Magic carpet ride ends for Rutgers in first loss of season
The No. 11 Rutgers women’s soccer team saw its win and shutout streaks come to an end against Illinois on Thursday night when it fell, 2-1, in a tough road contest.
Under the lights in Champaign and in front of a national television audience on Big Ten Network, the Scarlet Knights (8-1, 2-1) struggled to find as many scoring chances as they have in recent games and ran into an opponent that was finally able to convert against their stout defense.
Both teams got off to slow starts in the match, as they were struggling to maintain possession and there were many turnovers.
The Knights were not able to stretch the field much during the first half, as the Fighting Illini (7-2-1, 1-1-1) kept them in check by trying to keep the ball toward the middle of the field.
Shots were even at seven apiece at the half, though Rutgers had the closest scoring chances.
In the 51st minute, Allison Stucky scored the first goal against Rutgers on the season when she tapped in the ball past sophomore goalkeeper Casey Murphy off a corner kick.
Hope D’Addario and Kara Marbury assisted on the set piece score, ending the Rutgers' scoreless streak at 770:16.
The Knights made an adjustment after allowing the goal by sending junior back Erin Smith up towards the midfield to try to give the Knights some offensive firepower.
They began to control the ball more than they did in the first half and did not let the shock of allowing their first goal to disrupt their offensive game plan.
It worked, as the offense received a spark and senior forward Cassie Inacio scored in the 63rd minute to tie the game at 1-1. She was assisted by senior midfielder Hayley Katkowski on the play, Inacio’s third goal of the season.
Her shot came from long-range and outside of the box on the left side, while she also had to elevate her the ball over three defenders and goalkeeper Claire Wheatley in order for it to find the back of the net.
After more back-and-forth play between both sides following Inacio’s equalizer, the Fighting Illini were able to retake the lead in the 81st minute when Kara Marbury fired one past Murphy to give Illinois a 2-1 lead.
Marbury was assisted by Jannelle Flaws on the score and it proved to be the game-winning goal, as the Knights were unable to score a goal in the remaining nine minutes of play.
Rutgers continued to push the pace and even sent senior back Erica Skroski up the field like they did with Smith, but the Illini defense held firm and prevented the Knights from having close chances in the final minutes.
Skroski and Smith were all over the pitch in the contest and played the entire 90 minutes in the game.
Both teams concluded with 13 shots and six corner kicks apiece, but on this night, the Illini were the ones with more decisive shots than Rutgers.
Murphy ended with four saves on the evening and will look to rebound with her teammates on Sunday on the road again to face Northwestern (7-1-2, 1-0-1).
The Knights and head coach Mike O’Neill talked all year about how crucial their depth is to what they look to achieve on the field, and will need to see that on display as the game will be a quick turnaround against another quality conference opponent.
They knew it would be their toughest weekend of the season to date, but will have to quickly regroup and try to head back to the Banks with their second Big Ten win.
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