By Rich Fisher | Correspondent
Rutgers junior Brianne Reed doesn’t need the glory and doesn’t want the headlines. She would rather stay anonymous by preventing goals than be famous for scoring them.
And that’s just fine with the nationally-ranked Scarlet Knights women’s soccer team, which allowed just six goals in its first 14 games with Reed playing as a central defender.
“Way back in the day they tried to put me up front, and tried to put me at outside back,” said Reed, a Red Bank Catholic graduate. “That required too much running for my liking. Defense is where I belonged.
“In travel they tried to put me at outside back in eighth grade, and in my freshman year they tried it (at RBC) and I’m like ‘I don’t know if I’m cut out for all this running.’ Most of the time I was always on the back line. That’s where I always like to be.”
And Rutgers is pretty much the place to be this season, as it is enjoying rarified air.
The Scarlet Knights earned the highest national ranking in program history on Oct. 14 when Soccer America had the team at No. 7.
The Knights were also No. 14 in the National Soccer Coaches Association of America rankings, which was their highest spot in that poll since being 12th in November 2009. RU also was No. 15 in TopDrawerSoccer and No. 13 in NCAA RPI.
Those rankings dropped this week after the Knights were upset by Northwestern on Sunday. They now are ranked No. 10 by Soccer America,
No. 16 by the NSCAA, No. 18 by TopDrawerSoccer and No. 17 by the RPI.
With an 11-2-1 overall record and a 7-2-1 mark in the Big Ten, RU is third in the conference behind No. 1 Penn State and No. 2 Wisconsin.
Reed has played a key role in the success. She and fellow center back Erica Skroski anchor the defense in front of standout freshman goalie Casey Murphy, helping RU to nine shutouts.
“I like knowing that the forward has to get past me and three other defenders to score,” Reed said. “It’s responsibility on your shoulders and I like that.”
Success is nothing new to Brianne, a Tinton Falls native who belongs to St. James Parish in Red Bank. As a three-year varsity starter at RBC, she helped the Caseys to two Shore Conference titles, an NJSIAA Non-Public A co-state championship and three Non-Public A championship games. She was the 2012 Jersey Sporting News Player of the Year, but had no original interest in becoming a Scarlet Knight.
“I was looking at Louisville, Monmouth and South Florida,” she said.
But when Red Bank played Immaculate Heart Academy in the state final, Reed was seen by former RU coach Glenn Crooks when he was recruiting IHA’s Stefanie Scholz. Crooks ended up with both players.
“After he came to watch Stefanie I got an email from him,” Reed said. “By November of my senior year I realized I wanted to be close to home. Out of all the schools I was looking at, this was the best mix of being close to home, academic experience (she is a public health major) and soccer.”
Reed played 19 games as a freshman, getting enough experience to move into a starter’s role last season. She barely came off the field, averaging 91.7 minutes per match (regulation is 90 minutes with stoppage time added to the end of the match) in helping Rutgers to the NCAA Tournament.
Crooks stepped down after last year and long-time assistant Mike O’Neill was elevated to head coach.
“We were confident coming into the season,” Reed said. “Right now we’re pretty much on track. The next goal is to win the Big Ten championship. That would be icing on the cake.”
If it happens, the gritty defense of Reed will have played a big part in spreading that icing.