The buildup was huge. A game at #7 West Virginia, a perennial powerhouse, who received a #2 NCAA tournament seed seemed premature considering the Scarlet Knights had only lost two games all season. Rutgers had posted 15 shutouts in 20 games entering the match, leading the country in lowest goals against average. They had to face a tough Mountaineers squad in Morgantown who were second in the country in shots per game in the NCAA tournament’s second round Friday.
The temperature was very cold, but the bigger issue was that the field was wet which made the ball itself rather heavy and the turf slick. As most expected, Rutgers did their best to keep 9 or even 10 players behind the ball at all times waiting for a counter attack. In the first half, West Virginia managed two shots on goal but that was two more than the Scarlet Knights, who had maybe one good chance the entire half.
The second half saw a good crowd get nervous as West Virginia continued to put steady pressure on the Knights but simply could not get a score. They possessed the ball a lot around the penalty box and piled up corner kicks, but there were a couple excellent saves required by Big Ten goalkeeper of the year, Casey Murphy. Rutgers' counterattacks started getting more frequent and dangerous. In the 82nd minute, Rutgers' Amirah Ali had the best chance of the game, but Mountaineer goalie Rylee Foster channeled her inner Casey Murphy to make a leaping save. After that, Rutgers had some pressure for the remainder of regulation, but nothing to show for it.
The two ten minute golden goal overtime periods did not result in any major scoring opportunities for either club, so it went to purists nightmare yet casual fans favorite sporting spectacle, penalty kicks. Rutgers seemingly had the edge with USA goalkeeper Murphy, who tallied her 16th clean sheet of the season on the day. The momentum shifted several times as it often does in such do or die situations. In the end, West Virginia took the shootout 4-3 in five rounds. A heartbreaking loss for sure, but against a more than worthy opponent. Rutgers Coach Mike O’Neill agreed, “I'd like to congratulate West Virginia on the victory tonight. Tough game, tough way to lose, penalties. I'm so proud of my team.”
It may not have been a banner year by Rutgers women’s soccer standards, but the team allowed only six goals the ENTIRE SEASON. Think about that for a second, in 21 games, they allowed six goals TOTAL. That would be the equivalent of a football team allowing three or four touchdowns the whole year!!!!!!!!!!
Five seniors played their final game in a Scarlet Knight jersey; Colby Ciarrocca, Christy Monroy, Casey Murphy, Courtney Norton and Brianna Scarola. The group had an amazing run, most notably a trip to the NCAA College Cup final in 2015.
We’ll post a season recap with more mind blowing numbers to celebrate a senior class that participated in the NCAA tournament all four of their years. Casey Murphy, sitting out a season ago to play internationally for the US, tallied her 45th career shutout in today’s contest in just three seasons, breaking the previous record of 44 by Erin Guthrie (‘06-’09).