July 16, 2018 | ° F

Rutgers hosts first Big Ten home games

Photo by Tian Li |

Junior midfielder Samantha Valliant stressed the need to keep composure.

The 2014 season has been and will continue to be a year of firsts for the Rutgers women’s soccer team.

In their first Big Ten season, the Scarlet Knights played their first conference game at Maryland.

Despite the 2-0 loss — the first of the season — the Knights will have an opportunity to accomplish a few firsts.

With Michigan State (6-3, 0-2) visiting tonight at 7 p.m. and Michigan (6-3, 2-0) Sunday at 1 p.m., Rutgers cannot only achieve winning the first Big Ten game in program history — it can complete the first sweep.

To do that, though, junior midfielder Samantha Valliant said head coach Mike O’Neill was blunt about what needs to be done.

“We did well against Maryland in the first 20 minutes,” Valliant said. “We kept the ball, we did a lot of good combinations and stuff like that, but [head coach O’Neill]’s been emphasizing how obviously teams are going to come back and get shots. … We kind of got a little frazzled when that happened, so it’s more like just keeping composure and going forward playing our game instead of trying to have the pressure mess us up.”

Time of possession plagued the Knights during the slow first half. 

The Terrapins controlled the tempo of the game in the opening half of play, scoring two goals and leaving Rutgers to play catch up in the second half.

The loss dropped the Knights out of the top 25 after entering last Friday’s game ranked No. 25 in the nation.

The task this weekend will be a tall one for Rutgers, with the pair of schools from Michigan making their way to Piscataway.

Michigan State hobbles in after a pair of tough breaks in overtime losses against Wisconsin and Minnesota dropped it to 0-2 to start conference play. But the Spartans are 3-0 on the road and had reeled off six straight wins before the two overtime defeats.

Freshman phenom Jamie Cheslik leads the way for Michigan State’s offense with 11 points and five goals, partnered with junior Allyson Krause, who has eight points and a .400 shot percentage.

The Knights will be tested against one of the Big Ten’s most talented teams in Michigan, which is coming in hot after reeling off four wins in a row, including a 2-1 win at home over No. 9 Wisconsin.

But aside from the hot streak, the Wolverines have yet to prove they can win outside of Ann Arbor, with a 0-3 winless mark on the road.

Records and win streaks aside, junior defender Maggie Morash reiterated that Rutgers is focusing on how it can improve and bounce back after last week’s loss at Maryland.

“The goal going into the weekend is never [thinking about starting] 0-3 [in the Big Ten]. … We’re going to win this weekend. Obviously, losing to Maryland puts us on the back foot a little bit, but we’re very confident in our team and our players that we can get this done,” Morash said. “So, we’ll take it one game at a time and make sure that every time we step on the field, we’re putting our best foot forward and making sure we perform to the best of our abilities.” 

While the Knights do come off their first loss, their confidence has not taken a hit. 

O’Neill stressed his desire to see the team come right back with the confidence and energy necessary to have a “B1G” weekend.

“I think the biggest thing … we’re gonna talk about is a little bit of what we discussed — it’s having respect but no fear,” O’Neill said, “and we need to have a little bit more of that because every game is going to be the same way. In areas we thought we were very confident, maybe sometimes we doubted ourselves when we didn’t need to do that. … We think that’s going to be important for our success over the weekend.”

For updates on the Rutgers women’s soccer team, follow @TargumSports on Twitter.

Garrett Stepien

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