After opening the season by setting a program record in scoring five or more goals in four straight matches this fall, No. 9 Rutgers was leading in-state rival Princeton 3-1 in the second half at Yurcak Field on Thursday night. Shockingly, the visiting Tigers scored three unanswered goals in the final 30+ minutes of the game to hand the Scarlet Knights its first defeat of the season by the final score of 4-3.
It was looking like business as usual for most of this contest. Freshman Riley Tiernan, who came in tied for the team lead with five assists, scored twice early on, both times from right outside the box. The goals were assisted on by two former national high school player of the year winners in classmate Emily Mason and senior Amirah Ali.
After Princeton’s Madison Curry scored in the 33rd minute off a pass from Heather McNab to cut the deficit in half, Rutgers went into the locker room leading 2-1 at the break.
Sophomore Allison Lynch scored in the 53rd minute on an assist from sophomore Becci Fluchel off of a corner kick, putting Rutgers back in control. The goal and corner kick came directly after leading scorer Frankie Tagliaferri had a penalty shot denied by Princeton goalkeeper Grace Barbara.
However, everything changed when Princeton’s McNab scored on a penalty kick in the 60th minute. Momentum shifted and the Scarlet Knights were never able to recover.
The Tigers tied the score in the 70th minute as Lily Bryant scored and McNab picked up the assist. Then in the 75th minute, McNab scored again on a penalty kick to give Princeton the lead. RU was unable to find the equalizer and dropped a heartbreaker that they let slip through.
Have a look back at all 4️⃣ Tiger goals and a big PK stop from our win at No. 9 Rutgers! pic.twitter.com/w5HpetNIAo— Princeton WSoccer (@PrincetonWSoc) September 10, 2021
Rutgers did hold its opponent to single digit shots for the 22nd straight game and held a 16-9 shot advantage on the night, as well as 7-5 edge with shots on goal. They also held a 9-6 advantage in corner kicks, but did commit 15 fouls in the game, two more than the visitors.
The Scarlet Knights had allowed 1 goal in four games to start the season before allowing four goals in the loss. This was the most goals Rutgers has allowed in a game in Mike O’Neill’s eight season’s as head coach. The last time RU allowed more than two goals in a game was in a double overtime 3-2 loss on the road to Michigan on September 29, 2016. It was the most goals the program has allowed since losing to Virginia on the road 6-0 on September 6, 2013.
“Today’s result just comes down to habits and details. Obviously, Princeton is a really good side and I think we saw something different in the press. It’s just figuring out how to break that press better. Overall, we had chances, we created chances. This is a great learning moment for our squad. It was a really really good opponent. We’ll go back, watch film and see what we can learn from it and take that on to Georgetown,” said senior captain Gabby Provenzano.
While the loss was extremely disappointing for Rutgers (4-1-0), it’s an opportunity to learn from it and potentially benefit from this experience as the season progresses. They had a good Princeton team on the ropes but couldn’t finish them off. As the competition continues to ramp up, RU has to avoid letting good teams back into games due to sloppy play like what happened in this loss. It’s hopefully a lesson learned before entering conference play, as this team is talented enough to win a Big Ten title.
The Tigers are now 4-0-1 this season and tied then No. 8 Georgetown in its previous match. Rutgers will now look to rebound against that same Hoyas team that are 2-0-4 this season. They’re now ranked No. 24 and tied No. 18 West Virginia on Thursday night. The Scarlet Knights will face Georgetown on the road this Sunday, September 12 at 1 p.m. ET. It’s a tough match but a great opportunity to get back on track with Big Ten play beginning in just ten days. Defending champion and rival No. 14 Penn State (5-1-0) will visit Yurcak Field likely with momentum and a top ten ranking after toppling No. 3 Virginia on Thursday night.