Rutgers edges Iowa to cap Midwest trip
For the No. 25 Rutgers women’s soccer team, the past seven days can be summed up in one word: exhausting.
After a day off last Monday, the Scarlet Knights grinded in the unexpected late September heat that swept through on Tuesday. They then packed their bags, flew out to the cornfields of Lincoln, Nebraska and battled for 110 minutes in an enduring 1-1 double-overtime tie.
Despite the two-day time gap that separated the two games, it would be easy to understand how Rutgers could come sluggish into the finale of its four-day Big Ten road trip.
It didn’t help that the team they were about to face boasted an unblemished conference record, while the Knights were still searching for their first Big Ten road win.
But when Sunday’s matinee came and went, Rutgers could exhale with the satisfaction of a 1-0 triumph over No. 13 Iowa.
Although the Knights (7-1-1, 3-1-1) couldn’t pull out the win last Thursday night at Nebraska, head coach Mike O’Neill said the points received from the tie and the win over the Hawkeyes (8-3, 3-2) culminated a successful road trip.
“Coming back on this trip with four points, it’s big, you know?” O’Neill said. “That was a total team effort out there today on both sides of the ball. … It was very inspiring to watch. We really played a lot of good soccer, a lot of good soccer.”
Rutgers and Iowa exchanged seven and fives shots, respectively, in the first half, but went into the half locked up in a scoreless stalemate.
Then Madison Tiernan struck.
The sophomore midfielder capitalized on a corner kick sent in by senior forward Amy Pietrangelo in the 50th minute to give the Knights a 1-0 advantage they would not relinquish throughout the remainder of the contest.
“Amy played a great ball into me and the defenders actually stepped off thinking I was going to pass it, and I kind of just took my shot and it landed,” Tiernan said. “We’ve been working on it so much — getting the ball to your target, turning and taking our shots — so, it went in our favor.”
It was the only goal of the game by Rutgers, but it stepped up its aggressiveness in the second half with 14 shots. The offense tallied a total of 21 shots.
On the defensive end of the ball, play remained the same.
All season long, the Knights have been reliant on their stout defensive. The consistency of the unit shows with its recent dominance, as it has pitched a shutout in three out of the past four games.
Junior defender Erica Skroski and the defense emphasized the containment of Iowa leading scorer Cloe Lacasse, who entered the game tied for second in the Big Ten with seven goals.
Based on the shutout that resulted, it’s safe to say Skroski and her fellow defenders on the backline aced the test.
“We had to keep our mark on [Lacasse], make sure we knew where she was at all times and we really had to defend her really well,” Skroski said. “We worked together, we organized people around us and we basically shut her down.”
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