Golden goal propels RU to semifinals
Entering its match Sunday, the Rutgers women’s soccer team looked to advance to its first conference tournament semifinal since 2006.
Head coach Glenn Crooks looking for his 200th-career victory was greater incentive.
The Knights (13-4-2, 5-3-1) had to cope with the Cincinnati’s (8-11-1, 4-4-1) impressive size, which allows the Bearcats to perform well on set plays.
With 17 seconds remaining in the second overtime, sophomore forward Rachel Cole received the ball 35 yards out and fired a shot for an unassisted golden goal to win the game for Rutgers, 2-1.
“Words cannot describe how it felt in that moment to move on as a team,” Cole said. “Our goal is to go on and win the whole thing, so our hard work is paying off. Everyone was so happy.”
It was Cole’s second goal of the season and kept the draw from a penalty kick shootout. The shot was her second of the second overtime, with her other coming a minute prior from the same distance.
“I cannot honestly say that I felt her goal coming, but she was definitely on the field for a reason,” Crooks said. “She had an excellent warm-up before the game and gives us an added dimension from shooting outside.”
After a Cincinnati goal late in regulation tied it, the first overtime saw each team find few opportunities to score.
The only chance for the Knights came late in the period. Freshman midfielder Madison Tiernan took the ball past midfield and found senior forward Jonelle Filigno in the attacking third.
Filigno crossed it to junior forward Stefanie Scholz to put forth a shot goalkeeper Natalie Smith blocked.
The second half proved less opportunistic than the first half for Rutgers’ offense. The Knights outshot the Bearcats in the first, but Cincinnati came out strong and controlled the clock, outshooting the Knights, 9-3, down the stretch.
A Rutgers foul in the box in the 79th minute resulted in a Cincinnati penalty kick. Defender Jae Atkinson froze senior goalkeeper Jessica Janosz and went left to find the back of the net and tied the score, 1-1.
Cincinnati played balanced throughout the half to keep the score tied.
“Cincinnati is a very good team, and they have improved since we last played them,” Crooks said. “We saw that this afternoon, especially in the second half. Their game plan is very hard to deal with for 90 minutes.”
In the first half, Rutgers stuck to its offensive plan, as they were able to take quality shots and make the most of their opportunities. The Knights outshot the Bearcats, 6-3, and had two shots on goal and five corners.
“The first half I was really happy with how we played offensively. We could have had two or three goals on some really quality opportunities,” Crooks said. “Any time in this game if you are unable to connect on that second or third goal, it puts you in a tough spot against a good team like this.”
The first opportunity for Rutgers came off the team’s third corner kick in as many offensive possessions.
Freshman midfielder Tori Prager took the corner. The ball rattled around and freshman forward Alison Ryan found Filigno for the first goal in the 13th minute.
Ryan, making her first-career start, gained her first point on the assist. Filigno compiled her eighth goal of the season on the play.
The Knights continued to control the ball in the first half and collect shot opportunities.
“Our coaches have been telling us to keep trying to get shots and find some opportunities from the outside,” Cole said.
Sophomore defender Brianne Reed had her shot blocked off a corner, while Cole had a shot sail off the crossbar — two quality opportunities for Rutgers.
The lone shot on goal for the Bearcats came late in the half when defender Callie Taylor broke out for a one-on-one with Janosz. Taylor went left and Janosz reached out to halt the attempt.
This victory propels the Knights to the semifinals, which takes place against Memphis at the neutral site of Central Florida.
“We are used to this kind of situation and we were prepared because we work on having to come back in practice and training,” Reed said. “It was so exciting. I had no doubt from the moment we stepped on the field that we were going to win.”
For updates on the Rutgers women’s soccer team, follow Tyler Karalewich on Twitter @TylerKaralewich. For general Rutgers sports updates, follow @TargumSports.