If you haven’t watched the match, televised live on the Big Ten Network, I urge you to find the replay and savor the moments. In front of a raucous crowd at a packed Yurcak Field on a blustery Sunday afternoon, the No. 2-seeded Rutgers (10-4-6, 4-2-2) men’s soccer team took on No. 4 Indiana (10-4-6, 3-1-4) in the Big Ten Tournament Championship game.
This was the program’s first Big Ten Championship appearance and their first since 1997, as members of the Big East. On the line for Rutgers was an automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament. With an RPI of 47 entering the match, the Knights were firmly on the tournament bubble but had little desire to leave their fate in the hands of the selection committee.
The Indiana Hoosiers, entering the match at No. 23 nationally in RPI, were securely in the tournament regardless of today’s result. Most impressive is that this was Indiana’s 6th consecutive appearance in the B1G championship game.
The Knights got to this point by defeating Wisconsin 5-4 November 4th on penalty kicks after a scoreless regulation and two overtime periods, and then defeating No. 16 Ohio State on Nov 9th, 2-1. The Hoosiers took down Penn State 1-0 and No. 6 Maryland, the No. 1 seed in the B1G tournament, 2-1.
1st Half Action
The Scarlet Knights set the tone early in the 4th minute, capitalizing on an early Indiana turnover. Jackson Temple took a pass from MD Myers and found Matthew Acosta, who sent a well struck ball past Hoosiers keeper JT Harms.
4' | WHAT A START ‼️— Rutgers Men's Soccer (@RUMensSoccer) November 13, 2022
Matt Acosta scores find the back of the net early to give Rutgers an early 1-0 lead ‼️
https://t.co/TI6g1NDOyb#GoRU | #RUMS pic.twitter.com/Nzn5hjevr6
Indiana would knot up the score 1-1 in the 38th minute on a set piece. The wind played havoc all afternoon and Ryan Wittenbrink took full advantage, sending a nicely struck corner kick toward the net that teammate Patrick McDonald headed in past Knights keeper Ciaran Dalton.
It was an action-packed end-to-end first half with multiple opportunities for each squad to take the lead but some brilliant goalkeeping kept the score knotted 1-1 entering halftime. Indiana took 9 shots and Rutgers 7 with each goalie making two solid saves.
2nd Half Action
The Knights once again went on the attack early in the half. In the 53rd minute, JT Harms continued standing on his head, turning away a rocket fired by Ian Abbey. The Knights were awarded a corner kick. Rutgers super-sub and Bryne, Norway native Ola Maeland set up in the same corner that Wittenbrink and the Hoosiers were able to capitalize on for their lone goal in the first half. Big Ten broadcasters Dean Linke and Patrick Doody noted how the wind was still playing havoc with long balls and this corner would be no different. Maeland struck a high, curling ball in towards the net and then the improbable happened. The ball sailed over Harms and the Hoosier defender into the upper right portion of the net for an Olimpico.
54' | OLIMPICO GOAL FROM MAELAND— Rutgers Men's Soccer (@RUMensSoccer) November 13, 2022
Ola Maeland puts the Scarlet Knights back in front with a goal off the corner kick attempt!
https://t.co/TI6g1NDgID#GoRU | #RUMS pic.twitter.com/BftZZ1j67T
The only thing possibly more exciting than the goal is the celebration afterwards as Maeland’s teammates cleared out of his way so he could do his patented flip. The six foot, 165 junior may want to try out for the gymnastics team.
The one literal obstacle preventing the Knights from running away in the match was Indiana keeper Harms, who literally kept his team close making saves like the one below off the foot of Knights attacker Pablo Avila.
Indiana had a couple golden opportunities in front of Rutgers’s net to tie the match up but were denied in the 78th minute on a blocked shot in front of goal and then again in the 82nd minute as Dalton corralled a shot from the always dangerous Wittenbrink.
Then in the 85th minute, the Big Ten’s most dangerous offensive player, Rutgers senior Forward and Philadelphia Union club member MD Myers went to work, fighting for possession, driving towards the goal, and sending a beautiful crossing pass to Ian Abbey, who was able to strike the ball off Hoosier keeper Harms’s fingers and into the net for a 3-1 Knights lead.
The Knights would spend the final five minutes hunkering down on defense and sending long clearing balls down field to milk the clock and wrap up the University’s first Big Ten men’s championship in any sport.
The NCAA Championship bracket and 48-team field will be revealed on Monday, Nov. 14 at 1 p.m. on the Selection show. Sixteen single-elimination first-round games will take place at campus sites on Thursday, Nov. 17 (courtesy Rutgers Athletics).