DePaul Faces Roadblocks at Seton Hall, No. 10 Rutgers
CHICAGO - DePaul was handed a daunting challenge at the beginning of the women's soccer season.
The Blue Demons had to survive on the road or risk falling into the rut of the last four seasons when the team went a combined 17-49-7.
Eleven of the first 16 games this season would be played in hostile territory, including the current stretch of four consecutive BIG EAST road matches.
After falling 2-1 in overtime at Pittsburgh followed by a 2-0 loss at West Virginia last weekend, DePaul (7-5-2, 2-3-0 in the BIG EAST) plays its final regular-season road games Friday at Seton Hall and Sunday at No. 10 Rutgers.
The Blue Demons finish up with four-straight games at Wish Field.
"You win on the road by being mentally prepared, staying focused and not letting the environment affect your play," said DePaul defender Dominique Locascio.
"Try to be consistent with the same routines you do for home games---eat the same kinds of food, listen to the same music."
DePaul is 3-5-1 away from Lincoln Park, having beaten Loyola 4-0, Louisville 2-1 and then-No. 11 Missouri 1-0. The Tigers' victory was DePaul's first over a nationally ranked team.
"In the Missouri game, everyone was on the exact same page," Locascio said. "And, we were focused for the entire 90 minutes.
"We've had that kind of focus at times in other games, but Missouri was by far the best focus we've had all season."
Such intense concentration could lead to a victory or two on the New Jersey swing.
Up first is Seton Hall (4-7-1, 0-4-1) which is 1-6-1 in its last eight games, including two overtime losses.
The Pirates have been outscored 21-14, outpointed 69-38 and outshot 152-125. Opponents have piled up a 61-33 advantage in corner kicks.
Nicki Gross leads Seton Hall with 11 points (four goals, three assists) while Danielle Schulmann has seven points (three goals, one assist).
Rutgers (9-1-3, 3-0-2) is riding a seven-game unbeaten streak that includes a 2-1 overtime win against Seton Hall.
The Scarlet Knights have outscored their opponents by a whopping 23-6 and outpointed them 61-17. They have also outshot the opposition 184-102 and have 91 shots on goal to 41 for their opponents.
Their aggressive play has resulted in a 62-31 margin in corner kicks, and they have forced opposing goalkeepers to make 67 saves.
Ashley Jones is Rutgers' top scoring threat with eight goals and three assists for 19 points. She also has four game-winning goals. Karla Schacher has four goals while two of Stefanee Pace's three goals have been game-winners.
If the Blue Demons come home with a split for the weekend, the four road wins will equal their total for 2007 and 2008.
"It's critical for our team to adapt to field conditions on the road---whether it's bigger than our field and whether the surface plays slower or faster than Wish Field," said DePaul coach Erin Chastain.
"West Virginia is the biggest field we've played on, and our players were able to do some nice things. This team is more athletic than in the past and is able to use the space that a big field offers."
DePaul and nine other teams had stretches of four BIG EAST road games in a row. Louisville and Cincinnati had five straight while Georgetown and Villanova had three and Rutgers and Seton Hall never had more than two in a row.
"I'm glad we're going through this right now, and that we have those four straight home games to finish up the regular season," Chastain said.
"Everybody in our (National Division) is fighting for points. Other than Notre Dame (8-3-1, 4-0-1) and Rutgers, every other team is so close in points.
"It could be anybody's bid to the BIG EAST tournament."