Rutgers stays undefeated as defense remains impermeable
Even a return to the sight of its first defeat from last season could not phase the Rutgers women’s soccer team and its record-setting shutout streak.
The No. 15 Scarlet Knights (8-0, 1-0) were victorious in their return to Ludwig Field at College Park, defeating Maryland (5-4, 0-1) with another 1-0 shutout.
Senior midfielder Samantha Valliant provided the only offense Rutgers needed with a shot toward the middle of the net that sparked the Knights to a 1-0 lead they did not relinquish. It was her second game-winning goal of the season.
Junior Madison Tiernan assisted on the play, as the forward recorded her first point of the season by stealing the ball from the Maryland defense and finding Colby Ciarrocca on the far side. The sophomore forward then tapped the ball to a charging Valliant.
With Ciarrocca also getting an assist, she now has scored a point in five consecutive matches and leads the team with seven points on the season.
It was a solid performance for the Knights. Right now, they just keep finding ways to win.
“We executed the game plan really well,” said head coach Mike O’Neill. “What I was most impressed with is just how the players stepped up. We had a few players who didn’t play as many minutes as they normally do, yet our depth showed and our players stepped up. We talk so much about being ’30 Strong’ and that was an indication of the result on Friday night.”
Both teams played tight defense, as Rutgers only outshot the Terrapins by a 9-8 margin.
The Knights were also held without a corner kick for the first time this season, while Maryland had six on the night.
But once again it was Rutgers who scored on the decisive shot.
“We were really excited for our first Big Ten game of the season and wanted to change the result from last year’s match at Maryland,” Valliant said. “We wanted to come out with a lot of energy and get started with a goal early in the game and fortunately we were able to do that.”
With each shutout, 90 more minutes of scoreless action are added to the Knights’ running total, which now stands at 720 minutes.
Owning the longest shutout streak in the country gives them motivation to keep it going as long as they possibly can, according to senior defender Brianne Reed.
“The motivation we have to go out and win each game is unreal and we all know what we have to do,” Reed said. “We’re going to keep trying to get as many shutouts as we can, but we also know that if we give up a goal that we can bounce back from that. The biggest difference this year is that everyone is defending all throughout the field and it helps us on the backline when everyone is focused on defense.”
Sophomore goalkeeper Casey Murphy continues to impress in goal, coming away with her 18th career shutout on two saves.
She is now fifth on the school’s all-time shutout list and her career goals-against average of 0.46 stands as the best mark in school history.
Her emergence as an ascending player and reliable force in net serves the Knights well as they prepare for more Big Ten play.
“With Casey in net and with the way we’ve been moving the ball and defending, we put ourselves in a good position to succeed in our game plan,” Reed said. “We are now also scoring earlier and often, which is exactly what we need.”
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