Rutgers' win against Lafayette gives it momentum heading into Penn State bout
The Rutgers men’s soccer team picked up a satisfying victory on Wednesday night, a much-needed vote of confidence to prepare the team for its important matchup this Sunday.
The Scarlet Knights (4-10-1, 0-7-0) took out Lafayette (2-12-0, 1-4-0) in front of their home crowd at Yurcak Field in what was one of the best performances by the team this season.
“It’s always good to get a win,” said head coach Dan Donigan. “It was a convincing win, I felt. They’re a difficult team to break down and we scored 4 goals as a direct result of the quality service in the box.”
The Leopards gave Rutgers a scare early on, scoring almost immediately in the fourth minute off of a penalty kick and putting the Knights in an early 1-0 hole.
Rutgers recouped and scored its first goal of the game in the 26th minute to tie the game. Freshman defender Bryce Washington scored his first goal of the season.
“I honestly didn’t think I scored at first but it happened, so it’s exciting,” Washington said. “It feels good to get another win at home.”
Less than 10 minutes later, junior midfielder Thomas Dovell scored off a header that put the Knights up 2-1 on Lafayette. Dovell’s goal was assisted by two freshmen, midfielder Kyle Galloway and defender Vincent Borden.
Rutgers went into the halftime locker room up 3-1 after the Leopards scored an own goal in the 42nd minute, a crushing blow to their efforts to make a comeback.
After missing a penalty kick earlier in the game, senior midfielder Erik Sa scored the Knights' fourth and final goal of the night off a second assist from Galloway. The 4-1 win gave Rutgers its second win at home this season.
“I hit the PK terribly but it’s good to get one back right after that,” Sa said. “That could get in your mind a little bit if you miss it and don’t get another one after that, so I was glad I could redeem myself after that."
Although the win is still fresh in their minds, the Knights now turn their attention to what is possibly their most important match of the season, as conference rival Penn State (2-9-2, 0-6-0) comes to Piscataway for the final Big Ten game of the season.
The stakes of this game couldn’t be higher for the two teams that have struggled all season, but the winner of Sunday afternoon's matchup guarantees itself a Big Ten win on the season.
Additionally and more importantly, the winner of the match will not be seeded in last place for the Big Ten Tournament, keeping themselves out of the sights of the No. 1 seed in the opening round.
“We’re going to have to work hard at all facets of the game,” Donigan said. “We’ve got to execute, make good decisions, we can’t give up mistakes because every Big Ten team is going to make you pay.”
The Nittany Lions have not won a game in nearly a month and are currently riding a six-game losing streak, including four against Big Ten opponents.
Rutgers and Penn State have faced each other three times in the last three seasons, since the Knights joined the Big Ten. The Lions have won each of the games and lead the series 3-0.
“It’s going to take more effort on Sunday,” Sa said. “Be strong defensively and not let any of their guys get anything that they don’t earn.”
In 2014, Rutgers fell in its first matchup with Penn State on the road, failing to score and succumbing to just a 1-0 loss that could have been won.
In their first Big Ten game in Piscataway, the Lions again came out of the 90th minute victorious, shutting out the Knights again and scoring 2 goals themselves for the win.
Last season, Rutgers really gave its all in an attempt to steal a game at Penn State, but after two overtime periods, it wasn’t enough, as the Lions pulled away with a 3-2 win and a 3-0 record heading into this weekend’s matchup.
“It’s a must-win for us if we want to get out of a play-in game in the Big Ten Tournament, so we’ve got to ride off our momentum and work hard in practice the rest of this week,” Washington said.
For updates on the Rutgers men's soccer team, follow @TargumSports on Twitter.