“Senior Day” is a day that most every player wishes they could avoid. It often represents a senior’s final home match in a career marked by countless minutes on the pitch and countless memories made with their soccer family.
It is often a day in which the entirety of the team rallies behind its senior group, yearning to send its leaders off with one more home win. But for the Rutgers women’s soccer team’s senior group, a different approach was taken.
“We want to play for you” they told the team before the match.
“It was unbelievable that they went out of their way to say that to us,” said freshman midfielder Tori Prager (Mount Laurel, N.J.). “It really shows what kind of character they have that they’re going to put their pride behind them and do it for us. It really just showed what team players they are and what a family Rutgers really has.”
On Sunday, Oct. 27, the families of all the Rutgers women’s soccer players made their way to the field to form a tunnel leading onto Yurcak Field, a gesture never before attempted by head coach Glenn Crooks. Underclassmen, support staff and more stood along the sidelines to cheer on the seniors on their big day, celebrating careers spanning from four years to seven.
“Part of our approach to ‘Senior Day’ and what we did the weekend prior when we were on the road was just to depict how much we are a family here with our program,” Crooks said. “It’s our whole support staff, our players, our coaching staff, everyone.”
“That was perhaps the most impactful moment on me, to have the families side-by-side with their daughters as the seniors were introduced.”
Honoring the seniors, however, extended beyond RU’s match vs. Temple on Oct. 27. The Scarlet Knights dedicated their final road weekend in the “Sunshine State” to its senior group, making sure to spend as much time as possible with their Rutgers family.
The coaching staff setup up a senior trivia game and broke the squad into teams to see who knew the seniors best, and also gave the seniors t-shirts signed by each player on the squad. Written with the signatures were notes of well wishes and appreciation, a gesture much appreciated by the veteran unit.
“In the past years it was always senior day was the day to celebrate seniors so it was nice to celebrate with just the team while we were on our last away trip,” said senior forward Maria Gerew (Toms River, N.J.).
But the seniors also made it to be clear that there was more soccer to be played.
“We thanked the girls and we told them it’s nothing to get emotional about because we have a lot of soccer left to play this season,” said redshirt senior Tricia DiPaolo (Sparta, N.J.). “We’re looking to extend the postseason as much as possible and keep playing.”
The Scarlet Knights were able to do just that, defeating Temple, 2-0, on ‘Senior Day’ to earn the No. 3 seed and right to host an American Athletic Conference Quarterfinal match against No. 6 Cincinnati.
RU will take on the Bearcats on Sunday, Nov. 3 at Yurcak Field, in what most likely will be the final home match for its senior class. It will not, however, be the final memory they make with their Rutgers family.
Four years from now members of the 2013 freshman class will trot through the Rutgers soccer tunnel, giving high-fives and smiles prior to their emotional final match.
And as they do so they will remember the senior group that brought them into the family four years prior.
“It has been such a blessing to have been a freshman with this senior class,” Prager said. “They really care about the team and care about all of us and they really just took us under their wing.”