Rutgers plays Nebraska to scoreless draw on Senior Night
On a night where the Rutgers women’s soccer team honored the nine members of its senior class, the Scarlet Knights played Nebraska to a scoreless draw.
Rutgers (9-2-6, 4-1-5) played its program record ninth overtime game of the season, failing to score throughout the 110 minutes of action Saturday.
This was the team’s seventh overtime match in its last eight contests, which has had a cumulative effect on the fatigue of the Knights.
Rutgers has played an additional 142:23 minutes of game action overall in the 2016 campaign.
But the dearth of goals was not due to a lack of effort from the Knights, as they generated many quality opportunities.
In the 25th minute, senior captain Madison Tiernan fired a shot that caromed off the crossbar and was eventually collected by Nebraska goalkeeper Aubrei Corder.
The freshman had an excellent game in net, saving seven shots as Rutgers peppered a total of 17 throughout the night.
Tiernan racked up a sum of 10 shots herself, which was a game-high and pushed her season aggregate to 85 attempts on the year.
Nine minutes after the forward’s near-goal, freshman midfielder Taylor Aylmer gave the Knights another decent chance at a score.
After senior forward Jessica Puchalski launched a shot at the net, Corder made an impressive block but could not hold on and subsequently the ball was loose in the 18-yard box.
Aylmer took full advantage, drilling a shot toward the goal, but the crossbar got in the way once again.
Senior captain Tori Prager had one of Rutgers’ other significant opportunities at getting on the scoreboard when she found herself in the middle of the field just outside the box.
The midfielder created some room by beating a defender and then cranked a shot toward the net, but Corder came to Nebraska’s rescue, foiling the potential score.
“We fought really hard but the bounces just didn’t go our way,” Prager said. “It’s tough being so close so many times in a match, but sometimes, you just get unlucky and the crossbar can be an enemy.”
Despite the tough obstacles the offense faced on the defensive side, the match was a huge success for the Knights, as they completed their second shutout in a row and ninth on the year.
Senior goalkeeper Alana Jimenez only had to make one save the entire night, but still picked up her eighth clean sheet of the season.
“It’s cliché to say, but defense wins championships and we have been getting the job done on that end of the field,” Tiernan said. “It would’ve been nice to get the result we wanted though, especially on Senior Night.”
Saturday was truly more than a typical game, as everyone involved experienced a special moment for the program.
In addition to flowers and an elaborate dinner, the Class of 2017 received individual gifts from the underclassmen on the team.
Families were also a part of the celebration, this time cheering from on the field instead of the stands.
Countless photos were taken at this pre-game celebration as well, raising the height of emotions at the event.
“It really hit me that I’m a senior and I had to take it all in,” Tiernan said. “It was great to have parents and siblings around to make the moment even sweeter.”
Fellow captain Prager echoed that sentiment, explaining that for three years, Senior Night has been a big deal, but now that it’s her and her classmates’ time, the gravity of the ceremony really kicked in.
This senior class has deserved all the praise and acclaim it received Saturday, as the group has helped take Rutgers to new heights.
In the 2015 season, the Knights made it all the way to the College Cup and the current crop of seniors contributed mightily to that success as juniors.
“The seniors have taken this program and have built the tradition, the standard and the expectation for players when they come here that we want to compete for championships,” said head coach Mike O’Neill. “Rutgers women’s soccer is a better program on and off the field because all those seniors came here.”
In order to get to a championship game, whether it be Big Ten or NCAA, Rutgers will need to get a good result in their final match on Wednesday.
The Knights travel to Wisconsin to play the Badgers at 8 p.m. on Wednesday.
“Although Senior Night acknowledges that it’s our final year for the seniors, we don’t want to be done yet,” Tiernan said. “We need to beat Wisconsin and make some noise in the conference tournament.”
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