For those of you newer fans who watched Rutgers take on LSU on a rainy Sunday afternoon in Piscataway, seeing the Knights down 2-0 at halftime had to be a shock to the system. I can’t remember the last time they were so thoroughly outplayed in the first half. Heck, I can’t remember the last time the Knights gave up two goals in the first half of a match.
The Tigers would kick off the scoring in the 4th minute on a goal by 5th-year senior Alesia Garcia and would pad their lead 2-0 on freshman Ida Hermannsdottir’s goal in the 11th minute.
Fortunately, if you are gonna dig a hole, dig it early. As the Knights headed to the locker room at halftime, they knew their backs were up against the wall versus a stout, proud Tigers team who took it to them during the first 45 minutes of action.
“At halftime, we talked about going back out and being us, the mentality, the attitude, the commitment, the desire to win the game was there in the second half. You could see it. It was two different halves. Without that mentality, the result was going to be hard to chase. Honesty is the best policy and it took 27 strong, a great team effort from everybody that we are very proud of.”
Head Coach Mike O’Neill (courtesy Rutgers Athletics)
Four minutes into the 2nd half, the long climb out of the deep hole began as Sam Kroeger notched her 6th goal of the season off an assist by Riley Tiernan. The Knights had begun to control play and slowly impose their will on the Tigers.
In the 73rd minute, Kylie Daigle took a pass from Giana Romano and sent a beautiful ball 25 yards just over the outstretched arms of leaping Tigers keeper Mollee Swift. The ball glanced off the crossbar and snuck into the upper right part of the goal. I’m not sure how it went in, but it did and it was a thing of beauty, and the match was tied 2-2. Rutgers had climbed out of the hole and suddenly it looked as if they had a chance to remain unbeaten.
The Knights would continue to control the ball and you could see the frustration in Tigers players, particularly senior Noel Rammie, who couldn’t keep Tiernan contained. Rammie nearly picked up a second yellow card and Tigers head coach Sian Hudson was forced to pull her late in the match to settle her down.
In the 85th minute, Kroeger scored her 2nd goal of the match, 7th of the season, and third unanswered for the Knights, who rallied for the improbable win.
The Knights are now a perfect 8-0-0 on the season while the Tigers drop to 5-1-2. It was truly a tale of two halves. LSU took four shots on goal in the opening half but did not get a single shot on goal in the second half. Credit to the RU coaching staff for making halftime adjustments and coming out on fire in the 2nd half.
Game Notes (courtesy Rutgers Athletics)
- The 8-0-0 start is the second in Rutgers women’s history, joining the 2015 team’s 8-0-0 start on the way to the College Cup that year. The 2015 team lost its ninth game. No Rutgers women’s soccer team has gone 9-0-0 to start a year. (I had reported last week that Rutger’s 7-0-0 start was its best ever but this was an incorrect stat provided by the athletics department).
- The Rutgers defense has held all eight opponents to five shots on goal or less.
- Sam Kroeger notched her second career brace. She now has two braces over the last three matches.
- Rutgers won its first-ever meeting with LSU.
A Full Team Effort
Becci Fluchel, Allison Lynch, Emily Mason, Adriana Kuryla, Sara Brocious, and Tiernan all put in a full 90-minute effort in the come-from-behind victory. Kroeger, who played 87 minutes, scored the game-winner nine minutes after getting her three-minute rest. (Courtesy Rutgers Athletics)
UP NEXT: Conference play begins! The Scarlet Knights begin their defense of the Big Ten Championship on Sun., Sept 18 at 1 p.m. against Ohio State at Yurcak Field. Now the fun really starts.