UVA eliminates Rutgers from NCAA Tournament
For a moment, it seemed as if the Rutgers women’s soccer team could pull it off.
In the first half of action in Friday’s NCAA Tournament game, the No. 25 Scarlet Knights scrapped. With a scoreless tie at halftime against a No. 4 Virginia team that boasted the country’s most lethal scoring attack, the idea of an upset began to churn into a reality.
But as soon as those thoughts began to flow and hope began to build for the Knights, the Cavaliers broke them right back down.
With a pair of goals in the first six minutes of action in the second half, Virginia stunned Rutgers. During that 40-second span of two goals, it also seized the momentum.
When the Cavaliers got rolling, they eventually cruised out of the second half to a 3-0 final, knocking the Knights out of the NCAA Tournament’s second round and sending them out of Charlottesville with the reality that their season was over.
For Rutgers (13-6-1), the effort against a powerhouse team in Virginia (20-2) was there. Despite the heated attack by the second-seeded Cavaliers, the seventh-seeded Knights locked down the defense.
Freshman goalkeeper Casey Murphy recorded a string of saves down to the wire of the first half horn, stopping forward Morgan Reuther with two minutes left to keep the score level.
Despite Murphy’s four saves on the night, the Cavaliers eventually broke through, and the increased intensity by their opponents was something head coach Mike O’Neill warned his team about during the intermission.
“What we talked about at halftime was we knew they were going to come out strong and that if we got through the first 15-20 minutes, it’d put more and more pressure on them,” O’Neill said. “We would be able to capitalize on some of the mistakes that they would make.”
But the Knights couldn’t stop what they knew was coming.
In the 50th minute, Virginia got on the board with Tina Iordanu’s first goal of the season to go up, 1-0.
Immediately after, they did it again.
After stealing possession away from Rutgers, the Cavaliers surged down field and set up a corner kick. Brittany Radcliffe sailed the long send in and found Makenzy Doniak in front of the net for the header for Virginia’s second goal in 40 seconds.
The short sequence of events was hard to digest for Stef Scholz. After the promise built up from the first half, the senior forward felt the Knights were moving in the right direction for a serious bid at shocking Virginia on its own field.
“In the second half, we just talked about trying to maintain the pressure and all of that and taking advantage of the chances we could get,” Scholz said. “So going into the second half, we were definitely still in the game, [but] once they scored those two goals, it became a little harder.”
Rutgers struggled to generate scoring chances, managing just three shots throughout the entire match, while Virginia fired off 17.
The final nail in the coffin came in the 67th minute on Radcliffe’s second goal of the game. She slipped a goal just inside the near post from 10 yards out for a 3-0 separation and a dagger for the game.
As he discussed the lack of execution on his team’s part, O’Neill cited the Cavalier’s talent for what ultimately ended the Knights’ postseason life and extended Virginia’s.
“The key to the match is to limit your mistakes. There were things we could’ve done better, but they capitalized on things, and in that moment, we didn’t do well,” O’Neill said. “But I also don’t want to take anything away from them because they’re a very talented team.”
For updates on the Rutgers women’s soccer team, follow @TargumSports on Twitter.