The Rutgers women’s soccer team lost a heartbreaker on the road last night to Big Ten foe Wisconsin. It was a crucial contest heading into the regular season finale, with six teams fighting for the last five spots in the conference tournament. The good news is Rutgers still qualified, but the bad news is the loss resulted in them finishing in just 7th place for the regular season.
In terms of the game, Rutgers battled Wisconsin the entire first half, before breaking through in the 40th minute with a goal from senior Erica Murphy. It was her 3rd goal of the season and was assisted on by team points leader senior Madison Tiernan, her sixth of the year.
Rutgers was outshot in the first half, but went into halftime with the lead. Head coach Mike O’Neill spoke with BTN at the break.
The game remained the same for much of the second half, with both teams having chances to score. Rutgers held their 1-0 lead as the game entered the stretch run of regulation time.
20 minutes left in regulation at Wisconsin. #RFutbol holds onto a 1-0 lead on Murphy's goal.— RutgersWomensSoccer (@RUWSoccer) October 27, 2016
And then just like that, Wisconsin turned things around with two goals from Rose Lavelle in the 74th and 83rd minutes of the game. Despite several late attempts after both goals, Rutgers could not recover, falling to 0-3-1 all-time against the Badgers. Wisconsin outshot Rutgers 16-7 for the game.
This was only the third loss of the season for Rutgers and the first in regulation time. They finished the regular season with a record of 9-3-6 and 4-2-5 in Big Ten play. However, the loss to Wisconsin (8-4-7; 5-2-4) put dropped Rutgers from a 4th place tie with Michigan all the way down to 7th place. Once the conference results concluded at the end of the night, Rutgers is now set to take on their rival Penn State this Sunday in the Big Ten Tournament Quarterfinals.
No. 7-seeded #RFutbol travels to No. 2-seeded Penn State for the Big Ten Quarterfinals on Sunday, Oct. 30. First touch set for 1 p.m.— RutgersWomensSoccer (@RUWSoccer) October 27, 2016
Rutgers beat Penn State during the regular season last year, only to lose to them in the NCAA Tournament College Cup (Final Four) last November. Penn State beat Duke in the final to win the 2015 national championship. The two programs met this season on October 13th in Happy Valley, with the result ending in a 2-2 tie. Rutgers had taken a 2-0 lead over the then 13th ranked Nittany Lions, but the home team stormed back to force overtime. This Sunday should be another hard fought battle between the two programs.
The game is of major importance, as Rutgers is firmly on the bubble regarding their chances of qualifying for the NCAA Tournament. Only 5 Big Ten teams made the field of 64 teams last season. Rutgers is just 0-4-1 in their last five games, last winning against Purdue in overtime on October 6th. They started the week with an RPI ranking of 23, which is the 4th highest of all Big Ten teams. However, last night’s result will hurt as Wisconsin was ranked 43rd. Penn State is currently 27th so beating them on Sunday would go a long way in ensuring Rutgers advances to the NCAA’s.
The women’s team has followed up last season’s College Cup berth with a solid showing, especially considering the youth on this team and the amount of key players they’ve replaced. Hopefully, they can put it all together on Sunday against rival Penn State. No word on if the game will be televised, but we will keep everyone posted closer to kickoff Sunday. Good luck ladies!