No. 16 Rutgers women’s soccer ended non-conference play with a 4-0 victory over Drexel at Yurcak Field on Thursday night. It marked the 100th win in head coach Mike O’Neill’s career.
Senior All-Americans Frankie Tagliaferri and Amirah Ali led the way as the Scarlet Knights rebounded after two consecutives losses. Tagliaferri had two goals with Ali assisting on both while scoring one of her own. The fourth goal of the game was after sophomore Allison Lowrey stole the ball from the goalkeeper and found sophomore Emily Sapienza with an open net for the score. Sophomores Sam Kroeger and Sara Brocious added assists in the game as well.
Goalkeeper Meagan McClelland made five saves for her fourth shutout of the season.
“We responded well to what happened last weekend and we all showed up for each other. We had the grit that we want to win. We had a chip on our shoulder and we really just want to prove that what happened was in the past. We’re bouncing back and we’re ready to make a statement in Big Ten play. We can’t wait,” said junior captain Meagan McClelland.
Highlights of the victory are here:
Nonconference schedule✅#B1GWSOC slate #RUWS caps its nonconference schedule with a 4-0 win over Drexel! Next up, the Scarlet Knights open Big Ten play on Sunday, Sept. 19 against Penn State at home! pic.twitter.com/pTsOLS3QDS— Rutgers Women's Soccer (@RUWSoccer) September 17, 2021
O’Neill was the associate head coach with the program from 2004-2013 under Glenn Crooks before taking over in 2014. His impact on Rutgers women’s soccer has been immense. They’ve become the most consistently successful program at Rutgers, now having made nine consecutive trips to the NCAA Tournament, including every season O’Neill has been head coach. They’ve won a first round game in five of seven appearances under O’Neill, including one Final Four berth (College Cup).
This season, O’Neill has arguably the most talented team of his tenure. It was crucial for Rutgers to get back on track ahead of Big Ten play and they accomplished that on Thursday. After opening the season by setting a program record in scoring five or more goals in four straight matches, they squandered a 3-1 lead at home to Princeton, who are unbeaten and now ranked No. 22 nationally, for its first loss a week ago. RU was then were shutout at No. 24 Georgetown last weekend 1-0.
Dominating Drexel was important to getting back into rhythm, as was getting its two superstars in Tagliaferri and Ali involved in the scoring attack. Tagliaferri now leads Rutgers with 7 goals, is tied with freshman Riley Tiernan with 5 assists and leads the Big Ten with 19 points. Ali is tied for third on the team with 3 goals, second with 4 assists and third with 10 points.
The No. 16 Scarlet Knights are now 5-2-0 on the season and open Big Ten play against defending champion and rival No. 8 Penn State (6-1-0). There is plenty of intrigue entering this matchup.
RU has beaten the Nittany Lions by the score of 3-2 in each of the last two meetings coming last February and in 2019. Ali has been a nemesis for PSU, scoring three times overall, including the winning goals in both victories. Tagliaferri starred for Penn State for four years before transferring to Rutgers before this season. The two schools were picked first and second in the Big Ten preseason poll, so the winner would be in a strong position at the start of league play.
Kickoff is at 12 p.m. ET and will air live on the Big Ten Network.