Rutgers losing skid continues in shutout road loss
Heading into its last multi-game road trip of the season, the No. 16 Rutgers women’s soccer team’s goal was to arrive back home to Piscataway with six points — three from each win.
But when the Scarlet Knights concluded their weekend out in the Midwest, they came away empty-handed. Back-to-back shutout losses to No. 12 Wisconsin and an upset by Minnesota left Rutgers with zero points on the weekend, along with bigger concerns.
After the first winless weekend since 2012, the Knights (11-4-1, 7-4-1) have dropped their last three matches in a row, the longest losing streak for the team on the season.
Losing isn’t something this team is accustomed to. Prior to these last three matches, Rutgers opened the season 11-1-1 and seriously threatened to take the Big Ten regular season crown after upsetting then-No. 7 Penn State to give the Nittany Lions their first conference loss on the year.
Despite the alarming, head coach Mike O’Neill remained upbeat on the grading of his team’s performances over the weekend.
“I would be very concerned if we weren’t creating chances. We’re creating chances. The kids are working hard, they’re playing good soccer, they’re creating chances but we’re just missing out on hitting the back of the net,” O’Neill said. “[The players] are gonna keep working as hard as they can and eventually it’s going to go the way they want it to go.”
In both games, opportunities to score were abundant for Rutgers.
The 2-0 final score was the worst loss for O’Neill’s team since Maryland downed the Knights in their Big Ten opener by the same mark back on Sept. 12, but the match against Minnesota on Sunday in Minneapolis was closer than it indicates.
Despite being outshot as a team for the first team all season long by a mark of 14-13, Rutgers created its fair share of chances to put itself in the driver’s seat. Senior forward Stef Scholz and sophomore midfielder Madison Tiernan each posted four shots, but couldn’t convert on finding the back of the net.
In Madison, Wisconsin, after a slow start where the Knights recorded only one shot on goal and trailed after a Kodee Williams header in the 25th minute put the Badgers up 1-0, Rutgers attacked aggressively in the second half.
The Knights generated a whirlwind of chances to get back into the game on offense by ripping seven shots in the second half to eventually outshoot Wisconsin, 10-7, but the ball simply didn’t bounce their way. When the scoreboard hit all zeroes, Rutgers fell, 1-0.
“I think it was a little bit of a hangover from the previous match [a home loss against Northwestern],” O’Neill said. “And then in the second half we found our way again. We did a lot of great things, created a lot of great opportunities, but just [were] unlucky not to finish.”
On paper, things don’t look too good for the Knights. A team predicated off of downing opponents in shutout fashion has had a taste of its own medicine for the past three matches — and has yet to respond to the recent adversity that has seemingly stunned it.
But with one game left, O’Neill stayed firm in his belief that the mishaps are something the Knights can capitalize on moving forward. With the season finale at Ohio State on Halloween and the Big Ten tournament looming thereafter, they will have to figure it out quickly.
“It was a tough weekend because we lost both games, but we played both well and created many opportunities,” O’Neill said. “… But like I said, I think the key thing is if we weren’t creating chances, then that would be a big issue. But we’re creating chances, now we just have to finish our opportunities, and as soon as you get one [goal], the gates will open up again.”