In its first road trip during conference play, the Rutgers women's soccer team remained unbeaten with a scoreless draw against Northwestern and a dramatic win in overtime against Illinois. However, the nation's longest scoreless streak is over, but Rutgers remains unbeaten with a 8-0-2 record overall and a 2-0-1 record in Big Ten play.
On Friday night, Rutgers took on Northwestern (5-4-2; 2-1-1), a team that was picked to finish second in the Big Ten in the preseason coaches poll, one spot ahead of the Scarlet Knights. Goalkeeper Casey Murphy made five saves in the match, including this difficult stop late in the game in the 77th minute to keep the contest scoreless.
It was the ninth consecutive shutout to start the season, which matched a program best, tying the start to the 2015 campaign, the year they went to their first College Cup.
On Sunday, Rutgers found themselves in another scoreless battle, this time against Illinois (3-9-0; 0-4-0) before senior forward Colby Ciarrocca delivered with her team best sixth goal of the season. She made a great move before producing a strong finish in the 63rd minute. The goal was assisted by sophomore midfielder Taylor Aylmer.
Colby Ciarrocca evades the defender and beats the keeper to give Rutgers a 1-0 lead over Illinois! pic.twitter.com/JihdpiuRGV— RutgersWomensSoccer (@RUWSoccer) September 24, 2017
Unfortunately, the scoreless streak ended in the 75th minute of the game, as the Illini capitalized off of a corner kick to tie the contest 1-1. Rutgers entered overtime for the second game in a row, but two freshmen made sure it didn't last long. Amirah Ali sent a pass ahead into open space to Nkeme Moneme, who calmly one timed the ball into the back of the net from just outside the box to win the game 2-1! It was the first goal of her career.
"I always try to help the team and do the best I can on the field," said Moneme. "I am very happy about my first career goal. I need to play with that same mentality every game. During the play, in my head, I reminded myself of our game plan and thought of what I was going to do with the ball before it came to me and how I could make an impact."
"Every day we talk about everybody being plugged in, coming in and getting better because there is going to be a time you are going to be called upon. That is what Nneka did today," said head coach Mike O'Neill.
The Scarlet Knights remain unbeaten on the season and their scoreless streak of 924+ minutes that ended Sunday is a new program record.
Ciarrocca leads Rutgers with 6 goals and has 2 assists for a team best 14 points, while Ali is second with 11 points (4 goals, 3 assists).
Rutgers now returns home for a very important homestand, as they are set to take on Minnesota (5-2-3; 1-1-1) this Friday night at 7 p.m. in a rematch of the Big Ten Championship game that the Gophers won last season. On Sunday, Rutgers will then host #9 Wisconsin (8-2-0; 2-1-0), who just lost to Michigan in overtime this past weekend. For a team with their sights clearly set on winning the first Big Ten title in school history, this homestand is critical to accomplishing that goal.