Last month, Rutgers women’s soccer star Amirah Ali was named a First Team All-American by United Soccer Coaches after another standout season on the banks. It was the second straight season she earned First Team honors and third time she was named an All-American in her career. Despite so many decorated players having made their mark at Rutgers, Ali became the program’s first ever three-time All-American.
“It makes me really happy and it is a great honor,” said Ali last week. “I wouldn’t have been able to do it without the great support of everyone in the program. It’s something I take a lot of pride in.”
Ali is set to return for a fifth season next fall, which will give her an opportunity to etch her name even more so in program lore. The Voorhees, New Jersey native is currently fifth all-time at Rutgers in points (77) and goals (32). She also earned Academic All-Big Ten honors this past school year.
Rutgers women’s soccer has been a model of consistency over the past decade, having made nine consecutive NCAA Tournament appearances. Ali scored the game winning goal over Southeastern Louisiana in the first round this past season to advance. It was the 14th game winning goal of her career and the fourth most in program history.
She has carried the torch the past few seasons in leading the Scarlet Knights to success under head coach Mike O’Neill, who started as an assistant coach at Rutgers in 2006. He has been at the helm of seven straight NCAA appearances, winning at least one game in five of them. He was on the sidelines at Yurcak Field when one of the greatest players in soccer history, Carli Lloyd, starred on the pitch so his perspective on Ali’s impact is extensive.
“We’ve been fortunate to have quite a few All-American’s both academically and on the soccer field,” said O’Neill. “Amirah is in really good company to be our first ever three-time All-American. Amirah is a very talented player and has put a lot of time in to being successful. We have a saying here, ‘when one achieves, we all achieve’ and her team and coaching staff are all really proud of her. Just to see her grow the last four years as a player and a person has been really enjoyable to be a part of.”
O’Neill and Ali have a strong relationship and that was a key reason for her return for a fifth season after the NCAA allowed for an extra year of eligibility for student-athletes due to COVID-19. Ali said of the culture that O’Neill has created at Rutgers, “He focuses on family and really cares about you on and off the field. That’s what makes things so special here. He has helped me so much throughout my career.”
On her decision to return for next season, which Rutgers announced last month, Ali said that she “Wanted to take my time (in announcing), but knew it was something I wanted to do.”
After a third consecutive top three finish in the Big Ten and a second round appearance in the NCAA Tournament, Rutgers will be nationally ranked and a favorite to win the conference once again this coming fall.
“We have a great core group returning and great recruiting class coming in,” said Ali. “The short offseason will help coming out of the season being in game shape and allow us to stay more connected with one another with limited down time.”
The returning core includes another First Team All-Big Ten selection in Gabby Provenzano, goalkeeper Meagan McClelland, who earned Second Team All-Big Ten honors, as well as three players who made the All-Freshman team in San Kroeger, Becci Fluchel and Emma Misal.
In addition the nation’s No. 7 recruiting class joining the roster for next season, Rutgers also added All-American transfer Frankie Tagliaferri this offseason. Despite coming from rival Penn State, Ali made it clear her transition into the program will be seamless. Like many players on the current roster, Tagliaferri and Ali played together on the club team PDA prior to college.
“We’ve played with and against each other for years,” said Ali. “We even trained together at times during college. She is a great player and will fit in really well with our team.”
As for next season, Ali is working hard to have her best campaign yet after fighting through an injury that limited her this past spring. She came off the bench in the second half in the win over Southeast Louisiana due to the injury before scoring the decisive goal.
“I had a issue with my hamstring and it limited me.” Ali continued, “I went through rehab but was able to step in and help my team when needed. It’s something that I worked through. I’m done with rehab now and feel better. I can’t wait to for next season.”
As for her goals for next fall, Ali said to “win a big ten championship and become a four time All-American.”
After next season, Ali will play for the Portland Thorns of the NWSL after being drafted this past winter. Before her professional career begins, she chose to lead Rutgers to more success and finalize her mark on the program with one more run. Hopefully, it leads to the school’s first ever Big Ten title and a deep run in the NCAA Tournament.
Regardless of what happens in her final season, Ali has made a tremendous mark on the program. Asked what she hopes how she will be remembered for in her Rutgers career, Ali said, “I want my legacy to be known for working hard when no one is looking. For never giving up and doing everything I can to win. Setting an example and doing everything that is necessary to be the best player and teammate that I can be.”
Ali will go down as one of the greatest Scarlet Knight athletes ever in any sport after she laces up her boots for the last time. Having her on the banks for one more season is something every Rutgers fan should appreciate.