April 19, 2019 | 73° F

Knights lose in close shootout in AAC Tournament finals

Entering the postseason, the Rutgers women’s soccer team had not advanced past the quarterfinals of conference play since 2006.

The Scarlet Knights made it to the conference championship that year, falling to the top-ranked team nationally, Notre Dame.

The Knights played in the inaugural AAC Championship final yesterday against top-seeded host Central Florida.

Rutgers again failed to win its first conference championship in a competitive game, falling 8-7 in penalty kicks after two scoreless overtimes.

The teams traded goals in the shootout up until the ninth frame, when goalkeeper Connie Organ saved freshman midfielder Madison Tiernan’s penalty kick.

“We were gutted during the [penalty kicks], and I feel bad for the players to have to lose that way,” said head coach Glenn Crooks.

In the second overtime when both teams were scoreless, no team could score the elusive golden goal as they went on to shoot penalty kicks for the second straight games.

UCF (16-2-4, 8-0-1) and Rutgers (13-4-4, 5-3-1) both played 220 minutes of scoreless soccer across the semifinals this weekend.

Senior goalkeeper Jessica Janosz came recorded a pivotal save in the first overtime on Central Florida’s lone shot on goal opportunity.

The UCF Knights had two shots on goal for the second half, all of which Janosz saved.

The finals seconds of regulation saw Rutgers gain a chance in the attacking third, but Tiernan’s shot sailed over the goal. The Knights entered overtime for the third straight game.

The first half of the championship game was evenly matched.

Rutgers and UCF were tied with eight shots apiece, and UCF held the advantage with two shots on goal to the Knights’ one.

For Rutgers, its lack of offensive production stemmed from injury to its offensive leader. Senior forward Jonelle Filigno went down with a knee injury in semifinals.

The absence of Filigno left the Knights’ attacking trio without the production of eight goals and five game winners from this season.   

At least for Rutgers, it was able to match its 2006 success Friday by taking down seventh-seed Memphis (13-7-1, 4-5) to advance to the finals.

Senior back Tricia DiPaolo stepped up from 12 yards out for the fourth round of tiebreaking penalty kicks. She found the back of the net for the game-winning goal to propel the team to the championship game.

The penalty kick put the Knights up, 2-1, in the shootout and clinched the win after the Tigers followed up with a miss over the crossbar. It came after a successful Memphis penalty kick.

The tiebreaker round was be the Knights’ first shootout since 2008.

Skroski shot first for Rutgers and converted. Forward Val Sanderson — the AAC’s leading scorer — followed her with a miss.

Throughout the match, Janosz impressed with six saves and delivered her seventh shutout of the year.

“It’s really great knowing that I could give back to my team like that,” Janosz said after the victory over Memphis. “I’m really proud of our team. We really dug deep and played our hearts out.”

The Tigers outshot the Knights, 10-5, and posted four shots on goal to none by Rutgers during regulation.

For the weekend, Janosz stepped up and collected 14 saves in the two postseason matchups. She preserved two shutouts and allowed her opponents no goals in four halves and four overtimes.

That earned her one award.

“Jess played well and she deserved winning the Most Outstanding Defensive Player for the tournament,” Crooks said. “Her performance this weekend, especially during Friday’s PKs, is one that will live forever in the history of this program.”

For updates on the Rutgers women’s soccer team, follow Tyler Karalewich on Twitter @TylerKaralewich. For general Rutgers sports updates, follow @TargumSports.

By Tyler Karalewich

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