Rutgers to wrap up tumultuous regular season with home match against Columbia
The Rutgers men’s soccer team will play its final match of the regular season this Wednesday night, playing as the host team for the third match in a row.
The Scarlet Knights (4-11-1, 0-8-0) will play Columbia (6-2-3, 2-1-1) at Yurcak Field at 7 p.m., the second matchup of a double header with the women’s soccer team. Rutgers will try and make up for its performance on senior day last Sunday, when the Knights were embarrassed by Big Ten rival Penn State.
Over the weekend, Rutgers hosted the Nittany Lions in a big matchup of Big Ten losers, as neither team had won a conference match this season prior to Sunday matchup. Although the match saw sophomore forward Brian Hawkins and sophomore midfielder Tim McQuaid score their first goals of the season, Penn State scored 6 goals over the course of 90 minutes, capturing a 6-2 win.
“We’ve got one more game against Columbia,” said head coach Dan Donigan, who will close out his eighth season at the helm of the team. “People are going to look and just us based on how we respond to this (Penn State) loss.”
For the (Columbia) Lions, the mid-week matchup will hopefully bring a bounce back effort from the squad, who started the season off hot but have since stumbled in the past couple of matches.
Columbia is coming off a 2-1 loss on the road to conference rival Dartmouth, which also came off a 0-0 double overtime draw with Princeton. This brings some added boost to the Knights' confidence, as they defeated the Tigers 1-0 earlier four weeks ago.
“Our biggest problem this season is that we’ve given up a lot of goals,” Hawkins said. “We’ve got to keep the defense compact and keep goals out of our net. We’ve also got to put goals away to give our defense high heads, so they don’t have to defend as much.”
The Lions are currently in the lead in the long tenured series with Rutgers, which dates back to the first match in 1957, which the Knights won. Columbia is currently up 11-10-3 over Rutgers and hope to add another win to its record.
This will be the second year in a row that the Knights and Lions face off, after not having seen each other since 1989, when Rutgers defeated Columbia at home.
Last season, the Lions paid a visit to Yurcak Field and left with a win, securing a 1-0 victory with some stifling defense against a struggling Knights offense.
“We’ll work on things, we will get there, and we will see how things go in the tournament,” Hawkins said.
Rutgers has had a hard time scoring the ball this season, scoring just 21 goals off 186 shots, just slightly above 11 percent accuracy.
Seniors midfielder Erik Sa and forward Ryan Peterson lead the Knights in both goals and points overall. Both soon-to-be graduates have scored 3 goals and added 1 assist, adding up to 7 points.
“We’ve just got to train hard,” Sa said. “We’ve got to make sure that our minds are right and just keep things going till the end of the season.”
Freshman midfielder Kyle Galloway and senior forward Dante Perez lead the Rutgers passing effort this season with 2 assists each, while a collection of seven other players have 1 assist each this season.
In the goal for the Knights this season has been junior Rafael Pereira, who has corralled 82 saves this season, while allowing 44 goals over 16 matches.
No matter how the final match goes, Rutgers will clearly need to reevaluate its team over the offseason. The Knights failed to pick up a Big Ten win over the course of the season for the second year in a row, something that proves the team is in needed of a new outlook.
After the season finale, Rutgers will get ready for what they’ve been preparing for all season, the 2017 Big Ten Tournament. The Knights are waiting to see who they will face in the opening quarterfinal round, before hopefully moving on to Westfield, Indiana for the semifinals.
“It’s happened before,” Donigan said. “You win the playing game and then you knock off the No. 1 seed, so that’s what our mindset has to be and what we need to work towards.
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