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Rutgers defeats Indiana in dominant fashion

<p>Senior midfielder Samantha Valliant prepares to strike a pass during Rutgers 2-0 victory over Indiana at Yurcak Field last night. Vallaint scored what ended up being the game-winning goal for the Knights.</p>

Senior midfielder Samantha Valliant prepares to strike a pass during Rutgers 2-0 victory over Indiana at Yurcak Field last night. Vallaint scored what ended up being the game-winning goal for the Knights.

PISCATAWAY — The No. 23 Rutgers women’s soccer team finished off a three-game home stand with a 2-0 victory over Indiana on Thursday night at Yurcak Field.

The Scarlet Knights (10-2-1, 3-2-1) were able to push the pace and control the tempo from the outset of the game.

Despite the Hoosiers (3-6-5, 2-3-1) sending an extra midfielder up the field to try to intercept the ball from the Knights, they were unsuccessful and Rutgers was able to have its way with the ball.

The Knights struck first in the 21st minute when senior defender Maggie Morash sent a pass to charging senior midfielder Samantha Valliant, who headed the ball into the net to give Rutgers a 1-0 lead.

It was the third goal of the season for Valliant, who returned to the lineup after sitting out the past two matches.

Her return gave the Knights a spark — and a lead that they never looked back from.

“We had a great week of training,” said head coach Mike O’Neill. “We worked a lot in the final third and midfield to keep possession, and I thought we did that really well. The last piece of the puzzle is to get a little more sophistication in the box because that is where goals are scored. We liked what we did and created and now it’s time to get better in that area of the field.”

Valliant was glad to get back on the field with her teammates, knowing how important it was for the Knights to grab this win and the three points that come with it.

“It felt great to score that goal,” Valliant said. “I had a couple of injuries and I was sick for the last game, so it was nice to finally get back out there. And as soon as the ball came across to me, I knew I had to put it in the back of the net.”

Sophomore goalkeeper Casey Murphy stopped Indiana’s closest chance in the 38th minute, where she made a diving save against Cassidy Blacha’s shot.

But Rutgers had a final push in it before getting to halftime. Senior midfielder Hayley Katkowski headed in the ball off a corner kick and assist from freshman midfielder Kenie Wright in the 45th minute.

After the ball was also tipped by an assisting senior defender Erica Skroski, Katkowski scored the header to give the Knights a 2-0 lead.

Aside from her third goal of the season, Katkowski's 77th start in a row moved her into a tie for 10th place with former Rutgers player and 2015 World Cup star Carli Lloyd on the program's all-time list for consecutive starts. 

The Knights outshot the Hoosiers, 13-2, in the first half, thoroughly controlling the flow of the match, before carrying the momentum into the second half.

They continued to maintain possession of the ball and pressured the Indiana defense by unleashing aggressive shots.

The bulk of the half was played on the Hoosiers’ half of the field with the Knights passing the ball around the pitch with ease.

Their aggressive style of play did not generate any goals in the second half, but they finished the game by outshooting Indiana by a mark of, 25-7.

They were pleased with the intensity they displayed on offense, as it matched the stoutness that they are accustomed to getting from their defense in every game.

“We had been a little low in our offensive attack in the past few games, but we came out attacking tonight and it showed,” said senior defender Brianne Reed. “We worked really hard on it this week in practice and we have to keep working on finishing our opportunities.”

With the All-American Reed playing the full 90 minutes, she helped lead a solid defensive effort in front of Murphy, who finished with four saves.

Now the Knights turn their attention to a Sunday road game against conference foe Purdue.

The Boilermakers (7-5, 2-3) will be looking to avenge last season’s 4-0 loss against the Knights.

Rutgers hopes to get off to a quick start like it did against Indiana. That alone would help the Knights gain critical confidence against a veteran team on the road, according to O'Neill.

“What we learn from a game like this is that an aggressive mentality works,” O’Neill said. “We really worked on it during training and the players came out tonight and applied that mentality, which we hope to see at Purdue.”

For updates on the Rutgers women’s soccer team, follow @TargumSports on Twitter.

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