs. Villanova at PDA South has been cancelled. #rfutbol at Monmouth Sunday at 6 pm.— RutgersWomensSoccer (@RUWSoccer) March 31, 2017
O’Neill spoke with On The Banks just hours before making that family bigger on Thursday by signing Aolani Colon, a forward from Winter Springs, FL.
“During my visit, I noticed the girls are more than teammates,” Colon said in a press release. “They are a family.”
Colon is the 11th addition to an impressive recruiting class that spans five states. The class is headlined by the National High School Coaches Association Player of the Year, Amirah Ali.
Signing such a prominent class and such a prominent player adds momentum to a program that has plenty of it already. Last year the Scarlet Knights lost in the second round of the NCAA tournament to 5th ranked Georgetown, who went on to the final four. The NCAA tournament berth came after a Big Ten tournament run that included back-to-back wins against ranked Penn State and Northwestern, respectively.
The cultivation of the family atmosphere could help to keep home-grown star recruits like Ali in state. Last year’s high school player of the year, Hana Kerner hails from Allendale but chose to attend powerhouse, Virginia. Exporting New Jersey talent goes back over a decade, however. 2003 player of the year, Heather O’Reilly, who is from East Brunswick, chose to attend North Carolina.
This spring the Knights have a schedule that allows them to travel to different communities around the state to promote Rutgers soccer. The schedule includes two games against Philadelphia teams, Villanova on 3/31 (cancelled due to weather) and Drexel on 4/28, that take place in Westhampton. One game in West Long Beach v. Monmouth, one game in Somerset v. Columbia and a doubleheader against Princeton and Seton Hall in Princeton. Full schedule is below:
The recent signees will not be on the field this spring, which opens up opportunities for players who aim to make a good impression, O’Neill told OTB. Players that may not have gotten as much playing time last year have this opportunity to show improvement and compete for spots this fall, according to O’Neill.
“One goal of spring is player and team development,” O’Neill said. “Another is to continue to cultivate the Rutgers community. This is the state university, after all.”