By Wayne Witkowski
Erica Murphy of Millstone is ready for a new challenge as she prepares for the Rutgers University women’s soccer team’s season in the Big 10.
The former star at The Pennington School transferred this season from Monmouth University, where she led the Hawks to their third straight Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference (MAAC) regular-season championship as a first team All-MAAC player. Murphy, a forward, led Monmouth with 16 goals — the most by any Monmouth player since the 1998 season — and had three assists for 35 points — the most at the school since 2006. Last year’s team lost, 2-1, to Siena College in the MAAC semifinals to end its season at 13-3-2.
Murphy said knowing Rutgers head coach Mike O’Neill and associate coach Meg Ryan for many years as well as playing on the same field with many Rutgers players while they were on club teams figured into her decision.
“It’s a half hour from home. It’s a bigger school and coming into the Big 10 is really interesting,” Murphy said of her decision to transfer. “It’s a great honor and a privilege coming from a mid-major [like Monmouth] to this. I see great things, but definitely it’s a big challenge.
“We’re all just trying to get accustomed to each other; that’s the biggest thing.”
This week, Rutgers is ranked No. 10 while it prepares for its Aug. 19 opener at Rider University.
“It’s going well, ” Murphy said. “There are some ups and downs and finding ways with players who have been here for a while.”
O’Neill sees Murphy finding her spot.
“She has been adjusting very well. She has a solid foundation of technical and tactical ability,” O’Neill said. “Our job is to build off this foundation and help bring her game to another level. We are asking a lot of her on both sides of the ball, and she is responding very well.”
Murphy said it’s a matter of adjusting to a faster tempo.
“When you come to a bigger program, you have to read the play faster and to defend at times as a forward,” Murphy said. “It’s understanding what goes into playing other positions.”
O’Neill said Murphy will continue in her role of playing up top and finishing threats much as she did at Monmouth, where she scored 26 goals in three seasons, including nine game-winners, and at Pennington, which went 61-5 during her four years there. Murphy was a four-year member of the New Jersey Olympic Development Program team and won an ODP national championship.
“She will need to be dangerous both on and off the ball and get into position to create for herself and for others,” O’Neill said.
“As a senior, my role is kept the same: to score as many goals and have as many opportunities as I can,” Murphy said. “That’s what they’re expecting out of me.”
Defense keynoted last year’s Rutgers team that went 19-4-3 and ended its season in a 2-0 loss to Penn State University in the NCAA Tournament College Cup semifinals.
Casey Murphy, a junior goalkeeper this season, was named to he National Soccer Coaches Association of America’s Second Team All-American. Also named to the All-American second team was teammate Erica Skorski, who completed her eligibility last season.
The Big 10 Goalkeeper of the Year last fall, Casey Murphy allowed 10 goals in 26 games, and her 19 shutouts were a single-season record, while her 0.37 goals-against average is second in Rutgers single-season history.
But Erica Murphy will look to ease some of the pressure on Casey Murphy with some timely scoring.
“Preseason so far has gone very well. We are trying to build a team but before you can build a team you need to build relationships,” O’Neill said coming into this final week of preseason. “We like our team.”