Rutgers falls to Columbia on Senior Night, concludes winless home slate of regular season
As fans filled the seats of Yurcak Field Tuesday night, they knew it was going to be a cold one. Parents and fans bundled up with their hot chocolate and winter coats for the pregame Senior Night ceremony before the Rutgers men’s soccer team hosted Columbia.
As the temperature dropped, so did the Scarlet Knights — for the 13th time this season.
The Lions (10-3-1, 2-1-1) defeated Rutgers (0-13-2, 0-6-2) on the coldest night of the season by a score of 1-0. The goal came in the 64th minute, when center back Tyler Morris, 1 of the 7 honored before kick-off, ricocheted a shot from Columbia’s leading scorer Arthur Bosa that trickled past senior goalkeeper David Greczek.
“Like I’ve been saying all year, our luck just isn’t happening for us this year,” said junior forward Dante Perez. “Nothing we can do about that.”
The first half between the two schools started slow and remained that way throughout the opening half. Both teams combined for nine shots with the Lions outshooting the Knights 6-3.
Columbia moved the ball more precisely and created better scoring chances but would eventually be shut down by Greczek.
The senior made both of his first half saves all alone as Lions players drove past Rutgers defenders, giving themselves one-on-one opportunities. During a two-minute span in the first half Columbia held stifling pressure on the Knights' defense passing the ball around, keeping Rutgers players on their toes. Eventually, Greczek would make a save to demolish any chance of scoring.
Head coach Dan Donigan would relish his senior keeper, who is now just three saves away in holding the program's all-time career saves record.
“David’s come up big all game long. I’ll be honest, for me, he’s one of the best goalkeepers I've ever had in all my years coaching,” Donigan said. “I think he will be a professional. It's very unfortunate for him to go through the season he’s gone through because there’s not a lot he can do about it.”
Tuesday night was not the first time these two schools have met, the last meeting in 1989 ending in a 3-2 Rutgers win.
But the game this season didn’t go as it did 27 years ago.
The Knights couldn’t create enough scoring chances for them to garner a lead, and part of that was because of the slow start in the first half and the Rutgers midfield play for most of the contest.
“We were a little slow, at halftime, we were saying everything was a step too slow,” said sophomore midfielder Thomas Dovell. “I think in the second half, we were able to create better chances going out wide and up top (but) we were really getting beat in the midfield. I think we did well late in the game, nothing just went for us tonight.”
The Lions outshot the Knights 11-6 but in Donigan’s eyes, not all of Columbia’s shots were solid ones. A lack of energy and movement were the keys to Tuesday night’s loss, according to Donigan.
“I think we lacked a little mobility in the front third of the field,” Donigan said. “Again, I didn’t think they had that great quality chances. Quality shots they didn’t have many more than we did. I think we lacked energy, we lacked movement, we lacked trying to get behind and make them uncomfortable.”
Donigan also explained after Tuesday night’s loss that his team not putting any pressure on the Lions bold defense gave them no reason to break. Columbia was doing what they needed to and kept with its plan.
Out of the three shots Rutgers had in the second half, only one looked promising. With 1:13 left to play, sophomore forward Jesse Weick spoiled a header opportunity to send the game into overtime as it sailed over the Lions net.
A brutally cold and windy night became more somber as the Knights failed again to relinquish a win. With one regular season game left, Rutgers will try and take care of business to build momentum up for the Big Ten Tournament play-in-game.
"It’s just kinda been the story of the season,” Donigan replied to his team’s lack of luck. “It's nothing to laugh at per say, but its just like, you don’t know what else you can do. We haven’t done the job well enough to get the results that we’re hopeful for.”
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