Rutgers falls to Wisconsin in regular season finale
In a match where the Rutgers women’s soccer team entered the field hoping to earn a home Big Ten postseason game through a victory, the Scarlet Knights lost to Wisconsin by a score of 2-1 to conclude the regular season with a record of 9-3-6 overall and 4-2-5 in conference action.
Meanwhile, the Badgers improve to 8-4-7 overall with the win and now own a Big Ten record of 5-2-4.
They didn’t know it during the game, but the Knights wouldn’t have even locked up fourth place, which is the lowest seed that hosts a Big Ten tournament game, with a victory.
Rutgers needed to defeat Wisconsin and have Michigan draw or lose to Indiana, but the Wolverines vanquished the Hoosiers by a score of 3-2.
After the loss to Wisconsin, the Knights slide back into the seventh position in the conference standings, while the Badgers move up to fifth.
Playing soccer in Madison is a difficult challenge for any team, but Rutgers seemed capable of defying the odds for at least the first half.
Senior forward Erica Murphy put the Knights in the lead with her third goal of the season in the first half, putting her points total at 7 for the 2016 campaign.
Those numbers are especially impressive for a substitute, but not quite as riveting as her score Wednesday night.
In the 40th minute, there was a flurry of Wisconsin attempted clearances and Rutgers tries at goal until the chaos cleared at the foot of senior captain Madison Tiernan. The forward placed a perfect through ball to Murphy, who had slipped behind the Badger defensive line. Murphy followed with an instinctive attack on the ball and fired a left-footed shot to the back of the net.
Previously in the match, Wisconsin had been dominating the possession as well as earning more quality chances at goal, but in a split second the Knights captured the lead and ventured into halftime up 1-0.
In the second period, the Badgers came out with a ton of energy and focus, regaining the advantage they had controlled early in the match. Wisconsin contained the ball throughout the majority of the remainder of the game, constantly applying pressure in the offensive third.
Rutgers was succeeding in a bend-don’t-break defensive approach, but eventually the sheer volume of opponent opportunities became too much to handle.
The Badgers outshot the Knights 16 to seven during the contest, including a six to three advantage in shots on goal and a lopsided 12 to one lead in corner kicks.
As a result, Wisconsin was able to pepper in two goals in the final 20 minutes of the match and turn the tables on the scoreboard.
The first came in the 74th minute when senior midfielder Rose Lavelle scored with her left foot from near the left post.
The play developed on a free kick from senior midfielder Micaela Powers.
Powers launched a looping ball to the line of players at the top of the 18-yard box where freshman midfielder Grace Bahr was able to get her head on it. Bahr flicked the ball from the right flank of the box toward the left post and Lavelle gathered it masterfully and delivered a shot to the back of the net.
Lavelle would strike again for the Badgers seven minutes later on a rocket from outside the box. Freshman defender Payton Wesley stole the ball in the Rutgers third and found Lavelle in the middle of the field where she could get a great look at the goal. Lavelle’s two goals lifted her season total to four and her career aggregate to 20 scores.
For Rutgers, the loss is the team’s first since September and it comes at a crucial point with the Knights fighting for postseason position.
Still a contender for a Big Ten title with the first round of the tournament taking place Oct. 30, Rutgers was looking to host at least that initial game and those expectations were not met.
One can imagine that the seniors do not want to end their careers on a low note, however, especially after having such a successful season last year.
In 2015 the Knights made it to the final four of the NCAA tournament, known as the College Cup, and had the anticipation of making a similar run this year.
Despite this loss Rutgers still has immense talent and chemistry, which gives the team the potential to be special in the postseason, whether it be in the upcoming Big Ten tournament or on the national stage.
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