PISCATAWAY, N.J. - The Rutgers women's soccer program continues to raise the bar year in and year out. The success has progressed into this year's 6-0-1 start. A key behind the momentum has been the depth of the roster and leadership of the squad.
Junior midfielder Adora Moneme was along for the team's ride to the historic trip to the 2015 NCAA College Cup, back-to-back Big Ten Conference finals, and this season's tremendous start. Moneme reflected on the motivation the Final Four appearance has provided to this team.
"To know that we have made it to the Final Four once, just means that we can go there again," said Moneme. "It is something that we can work hard for because we know it is attainable and in our reach.
A big part of this team's journey is the high scoring offense, which ranks 10th in the country with 2.86 goals per game and eighth with 20 total goals.
On the defensive side, Rutgers is one of only two women's soccer teams in NCAA Division I that has not allowed a goal this season. The team has seven straight shutouts to start the season, including two against ranked teams.
"When you are out there you don't realize that," said Moneme. "You're just playing, trying to make that pass, score that goal. I know that we are a solid team, but the focus is to keep that mindset and keep getting goals.
"It is also part of our standard to do our best to not let up any goals. To get down to block shots and block crosses. To have no goals is something we have worked hard since preseason and the past."
Despite the program having 21 sophomores and freshmen, the youth of the squad certainly has not shown. That is due in part to the leadership of the upperclassmen, including Moneme.
"Since one of those freshmen is my sister, I just look at everyone that came in as someone to add to the team, just another sister," said Moneme. "They are each someone that I can guide and help move along. And they help me too because they are coming in with a different perspective, a different way they see the game. Gelling that together and getting to know them both as players and as family members off the field helps build that leadership. And that team spirit that we need to go hard in and win games."
While Nneka Moneme is a sister that Moneme has inside jokes with and someone that she can communicate with with just a look, the rest of the underclassmen can still look up to the guidance and leadership of Moneme. The midfielder has seen action in 33 contests as a Scarlet Knight and has started all seven this season.
Her experience on the field is crucial to the RU lineup, as it showed true in RU's double overtime draw against No. 15 Georgetown. Moneme broke through a solid Hoya defense to give RU its first shot of the game. That shot helped fuel a stronger offensive attack for the Scarlet Knights.
"I knew that they were going to be really good competition," said Moneme. "We played them last year so we knew they we going to be really good so I had to gear up and try and go for it. The Edge was definitely with me that moment, I felt it."
The Edge is the program's mantra this year.
"The Edge means a lot to us," said Moneme. "Almost every practice we have someone read what it means to them and that helps remember what we are working for and what separates us from other teams. The Edge is something that helps us go into overtime and not let up a goal and try to score."
With the leadership of Moneme and the upperclassmen and the added strength from The Edge, Rutgers is set to enter Big Ten play this weekend. Moneme knows that every game is going to be a hard game in this league. A challenge that RU is ready to take on at its home field.
Moneme is excited to be back at Yurcak Field this weekend, a place that she describes as having everything the Scarlet Knights need to succeed. Also, a place in her home state that is somewhere she is proud to play.
"Playing for New Jersey is something I have always wanted to do so it is really cool to go out there and know that I live here, was born here, breathed this air for 20 years and get to play for the state. The chance to show people what New Jersey is and that we are the best state out there," said Moneme.
Moneme, as well as the rest of the program, is off to show the world who the Scarlet Knights are, what Rutgers is and what they came to do. It all starts with the team's mantra and focus on each step at a time.
"Everytime we come out we have to remember what we are working for," said Moneme. "It's the Edge that is going to separate us to be champions. It's not going to be easy. No one is going to give anything to us, but we have to go out and show who Rutgers is and the kind of pride we have here.
"We are feeling good. We started off with a good streak, but we know that we have to work hard to keep it going. Every practice matters. Every game matters. We can build off the streak, but we can't let the streak define us. We have to keep it going to prove who we are as a team."
As Moneme and the Scarlet Knights often say "the most important game is the next one." And Rutgers' next game will be its Big Ten opener against Maryland on Sunday, Sept. 17. Kickoff is set for 3:30 p.m. ET at Yurcak Field.
FULL SOURCE: RWJ Barnabas Health | Women's Soccer: Adora Moneme: Success of Program Lies in Leadership