PISCATAWAY, NJ – Four student-athletes have signed national letters of intent to join the Rutgers women’s soccer team for the fall of 2004, fourth-year head coach Glenn Crooks has announced.
Making commitments to the Scarlet Knights are Amanda Allessio (Langhorne, PA), Ashley Lunemann (Hillsborough, NJ), Leia Rispoli (Kendall Park, NJ) and Brittney Smith (Howell, NJ).
“This is a group that combines athleticism with savvy, and increases our depth in the back, midfield and up top,” Crooks said. “They are players with a passion for the game, and I have witnessed how much they all strive to be winners. They will all have an opportunity to contribute immediately to our success on the field, and they are a group that has its priorities in order in terms of academic success as well.”
Allessio, a 5-6 midfielder/forward, has been a two-year member of the Olympic Development Program (ODP) Region Team (2002-2003) and a four-year member of the ODP State Team (2000-2003). About to begin her senior season at Council Rock High School South, she was an all-league and Bucks County Courier Times all-first team selection as a junior, collecting 19 goals and eight assists to help lead her team to the league championship. Named the 2003 Team MVP, she had 38 points (15 G, 8 A) as a sophomore and 40 points (16 G, 8 A) as a freshman at Council Rock High School, earning second-team all-league honors in 2001 and 2002 and earning Philadelphia Inquirer Rookie-of-the-Year honors in 2001. As a freshman, her team was ranked first nationally and won the state title (24-0), and as a sophomore her squad went 21-1-2 to win the league and district championships, as well as a share of the state crown. An Honor Roll student, she played club ball with the Pennsylvania Strikers, winning five state titles, finishing as a Region I finalist in 2003, and winning the 2000 WAGS Tournament.
“The more I see Amanda play, the more I like her,” Crooks stated. “She has the ability to control a game in the midfield or provide dangerous scoring opportunities up front. She is a high-level player who has a great feel for the game and works extremely hard on both sides of the ball. I love the way she finds the seams, and technically Amanda can serve a ball right or left with any surface of the foot. She is a gifted player.”
Lunemann, a 5-3 defender, has been a five-year participant in the ODP, winning the Region I championship in 2003 while playing for Crooks. As a senior at Hillsborough High School, she contributed 11 points (4 G, 3 A) and earned third-team all-state honors. A two-time first-team all-area and all-county selection (2002-2003), she was named to the 2003 All-State Group IV First Team and earned third-team honors as a junior. A member of the PDA Stampede club team coached by Crooks, she helped lead her team to the 2002 State Cup title and a runner-up finish in the 2003 Region I Premiere League.
“I remember the first time I saw Ashley play, and how impressed I was with her athleticism and determination,” Crooks said. “What I didn’t know at the time was that I would soon be coaching her on the club and ODP level. Ashley is the most versatile player in our recruiting class. She has played every position in the back and midfield, and has performed well in each area. She loves to attack out of the back, and more often than not, creates strong opportunities. She has worked hard on the little things, and earned her first selection to the Region I ODP Team last year.”
Rispoli, a 5-6 midfielder, also played for Crooks as part of the Region I champion ODP team that will compete for the national championship this March. She missed her senior season at South Brunswick due to an injury, but earned all-state, all-area and all-county honors as a junior in 2002, tallying 21 points (9 G, 3 A). A member of the National Honor Society, Rispoli played for Crooks on the PDA Stampede club team, winning the 2002 State Cup and finishing as the runner-up in 2001 and as a semifinalist in 2003. She also was three-year member of the ODP State Team (1999, 2002-2003).
“Leia defines the term ‘soccer junkie’,” stated Crooks. “I’ve had the good fortune to work with Leia on the club and ODP levels, and her commitment to training and to her team cannot be surpassed. She has made great strides with her game, which is all due to her hard work, and it all paid off when she was named to her first ODP Region I team two summers ago. Leia in one of the best technical players I have coached, and will be a tremendous midfielder for our program.”
Smith, a 5-10 defender, was an all-state selection after registering 22 points (4 G, 14 A) as a senior at Red Bank Catholic High School. Named the Monmouth County Defender of the Year, she had the assist on the game-winning goal in the 2002 and 2003 Parochial A South state championship games, and earned a spot on last fall’s Asbury Park Press All-Shore Second Team and All-Division Team, as well as the Jersey Sports News All-County Team. Smith helped lead Red Bank Catholic to two Parochial A state championships (2002-2003) during her career and two top-10 state rankings according to the Star Ledger, and was named one of the top 10 defenders by that paper as a junior. She played for the Match Fit Academy FC last year, and previously played club ball with Sonic Kixx.
“Brittney is fun to watch,” Crooks said. “She is a wide back who loves to carry the ball into the attack. She takes long, graceful strides and roars forward when she has the chance. But, she can also pull back and keep the ball if things start to jam up. Brittney excels at serving the ball, so when she gets into the attack, she has the ability to hit very dangerous long, diagonal crosses. She takes a majority of the set pieces for her high school and club teams. Her club coaches have played her up front, where she has also been very effective.”
The Rutgers women’s soccer team (10-7-5, 3-2-1 BIG EAST) advanced to the second round of the 2003 NCAA Tournament and the quarterfinals of the BIG EAST Tournament.