The Rutgers women’s soccer team won its first round game in the NCAA Tournament for the fourth straight season and fifth time in six years Saturday night with a 3-1 victory over LaSalle. The Rutgers defense held the visitors to just five shots in the game and goalkeeper Casey Murphy registered two saves, while the offense came alive to ensure the victory.
After dominating the action in the first half, outshooting the Explorers 9-0, the Scarlet Knights were unable to find the back of the net. That all changed in the second half, as Big Ten Freshman of the Year, Amirah Ali, took a pass in the box from senior captain Colby Ciarrocca, and scored by ripping the ball into the far post of the goal in the 52nd minute of the game. Just four minutes later, Ciarrocca again set up another goal, as she found freshman midfielder Alexa Ferreira at the top of the box, whose shot gave Rutgers a commanding 2-0 lead.
LaSalle (17-4-2), the Atlantic 10 champions, continued to battle and answered with a goal in the 65th minute by Madison Bower, who led her conference in scoring and total points this season. Rutgers would not falter and put the game away for good as sophomore forward Brittany LaPlant took a pass from Ali and snuck by the LaSalle defense to find the back of the net in the 80th minute.
"It was really good to get those points on the board and have a lot of different people contributing goals tonight," said Ciarroccca. "It adds a lot of confidence moving to the next round. "It's very exciting to advance. We take a lot of pride in it, especially getting a win on Yurcak Field and for the seniors since it was our last time stepping on this field. "
#22 Rutgers (13-2-5) is now 8-0-2 all-time at Yurcak Field in NCAA Tournament action and 12-9-5 all-time. The Scarlet Knights offense came alive behind their two best forwards, Colby Ciarrocca (2 assists), Amirah Ali (goal, assist). As I wrote in the game preview, if these two can get going and lead the offense, this team has a chance to make a deep run in postseason play. However, the road will not be easy. Rutgers will now play #2 seed West Virginia on the road on Friday night in the second round of the NCAA Tournament. We’ll preview the action later this week.