Rutgers blanks Ohio State to kickoff home stand
PISCATAWAY — With the regular season winding down, each game becomes more important and has a bigger impact on the conference standings than the previous one.
The No. 25 Rutgers women’s soccer team entered its Thursday night match at home against Ohio State with both teams tied with 11 points in the Big Ten standings, so the Scarlet Knights (11-2-2, 4-2-2) knew how pivotal a game could be.
With that in mind, the Knights came out with a clear sense of urgency to defeat the Buckeyes, 2-0, in a win that nets them three more points in the Big Ten.
Both teams started at a frantic pace, rapidly flipping the field and making passes before the opposing team would force a turnover.
Junior forward Madison Tiernan had the first close chance for the Knights, just missing the top of the net on a far shot from outside of the box in the 30th minute.
After some more back-and-forth play, Rutgers began to settle in and control the tempo.
Freshman back Adora Moneme got the Knights on the board in the 39th minute on a cross from junior defender Erin Smith, who then passed the ball to senior forward Rachel Cole.
Cole centered it to Moneme, who gave a quick kick from 12 yards out to send the ball past Ohio State goalkeeper Jillian McVicker and give Rutgers a 1-0 lead.
It was her second goal of the season and her insertion into the lineup gave the Knights an offensive boost they had been searching for.
“I thought we kept the ball really well against a good team tonight,” said head coach Mike O’Neill. “We created chances and finished two of them by playing good soccer. We talk so much about being in the final third and the awareness and execution we need to be successful, and we did that tonight. We were happy with our effort.”
Moneme was glad to give her team the lead in a game like this one, giving her confidence in herself and the team moving forward.
“It felt awesome to score that goal,” she said. “I haven’t scored since the first game, so it was a great feeling to get out there and score, especially in a win.”
The Knights only held a 5-4 advantage in shots at halftime, and made a concerted effort in the second half to increase their shot total.
With eight minutes remaining, sophomore forward Colby Ciarrocca added a goal from close in front of the net, which gave Rutgers a 2-0 lead.
It was her fourth goal on the year, and she leads the Knights with 11 points.
Rutgers finished with 12 shots compared to six for the Buckeyes. Even though it had fewer shots compared to previous games, the two goals were a welcoming sign for the team.
The defense remained strong as it usually has for the bulk of the season to this point and the two goals proved to be sufficient to ensure the win.
Sophomore goalkeeper Casey Murphy recorded her 12th shutout of the season and finished with three saves on the night.
O’Neill was thrilled to see another firm defensive performance, which can keep the Knights in nearly any game they play.
“These kids work so hard and always defend as a unit,” he said. “It’s inspiring to watch and really gives us a good chance in our games.”
The Knights now turn their attention to their most high-profile matchup to date — a Sunday afternoon visit from No. 9 Penn State (10-2-2, 5-1-1).
Rutgers has won its last three matches against the Nittany Lions, including a 1-0 victory on the road last season.
But Penn State comes into Yurcak Field on a roll, having won its last four matches.
The Knights know they will have to be at their best to play with a team as talented as Penn State, but believe they are up for the challenge.
“Penn State is a very good ranked team but a win like tonight gives us some confidence,” said Tiernan, who had the game-winner in last year's upset over the then-No. 7 Nittany Lions. “We’re ready to come out on our home field and take them on, and hopefully we can play like we did tonight.”
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