No. 16 Rutgers women’s soccer opened Big Ten play with a statement victory over defending champion and preseason favorite No. 8 Penn State (6-2-0, 0-1-0) on Sunday afternoon at Yurcak Field. After a scoreless first half, the Scarlet Knights defeated the Nittany Lions by the final score of 2-1. It was the third consecutive win for RU over PSU over the course of the past three seasons.
It was a up tempo, back and forth affair for most of the first half as both teams put pressure on the other team’s defense. Rutgers held a 5-2 edge in shots in the opening frame, including a tremendous shot from Riley Tiernan that went off the top left post, just missing a goal. The game was scoreless up until the 63rd minute when Sara Brocious fed Sam Kroeger, who delivered a rocket of a shot to the lower left corner that hit the back of the net.
Soon after, Penn State tied the game on a goal from Rachel Wasserman on a great individual effort in the 68th minute.
With the game knotted at 1-1, Rutgers drew a penalty and Becci Fluchel delivered the decisive goal to put the home team in front for good for the victory.
Penn State held a 12-9 advantage with shots overall, but RU held a 5-4 edge with shots on goal. Senior goalkeeper Megan McClelland made three saves, as Rutgers extended its streak to 36 straight opponents with single-digit shots on goal.
“I’m always ready to step up when my team needs me. It was a whole team effort though. It was a special game and special opportunity for me to take that penalty kick. It was ultimately a team effort, we couldn’t have done it without every single player on the pitch,” said sophomore midfielder Becci Fluchel.
This is a massive win for Rutgers and puts them in a tremendous position to challenge for its first ever Big Ten regular season title. The same exact scenario took place in the spring, as Rutgers won the conference opener over Penn State. However, the Nittany Lions didn’t lost another game and cruised to another title. The Scarlet Knights have the edge entering league play this season once again and will look to capitalize on the opportunity. It was a great response after just a week removed from losing back to back games to No. 22 Princeton and No. 25 Georgetown. Earning a victory over a top ten team in PSU will push them back up the national rankings as well.
Rutgers (6-2-0; 1-0-0) needs to put this win behind them quickly, as No. 21 Michigan (7-1-1; 1-0-0) visits Yurcak Field this Thursday, September 23. The Wolverines opened league play on Friday with a 2-1 win over Illinois in double overtime. The upcoming showdown with another top team in the conference kicks off at 7 p.m. ET live on the Big Ten Network.