Posted on October 19, 2012
By Matt Levine
Rutgers University women have shown some offensive muscle in the last two games, scoring eight goals.
It should not come as a surprise that the Scarlet Knights were led by junior forward Jonelle Filigno, whose four goals in those matches moved her within a goal of tying the school season record of 15.
U.S. National Team midfielder Carli Lloyd is among a four-way tie for the record.
For those that don’t follow Rutgers soccer, the name should still be familiar. Filigno scored the game-winning goal for Canada in its 2-0 quarterfinals win over Team Great Britain in the London Olympics.
The Mississauga, Canada native and her teammates put up a strong showing at the Summer Games, earning a bronze medal.
“My favorite moment was when I knew we medaled after the France game. We achieved something so great,” Filigno said.
“It was unbelievable, after not making it out of the group in the last World Cup. The way we progressed through those games, we were the definition of a team.”
However, for Filigno and her Canadian teammates the Olympics did come with some disappointment. The low point was after the semifinal loss to the United States. Although the encounter was one of the more entertaining women’s games in recent memory, it was still mired in controversy.
“There are days things aren’t going to go your way. I’m not commenting on the referees,” she said. “Luck plays a role and we didn’t have luck that day. It was by far one of the most intense matches I’ve played in and as terrible as losing was, we looked at the positives.
Filigno expressed her pride in the team for getting the bronze medal, but the semifinal is one that will stay with her and her teammates for a while.
“We were very upset, some are still upset. Everyone wants gold,” she said. “But we realized we still had a chance even though the bronze didn’t seem so great. We fought for the bronze and it makes it mean that much more.”
One aspect of soccer in the Olympics is the big difference between the rules in the men and women’s game. The men’s competition was an Under-23 tournament with three overage players. Filigno, one of the younger women players who competed, had her opinions on whether women should follow the same age requirements.
“The men have a larger range of players to choose from and they should give the youth players a shot,” she said. “Also I feel for the men the World Cup is much more important than the Olympics. For the women, they are just as important, equal in a sense.”
Filigno’s experience wasn’t only rewarding for her and her teammates, but it made a difference back home in Canada. She recognized the higher interest in the game and the team as well as acknowledging the “unbelievable” support.
“We made a statement. With more wins, we will get a larger fan base, especially playing well against the Americans,” she said.
With Canada hosting the 2015 Women’s World Cup, the team has a real chance at growing the game nationally. Filigno also felt the tournament on home soil raised expectations.
“We want to improve from the last tournament,” she said. “Being home there is extra drive and desire, definitely have higher expectations.”
Her experience this summer has had a big impact on her collegiate season for the Scarlet Knights. The junior forward has made strides on the field as well as preparation for the games.
“I don’t get as nervous. I’m more calm at the college level,” Filigno said.
That wasn’t always the case.
“I used to listen to crazy dance music before games, now I listen to slow music. I stay very relaxed,” she added.
Coach Glenn Crooks also saw a difference in Filigno upon her return from the Olympics.
“She came back more confident and even better at leading,” he said. “Also her strength improved. The physical preparation for international games showed when she returned. She also came back with even better heading ability.”
When asked if he had any reservations about letting his players leave for international duty, he was quick to put that notion aside.
“I don’t stand in their way. Representing your country is one of the highest honors, Crooks said. “We try to build relationships and work with the national team coaching staffs.”
Just like Filigno’s growth, Crooks felt the level of play has enhanced players’ games when they return as well adding international class to the Rutgers program.
The fact that Filigno is one goal away from tying the season goal record was no surprise to Crooks.
“She has great movement off the ball and she is very, very good at finishing,” he said. “Her reading of the game, her instincts and anticipation are fantastic. Also she’s proficient in all areas of scoring.”
Crooks is someone who knows good finishers. When asked how Filigno ranks among scorers he has coached, he rattled off an impressive list of names. Most notably was Lloyd, Rutgers’ all-time leading goal scorer and point leader.
“She [Filigno] rates with the best of them,” he said.
Although the 5-7 forward did not think about the record at the beginning of the season, it is certainly something that is on her mind now.
“After Saturday and finding out I’m so close, I definitely want to do it,” she said. “I’m not going to go out and shoot from everywhere, but there will be even more urgency for me to score.”
Even if Filigno doesn’t find the back of the net, the Scarlet Knights (11-6-1, 4-5-1) will look to continue their momentum against Seton Hall in their last regular season Big East game on Friday.
Rutgers has clinched a berth in the Big East tournament and the team’s recent play could not have come at a better time.
“We are playing our best soccer, we struggled scoring earlier in the season. Our quality of opportunities has improved and we are finishing at a greater rate,” he said. “We got angry and worked even harder after the early struggles,” Crooks added.
Filigno agreed with her coach.
“We are peaking. We have more chemistry and more confidence,” she said. “We are really coming together.”
With the form Filigno and her teammates are in of late, they will be tough for any team in the Big East tournament. They would like to keep their goal-scoring exploits going against New Jersey rival Seton Hall and finish the regular season on a high.
Categories: Canada, North America, Olympic Qualifying
Tags: 2012 London Olympics, Big East, Carli Lloyd, Glenn Crooks, Jonelle Filigno, Rutgers University