Saturday, 7:00 PM – West Virginia vs Rutgers
Call it Canada v. Canada. With Rutgers’ Jonelle Filigno likely to be back for this one after missing much of the last weekend through injury, she’ll likely be facing a fellow international in West Virginia’s center-back, Kadeisha Buchanan. The Mountaineers’ new star wasted no time in showing what all the fuss was about coming into the season by winning Defensive Player of the Year honors in the Big XII as a rookie. Interestingly enough though, the Mountaineers actually gave up the second most goals in league play, including multiple goals to Baylor, TCU, Texas Tech. Of course, at the same time, West Virginia did keep three clean sheets en route to the Big XII Tournament title last week. Another rookie, Carly Black has also been impressive, though the youth of the defense has been evident in shipping four goals to North Carolina and Kentucky earlier in the year. It’s a good thing then that the steady hands of Sara Keane are in between the pipes for the Mountaineers. Then again, WVU may just have to go out and outscore their opponents. They certainly have the capacity to do just that, with the trio of Frances Silva, Kate Schwindel, and Ashley Lawrence more than capable. Silva has effectively made the leap this year, netting fifteen goals and thirteen assists in a banner campaign. The senior’s proven to be lethal in both the run of play and from dead balls, with her free kicks having sunk the hopes of many. Schwindel’s scored eleven herself, giving WVU one of the nation’s best one-two punches in attack. Now it’s just a matter of proving they can do it against top competition. WVU doesn’t have that huge win they can tout, having come up short against the likes of Penn State and North Carolina earlier this year. You can’t doubt the sheer amount of talent WVU’s accrued, and the Mountaineers probably got the most forgiving quadrant of the bracket when all is said and done. At the same time, the club’s been injury hit in midfield, and that could spell doom in the second round against Virginia Tech. If they get past the Hokies though, the Mountaineers have a pretty good shot of crashing the party in Cary.
Rutgers fell short in the AAC Tournament, but the technical draw against UCF was good enough to push them over the top and into the NCAA Tournament. It was an impressive achievement considering the Scarlet Knights were without scoring talisman Jonelle Filigno through injury for almost all of the final two rounds of the tournament. Purportedly back and able to play this weekend, Rutgers’ fate likely depends on Filigno, their one player capable of truly turning a game on its head. Filigno’s career at Rutgers has been star crossed, and you’d hardly accuse her of making a great statement as a senior with just five goals that haven’t come from the spot, but she also has five game winners and has been an important presence up front to draw attention away from the club’s other attackers. And Rutgers does have other sources of goals, with Stefanie Scholz having netted ten despite starting just eleven games, while Madison Tiernan also has six goals. You have to note that the Scarlet Knights didn’t actually score last weekend though, underlining some of the problems the club has when Filigno’s out or not in form. The defense is erratic but capable of good displays, having kept clean sheets in three of their last four. They’ve also shipped six to Virginia and four to Louisville though, exposing a vulnerability to top offenses. They also had conceded two in three straight in mid-October, so it’s not like Rutgers has a standout unit in defense. Veteran Tricia DiPaolo and AAC Tournament Defensive MOP Jessica Janosz both saved some of their best on defense and in goal respectively for the AAC Tournament though, and head coach Glenn Crooks will be hoping that continues here. Filigno or no, this group isn’t going to be winning too many offensive slugfests. It’s tempting to think the Canadian will want to go out with a bang, but on paper, you’d have to say West Virginia just has too many weapons for the Scarlet Knights to deal with.
Prediction: West Virginia 2 – 1 Rutgers
Rutgers Tournament Prediction: First Round
West Virginia Tournament Prediction: Second Round