Rutgers closes out season at home against Michigan
Everyone on the Rutgers women’s soccer team knows what is at stake as the team gears up for its final regular season home game against Michigan at Yurcak Field on Wednesday at 4 p.m.
Even though it’s the team’s final regular season home game, the No. 25 Scarlet Knights (11-2-4, 5-2-3) are hoping Wednesday’s match is not their final home game of the season.
After clinching a spot in the Big Ten Tournament over the weekend with a 1-0 win over Indiana (6-8-4, 2-5-3) — the team’s fourth straight appearance in the tournament since joining the Big Ten in 2014 — Rutgers still sits in fifth place and faces a potential away game for the first round as only the top-four teams host a game.
“It’s our last regular season game at home and we’re obviously excited to have the opportunity to be able to play in (the) postseason,” said junior goalkeeper and captain Casey Murphy. “But we’re looking to get a (win) so we can get another home game.”
One of two things would need to happen to give the Knights a chance to become the No. 4 seed and host the opening round. Either current No. 4 seed Northwestern (9-6-2, 6-3-1) would have to lose to Michigan State (6-10-1, 2-7-1) in East Lansing, or No. 3 seed Minnesota (10-4-3, 6-3-1) would have to lose to Nebraska (9-4-5, 3-2-5) on the road. If both teams lose, Rutgers would claim the No. 3 seed.
But before all of that, the Knights first need to take care of the Wolverines (6-5-6, 3-4-3) who are still alive but sit right on the edge in ninth place.
“The idea here is trying to take care of business tomorrow so it gives us the best opportunity to host a game,” said head coach Mike O’Neill. “Hopefully some other results will go our way and we’ll be back on the field here on Sunday.”
Still, just making the Big Ten Tournament in its first four years since joining the conference — and reaching the finals in two of those years — is an incredible accomplishment for the Rutgers women’s soccer program.
Senior forward and captain Colby Ciarrocca has been a part of the team during all four years of the team’s success and looks to make it to the finals for a third straight year.
“The Big Ten is a really competitive conference so just going back to the tournament is a big deal for us,” Ciarrocca said. “We expect to go far and win the tournament.”
Over the course of the season, the Knights’ motto has always been taking things one game at a time, so it’s no surprise the team isn’t really concerned with its rankings.
Nevertheless, to finish the regular season in the top 25 would be another incredible achievement for a team that definitely deserves it.
“I think the rankings aren’t really what we worry about right now, it’s kind of like where you end, but it’s definitely a nice thing to be honored for and acknowledged,” Ciarrocca said.
And despite already securing a spot in the tournament, O’Neill made it clear the team is not looking ahead at any potential matchups.
Instead, Rutgers’ primary goal right now is to win Wednesday’s match to give the team the best opportunity to host another game at Yurcak Field, where the Knights are 8-1-1.
“Our main goal right now is to win and (have a chance) to host the first round,” Murphy said. “Playing in front of our families and friends on our home field we feel is an advantage for us.”
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