Rutgers defeats Michigan, 1-0, in regular season finale
After a positive regular season, the Rutgers women’s soccer team is ready for the postseason.
With their 1-0 win over Michigan on Wednesday, the No. 25 Scarlet Knights (12-2-4, 6-2-3) padded their conference point total and now have 21 points in the Big Ten standings while simultaneously ending the Wolverines' (6-6-6, 3-5-3) season.
Freshman forward Alaysia Lane provided the offense for Rutgers in the 39th minute with a shot that ricocheted off the post and trickled to the goal for her third goal of the season.
“It was just a team goal,” Lane said. “It was a great counterattacking goal. The team played really good defense to get it out and played the ball to Nneka (Moneme) and I just pushed myself out wide. It was just a great pass by Nneka and we scored.”
The Knights came out firing on all cylinders and suffocated the Michigan defense in the first half, out-shooting Michigan 10-2 in the first half.
But going into halftime with the lead, Rutgers came out in the second half a little more passive.
“I think we kind of got away from keeping possession in the second half,” said junior defender and captain Kenie Wright. “But we stuck together and we didn’t allow them to get a goal and I think moving forward we just have to really do well in both the first and second half and bring momentum.”
Despite going into the break with a lead, the Knights’ game plan did not change in the second half even though they could have leaned on their defense as they have for much of the season.
Instead, head coach Mike O’Neill wanted his Rutgers team to continue to go out and attack.
“The plan was to go out and get more,” O’Neill said. “We’ve always been very good in the second half so in the second half I thought we were maybe a bit tight where we played a bit safe rather than going and trying to get more, but that’s a great opportunity to learn because when you’re two goals better than someone you should beat them by two goals.”
Unlike the Wolverines, the Knights will move on to postseason play and get a chance to fix those little details that can be the difference between winning and losing a match.
Regardless, Wright and the entire Rutgers team want to thank the fans who have come out for each and every game this season and who always show their unwavering support for the Knights.
“Our fans have been great this year,” Wright said. “We’ve had so many friends and family come out and every game they bring so much energy and we just want to thank them so much. Yurcak (Field) is always high energy when they’re here.”
As for the coach, O’Neill is very pleased with what his team has been able to accomplish this season and can’t wait to see what’s in store for them going forward.
“I’m so proud of them,” he said. “I’m so proud of the effort that they put in on a day to day being student athletes. I’m really proud of the staff and the work that they’ve put in. It’s a good season and in order to make it a great season you need to get postseason and that was part of the goal and we did that.”
Next up for Rutgers is the opening round of the playoffs — where the team is not sure which team it will come up against. Still, despite the uncertainty going forward, nobody is more ready or more excited for the opportunity than the Knights.
“There is nothing like playoff soccer,” O’Neill said. “So bring on the playoffs.”
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