After seemingly flying under the radar for most of the 2018 season, the Rutgers women’s soccer team is back in the national spotlight as the regular season enters the homestretch. After a overtime victories against Minnesota, Northwestern, and Illinois in the past three games, the Scarlet Knights (9-1-4; 5-0-2) are now alone in first place in the Big Ten standings and are the only unbeaten team remaining in conference play.
On Tuesday, Rutgers moved into the United Coaches Poll for the first time since the first month of the season and are currently ranked #21st in the country. In addition, they are ranked 27th in the latest RPI rankings. The Scarlet Knights are the highest ranked Big Ten team in both.
Aside from the team finally getting more national recognition in a season where they’ve now played eight consecutive overtime games, going 5-0-3 during that stretch, as well as having just one loss overall in 2018, three different players received Big Ten honors on Tuesday.
Sophomore forward Amirah Ali was named Big Ten Player of the Week after scoring the game winning golden goals in overtime victories over then-ranked #14 Northwestern and Illinois this past weekend. Ali leads the Big Ten with 10 goals this season and in Rutgers’ five overtime wins this season, she has scored four of the game winners and assisted on the fifth.
Amirah Ali of @RUWSoccer scored the golden goal in both #ScarletKnights wins last week, helping RU defeat Northwestern and Illinois and earning her the #B1GWSOC Offensive Player of the Week award pic.twitter.com/BnJ7NqO2fF— Big Ten Soccer (@B1GSoccer) October 9, 2018
Senior Madison Pogarch, who transferred from Central Michigan before the season, was named Defensive Player of the Week. She played every minute in consecutive shutout overtime victories over Northwestern and Illinois. Pogarch has made a strong backline even better this season and is one of 30 women’s soccer student-athletes to be nominated for the Senior CLASS award, which honors excellence on the field and in the classroom.
After claiming Big Ten Freshman of the Week honors seven days ago, true freshman Meagan McClelland was named Big Ten Goalkeeper of the Week after blanking the Wildcats and Illini last weekend. She tied her career high of five saves against Northwestern and made two saves against Illinois, including one in extra time to keep Rutgers alive. She has allowed just one goal in her last four contests and is second in the Big Ten with a 0.65 goals against average.
Meagan McClelland of @RUWSoccer made a combined seven saves in two overtime victories last week, including a career-high five against Northwestern to secure the #B1GWSOC Goalkeeper of the Week award pic.twitter.com/wLAcdmr14E— Big Ten Soccer (@B1GSoccer) October 9, 2018
With four regular season matches remaining, Rutgers heads on the road for the next three contests. They have a crucial trip to Ohio State (7-5-1; 4-2-1) on Friday night and Penn State (9-5; 5-2) on Sunday. The match against the Nittany Lions, who are in second place in the conference, will be shown live at 2 p.m. on the Big Ten Network. I’ll have a preview of this weekend’s action later this week, including thoughts from head coach Mike O’Neill on the outstanding season this team has had so far.