Knights draw in defensive bout
Despite Nebraska forward Mayme Conroy’s equalizer in the 37th minute to create a 1-1 deadlock, the No. 25 Rutgers women’s soccer team stayed focused on the task at hand.
On the road Thursday against a Big Ten opponent for the second time this season, the Scarlet Knights knew there was a lot of game left to be played.
They knew there would be opportunities throughout the remaining minutes of regulation to leave Lincoln, Nebraska with the first Big Ten road win in program history.
But the game took quite a few unusual twists and turns.
Evidently, neither team possessed the killer instinct to seize complete control of the game and put the other away. Although the Knights and the Huskers had their respective chances to score on the offensive side of the ball with both recording double-digit shot totals, neither could manage to net a goal.
The culmination of the two teams’ inabilities to break the stalemate spilled over into the second overtime but ultimately ended in a 1-1 tie.
“We worked very hard, and considering it was a short and crazy week … I thought we worked very hard,” said head coach Mike O’Neill. “ … We just didn’t execute the ideas, so that’s a big piece of it. In the final third, we had some chances, but we just weren’t efficient.”
With an emphasis to establish the momentum early on and keep it throughout the game’s entirety as it did last weekend against Michigan State and Michigan, Rutgers (6-1-1, 2-1-1) appeared to have the first ingredient for a recipe for victory.
Off the first corner kick of the match for the Knights in the 15th minute, junior backer Brianne Reed followed up on a rebound out near the 18-yard box and beamed a shot off the far right post that snuck into the net to provide an early 1-0 advantage over the Huskers (4-4-2, 0-2-2).
Reed, who logged all 110 minutes of the double-overtime battle, expressed the overall feeling of the team after coming out of the enduring match with a tie.
“I don’t think it’s a disappointment. I think we worked really hard,” Reed said. “There were times when we definitely should’ve executed, put the ball in the back of the net. But, I mean, we gave 100-percent effort. It didn’t go our way, but now we’re moving on to Iowa to get the win.”
The inability to generate any corner kick opportunities — normally what is arguably the offense’s greatest strength — hindered Rutgers a bit.
After capitalizing on their first corner of the game, the only corner to follow came in the 80th minute, but the Knights couldn’t convert on senior forward Amy Pietrangelo’s delivery.
But despite only two corner kicks, Rutgers stayed aggressive in the second half and into the extra periods of time.
The Knights put Kelly Schatz and the Nebraska defense to work, but to give credit where it’s due, the sophomore goalkeeper made her fair share of nifty plays between the posts.
After allowing the first goal of the game, Schatz buckled down and recorded seven saves — three of which came during crunch time in the two overtime periods — throughout the remainder of the contest.
With their second Big Ten road game at Iowa looming on Sunday, O’Neill said the Knights have no option other than to put the lengthy Thursday night game behind them and recover as they continue to search for their first conference road win of the season.
“I think it’s easy to put behind us,” O’Neill said. “Our foundation is hard work. … I think the fact that we have a few days out here before we play on Sunday is big because we’ll get a chance to take a breath — and we haven’t had a chance to take a breath since the game [against Michigan] on Sunday.”
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