Earlier this week, the Big Ten released its women’s soccer preseason coaches poll and the Scarlet Knights were picked to finish in second place this fall. Rutgers has finished in the top 3 of the regular season standings the past three years, but have fallen just short of the program’s and school’s first ever Big Ten title.
Penn State are the defending champions and have now been tabbed to win the Big Ten title every season dating back to 2003. Since Rutgers lost the Big Ten Championship game and NCAA College Cup semifinal to PSU in 2015, they are 3-2-2 against their rival.
This is arguably the most talented team in head coach Mike O’Neill’s eight year tenure and winning championships this season is clearly the goal. He said in an interview this summer that, “We are so proud of everything they have accomplished but we need to use how it (last season) ended to be more than ready for this fall. We compete for championships and that’s not going to change. It’s a group of players that we know they’ll be ready and focused on what they want to accomplish. The expectations are high and that’s never going to change. They want to be the best they can be in the classroom and on the field.”
In addition to the coaches poll, Rutgers had Amirah Ali, Frankie Tagliaferri and Gabby Provenzano named as Big Ten Players to Watch this season. All three were First Team All-Big Ten selections last season with Ali becoming the first player in program history to be named a three-time All-American. Tagliaferri transferred to Rutgers this offseason after leading the conference in points last season with PSU. Provenzano anchors a defense that has added two-time Gatorade National High School Player of the Year Emily Mason, who Top Draw Soccer named to its Preseason Freshmen Best XI Team. All-conference goalkeeper Meagan McClelland returns as well for the Scarlet Knights.
The no. 25 Rutgers women’s soccer team opens the 2021 season this weekend with two home games. They’ll host FDU on Thursday night and then Temple on Sunday night at Yurcak Field. You can read our season preview here and we’ll have game recaps following the matchups with FDU and Temple this weekend.