Rutgers looks to get first Big Ten win against Northwestern
After capturing its first home win of the season, the Rutgers men’s soccer team hopes to get another first this weekend.
The Scarlet Knights (3-9-1, 0-6-0) defeated NJIT (7-5-2, 2-1-0) on Wednesday night, winning their first match at Yurcak Field this season. Rutgers hasn’t won at home since October of 2015.
The Knights and Highlanders are now tied 3-3 in their interstate rivalry series after this week’s match.
“We’re happy,” said head coach Dan Donigan. “Anytime you can get a win is great. Our first half went pretty well to get those 2 goals and then our second half game got away from us for a little bit, but that’s par for the course in a game like this, so give credit to NJIT.”
Rutgers came out of the gates very aggressive, out-shooting NJIT 9-0 in the first half, showing a whopping display of both offense and defense from the team. The aggression by the offense and lock-down play by the defense paid off in a big way.
In the 30th minute, senior forward Ryan Peterson was fouled inside the goalie box, setting himself up for a quick one-on-one penalty kick with the Highlanders goalie. Peterson shot the ball into the bottom right corner and scored Rutgers a 1-0 lead.
“It’s a great team result and you can’t ask for anything more,” Peterson said. “Scoring a goal is always great, especially when it’s at home.”
The Knights were poised to go on a run, as just a few minutes later, junior forward Miles Hackett scored the second goal of the match, giving them a 2-0 lead. Rutgers and NJIT went into the halftime locker rooms with completely different emotions about the first half.
The Highlanders came out with a little jump to their step, looking to chase the Knights and not fall too far behind, taking their first shot of the match nearly 50 minutes in.
In the 56th minute, NJIT midfielder Danny Cordiero scored the only goal of the match for the Highlanders, who couldn’t catch up to Rutgers, ultimately falling 2-1 in Piscataway.
“It’s a great win,” Hackett said. “After a rough start, now we are back on track and trying to go on a run in the last three to four games of the season, so we’ve got to keep it going.”
With the win, the Knights now have their sights set on winning their first Big Ten match of the season, something they haven’t done since 2015 as well.
Rutgers will travel up to Evanston, Illinois, this Sunday to face off against conference rival Northwestern (4-9-0, 0-5-0) at noon. With just four matches remaining in the regular season, two of which are Big Ten, the Knights need every win they can get as tournament season approaches.
“We’re going to have to stick to our routine,” Peterson said. “Stay team strong from the bench players all the way to the starting 11. We know we have a job to do, so we’ve got to go and do it.”
The Wildcats are coming into this weekend’s matchup hot and ready, currently riding a two-match win streak. Both teams are fighting to not face the No. 1 seed in the Big Ten Tournament next month.
Rutgers and Northwestern have met four times in the past three years and are currently tied 2-2 in the series.
“This is a vital game for us going on the road going up against Northwestern, who is down near the bottom of the conference with us,” Donigan said. “So hopefully we walk away with a positive result there.”
In 2014, the Wildcats came into Yurcak Field and handled the Knights with ease, taking the first bout with a 2-0 victory.
A year later, Rutgers served Northwestern a taste of its own medicine, going into the Wildcats’ den and snatching a 4-2 win on the road, tying the series. Just two weeks later, the Knights handled business again, defeating Northwestern in the opening round of the Big Ten Tournament, ending the Wildcats' season.
Last season, Northwestern took back bragging rights, as it handed Rutgers yet another loss in its rough 2016 season, as well as evening the series at two matches apiece.
“We’re just going to recover, have some good practice, keep it going and hopefully get a win,” Hackett said.
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