The accolades continue to roll in for Rutgers women’s soccer goalkeeper, Casey Murphy, who was named the Big Ten’s Co-Defensive Player of the Week for her four save effort in a shutout win over Maryland this past Sunday. Wisconsin’s goalkeeper, Caitlyn Clem, shared the honor with Murphy after she shutout Minnesota in a 1-0 overtime victory. It was the eighth consecutive clean sheet for Murphy this season and it’s the third time this fall that she has received weekly honors from the Big Ten. She also received conference honors last week, in addition to being named the United Soccer Coaches National Player of the Week after a season high six save effort in a scoreless draw against #15 Georgetown. The MAC Hermann Trophy candidate has received nine conference weekly honors in her career and is currently second all-time in program history with 34 shutouts so far.
Rutgers is the last remaining Division I program, including both men’s and women’s soccer, to have not allowed a goal all season.
In addition, the first RPI rankings of the season were released this week and Rutgers (7-0-1; 1-0-0) is listed at 7th in the country, the only Big Ten school ranked in the top ten. Wisconsin (7-1-0; 1-0-0) is ranked 12th, Purdue (7-2-0; 2-0-0) is 22nd, and Penn State (6-2-0; 2-0-0) is listed at 25th. RPI is a “quantity used to rank sports teams based upon a team's wins and losses and its strength of schedule.” The RPI rankings are commonly used in determining seeding and placement in the NCAA Tournament for multiple sports.
The good news is that Rutgers has a very high standing in the rankings that are the most important. The frustrating part is that Rutgers is not getting its proper due in the national polls. The Scarlet Knights moved up one spot this week and are now ranked 12th in the latest United Soccer Coaches Poll released on Tuesday, their highest of the season, after starting at 21st in the preseason poll. However, Penn State is ranked 7th and Wisconsin is 9th, which is reverse order from the RPI rankings between the three schools.
The Nittany Lions have won 18 of the last 19 Big Ten titles and won the 2015 national championship, so they are a powerhouse brand in women’s college soccer. While Penn State will be a major challenge for Rutgers to overcome in their quest for a first ever Big Ten title this season, they are just 1-2 against ranked opponents in 2017, making their ranking in the coaches’ poll a bit disconcerting. Rutgers is 1-0-1, while Wisconsin is 1-1 against ranked opponents and has the best win of any the three teams, as they beat then #3 Virginia 1-0, a team Penn State lost to 3-2. Regardless, don’t expect this team to be concerned with rankings, as they’ve made it clear their only goal this season is championships.
While Rutgers hasn’t played a top ten ranked team yet, now that the conference season is just getting underway, they will have their chance against both schools. Rutgers is set to host Wisconsin on October 1st and Penn State on October 12th. Both games will be played at Yurcak Field, where Rutgers has a 37-2-4 record under head coach Mike O’Neill, who took over the program in 2014 after a decade as associate head coach on the banks.
Rutgers is back in action this weekend, as they travel to play Northwestern (4-4-1; 1-1-0) on Friday and Illinois (3-7-0; 0-2-0) on Sunday.