Rutgers draws Northwestern, defeats Illinois in Big Ten road trip
After both games over the weekend went to overtime, the Rutgers women’s soccer team came out alive, tying Northwestern 0-0 on Friday and winning a 2-1 thriller in Sunday’s bout against Illinois.
The No. 12 Scarlet Knights (8-0-2, 2-0-1) earned four points in conference play over the weekend and now sit in a tie for third place in the Big Ten. Rutgers hoped to escape the state of Illinois with six points, but the team still remains undefeated on the season — the lone team yet to lose a game in the Big Ten.
“Every time I walk out on the field I know my teammates are giving 100 percent — tonight was no different,” said senior midfielder Christy Monroy after Friday’s game. “We didn't get the result we wanted, but we had some good moments we can build on and some learning moments we can use to prepare us to move forward.”
Despite the tie, the Knights matched a program-best and stretched their shutout streak to nine games.
Northwestern (5-4-2, 2-1-1) outshot Rutgers 13-6, but it proved futile as neither team could find the back of the net in 110 minutes of action. Junior goalkeeper Casey Murphy added five saves to give her a total of 30 saves on the season going into Sunday.
“The focus tonight is to recover from a tough match and mentally prepare for Sunday,” Monroy said. “Every game has a new plan and we will spend the next two days refocusing on our next opponent.”
That opponent was Illinois (3-9-0, 0-4-0) and, yes, the Knights were refocused. Things looked good for Rutgers after senior forward Colby Ciarrocca scored her team-leading sixth goal of the season in the 63rd minute to give the Knights a 1-0 lead.
Twelve minutes later, Illinois countered with a goal of its own — ending Rutgers’ scoreless streak at 924:07 minutes, the longest scoreless streak in program history.
With a 1-1 tie after regulation, the game headed to overtime where it did not stay for long. Four minutes into the first half of overtime, freshman forward Amirah Ali passed the ball to fellow freshman forward Nneka Moneme who one-timed her shot that found the back of the net and made the Knights happy on their way home.
“I always try to help the team and do the best I can on the field," Moneme said. “I am very happy about my first career goal. I need to play with that same mentality every game.”
The goal marked the first of Moneme’s career and her first game-winner — quite the timing. Sixteen of Rutgers’ 24 goals this season have come from underclassmen.
“I think the most important piece is the depth,” said head coach Mike O’Neill. “Every day we talk about everybody being plugged in and coming in and getting better because there’s going to be a time that you’re going to be called upon and you’re going to need to step up. That’s what Nneka did today.”
Overall, O’Neill was pleased how his team bounced back from not only a disappointing tie on Friday but the goal given up as well.
“The game we played on Friday night we just gave the ball away too much,” O’Neill said. “So the goal today was to keep it and then create opportunities and I think we did a good job of that.”
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