The nine members of the class are Lauren Acosta (Brick, NJ/Brick Memorial), Nicole Aquila (Piscataway, NJ/Piscataway), Tierney Brady (Brick, NJ/Brick Memorial), Rachel Cordasco (Rockaway, NJ/Morris Knolls), Christine Culbreth (Montvale, NJ/Pascack Hills), Domenique Esposito (Rivervale, NJ/Pascack Valley), Robyn Jones (Titusville, NJ/The Pennington School), Kim Mineo (Glen Rock, NJ/Glen Rock) and Meghan Ryan (Crofton, MD/St. Mary’s).
“Not only do we have a class that features quality players, but we are certain that we have a group of quality people as well,” Crooks said. “We are fortunate that every member of this class has already been trained by a member of our staff, whether as a member of a club, Olympic Development Program (ODP) or camp team. It is a well-rounded group that fortifies us at every position, and features some of the top players in New Jersey, as well as a national pool player from Maryland. This class, along with a strong group of returning players, enhances our chances of realizing our goals of winning a BIG EAST title and advancing deep into the NCAA Tournament.”
The class features one set of high school teammates, six members of the PDA Torpedoes club team coached by RU associate head coach Mike O’Neill, and six members of the 2002 ODP Under-17 State Team coached by Crooks.
Acosta, a 5-10 goalkeeper, helped lead Brick Memorial High School to an 18-4-1 record in 2002, winning the Group IV state and South Jersey titles. Recording a total of 22 shutouts during her final two seasons, Acosta twice was an honorable mention all-state, third-team all-Shore, second-team all-county and first-team all-conference selection. A member of the Black Widow Spiders club team for two seasons, she played for Crooks on the 2002 ODP U-17 State Team. She is the daughter of Robert and Joan Acosta, and is one of two Brick Memorial High School players to sign with the Scarlet Knights (Tierney Brady).
“We saw Lauren for the first time last spring when she was making her first try-out for ODP,” Crooks said. “She has tremendous potential at this level with her great size, quickness and leadership abilities. Lauren is very much a team player, and with her athleticism, she can make saves other keepers cannot.”
Aquila, who helped lead Piscataway High School to a 14-5-1 record in 2002 and a runner-up finish in Group IV, is a two-time New Jersey Girls Soccer Coaches Association (NJGSCA) all-state selection and the 2002 Home News Tribune Central Jersey Most Valuable Player. As a senior, she was a member of the Middlesex County All-Star Team, the All-Group IV First Team, the All-Conference First Team and the All-County First Team, collecting 20 goals and 20 assists. The Piscataway High School career assists (62) leader, she plays club ball for O’Neill with the PDA Torpedoes. A three-year participant in ODP, Aquila is a USSF “F” licensed coach, serving as an assistant with the Jersey Knights U-14 girls team. She also is a member of the National Honor Society, and is the daughter of Frank and Lynda Aquila.
“Nicole lives in Piscataway, so she has seen numerous Rutgers matches over the years,” Crooks said. “I’m thrilled for her that she is going to have an opportunity with us. She is a versatile performer who could play in the back, midfield, or up front. Hard-working, determined and dedicated are the words that come to mind when I think of Nicole.”
Brady, a 5-6 midfielder, helped lead Brick Memorial High School to an 18-4-1 record in 2002, winning the Group IV state and South Jersey titles. A two-time first-team all-Group IV selection, she was named to the 2002 Star Ledger All-Group Second Team. Also a four-time first-team all-conference and two-time first-team all-county and all-Shore pick, she earned her high school’s Outstanding Athletic and Academic Achievement Award as well as its Senior Excellence Award. A six-year member of ODP, she was a National Pool player in 2000 and a three-year ODP Region I Team member. Also a member of the National Honor Society, she plays for O’Neill with the PDA Torpedoes club team as well as for Crooks with the ODP U-17 State Team in 2002. One of two Brick Memorial High School players to sign with the Scarlet Knights (Lauren Acosta), she is the daughter of Mark and Patty Brady.
“Tierney is one of the best midfielders in the region, and she will add composure to our attack and a blue-collar mentality to our defense,” Crooks said. “When the ball is at Tierney’s feet, good things usually happen. She can score goals or set others up with equal proficiency.”
Cordasco, a 5-4 forward, missed the majority of her senior season at Morris Knolls High School due to injury, but was named to the all-county and all-state first teams following a junior season which saw her collect 21 goals and 14 assists. An 11-year member of the PDA Torpedoes club team, she won seven state championships, two regional championships and the 2002 Jefferson Cup. In addition to playing for O’Neill on PDA, Cordasco also plays for Crooks as a member of the 2002 ODP U-17 State Team. She is the daughter of John and Linda Cordasco.
“Rachel is a natural leader with a positive personality and a cannon of a shot with either the left or right,” Crooks said. “One of the smartest soccer players in this class, Rachel is a real student of the game and a great role model for her teammates on and off the field.”
Culbreth, a 5-6 back, was a three-time all-league and two-time all-county selection at Pascack Valley High School. A member of the PDA Torpedoes coached by O’Neill, she won seven state and two regional championships, earning MVP honors at one of the state tournaments. Also a participant in ODP, she was a member of the 1999 and 2002 State Teams as well as the 2001 State Pool. She is the daughter of Michael and Martha Culbreth.
“Christine has had some health issues, but when she is healthy, she is one of the smoothest players I’ve ever seen,” Crooks said. “We often talk about ‘controlling the game,’ and that’s Chrissie Culbreth. She has tremendous vision, superior technical skills and a keen awareness of the game around her.”
Esposito, a 5-6 midfielder/forward, was a second-team all-state selection and a first-team pick to the all-North, all-Suburban, all-county and all-league teams as a senior at Pascack Valley High School. Prior to missing her junior season due to injury, Esposito was an honorable mention all-state pick as a sophomore. A six-year member of the PDA Torpedoes, coached by O’Neill, she has won five state titles and two regional championships. She also plays for Crooks as a member of the 2002 ODP U-17 State Team, as well as being a regional (U-14, U-15 and U-17) and national (U-14) pool player. She is the daughter of Sonny and Dawne Esposito.
“No one works harder to stay fit and fine-tune her game than Domenique,” Crooks said. “She is driven to be the best and will have an opportunity to impact our program either in the midfield or up front. Exceptional in the air, I’ve seen her score a number of sensational goals with her head.”
Jones, a 5-5 goalkeeper, was the 2002 Trentonian Prep Player of the Year and was rated the number-two keeper in the state by the Star Ledger in its preseason rankings. A two-time NJGSCA all-state selection, she also was named to the Star Ledger All-Prep First Team four times, the Trenton Times All-Area and All-Prep First Teams three times, and the Trentonian All-Prep First Team four times. During the 2002 season, Jones posted a 0.40 goals-against average with 14 shutouts, leading The Pennington School to a 17-1-2 record, a runner-up finish in the NJSIAA Prep A State Tournament, a national ranking as high as 11th and a regional ranking as high as fourth. During her career, she had a 0.67 GAA and established the school record with 50 shutouts while also leading Pennington to the three Prep B state titles in softball and one state championship in basketball. A three-year ODP State Team member, including the 2002 team coached by Crooks, she also has played for four years for O’Neill’s PDA Torpedoes club team, winning four state titles and two regional championships. An honors student, she is the daughter of Michael and Phyllis Jones.
“The two things that come to mind with Robyn are great hands and great feet, two qualities critical to the success of any keeper at this level,” Crooks said. “She also is capable of making the ‘big-time’ save whether low or high, and her distribution skills are very good. Along with Acosta and our returning keeper, Nora Crawford, I feel very secure with our keepers.”
Mineo, a 5-4 forward, had 33 goals and 21 assists as a senior at Glen Rock High School. The 2002 Record North Jersey Co-Player of the Year, she was named to the Record’s All-State First Team and the Star Ledger’s All-State Second Team, as well as earning all-state recognition from the NJGSCA, while leading Glen Rock to a 23-2-1 record and the Group I state co-championship. A two-time North I “Top 20” honoree, she has played for four years with the Americans Soccer Club, and also plays for Crooks as a member of the 2002 ODP U-17 State Team. A member of the National Honor Society and the defending state champion in the 800 meters, she is the daughter of Ronald and Paula Mineo.
“Literally one of the fastest athletes in the state, Kim chose soccer over track, and we’re happy about that,” Crooks said. “Not only can she get behind defenders, but she also can finish her opportunities. Her work rate, both in training and matches, is unmatched. I expect her to blossom in our program.”
Ryan missed her senior season at St. Mary’s High School due to injury. As a junior, she led her team to a 21-1-1 record and a national ranking of fifth, contributing 10 assists and a goal while picking up all-state, all-metro, all-county and all-conference honors. A member of the Bethesda Dragons club team, she also was an ODP National Pool player and member of the ODP Regional Team in 2002, serving as Maryland’s ODP State Team captain from 1999-2002. She is the daughter of John and Adrienne Ryan.
“Meghan will have the opportunity to immediately impact our program,” Crooks said. “I have always admired her play as a center back, especially her leadership and organizational skills. She attended my camp last summer, so we had a chance to get to know her as a person. We all agree that we’re very happy that she’s coming to Rutgers.”
Rutgers finished the 2002 season with a 10-8-2 overall record and 4-1-1 mark in the BIG EAST’s Mid-Atlantic Division, advancing to the semifinals of the BIG EAST Tournament.