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Rutgers eliminated from Big Ten Tournament in penalty kick shootout by Penn State

It took two overtimes of scoreless soccer and penalty kicks in the pouring rain to finally decide a winner in the Big Ten Tournament quarterfinals between the Rutgers women’s soccer team and Penn State.

Unfortunately for the No. 25 Scarlet Knights (12-2-5, 6-2-3), the No. 11 Nittany Lions (10-4-4, 6-2-3) returned last year’s favor as they defeated Rutgers at Yurcak Field by a score of 4-3 in the penalty kick shootout. 

The Knights defeated Penn State at University Park in the quarterfinals last year.

“I just think that they came in with a lot of energy,” said freshman forward Amirah Ali. “Being that they weren’t home, they wanted to bring more energy than us because we had the home field advantage and everything so I think they did pretty well with that, but we just had to come out even harder.”

But from the beginning, Rutgers was on its heels the entire match, more so the defense. The Lions outshot the Knights 21-8 and controlled the possession for most of the day.

Even so, Rutgers’ defense held a relentless Penn State offense scoreless for 110 minutes.

“We knew it was going to be a hard game,” said head coach Mike O’Neill. “We have a really good rivalry with Penn State, and the games are very, very close so they expected it to be a tough match, and we knew at the end it was gonna be a close match.”

The shutout was even more impressive as the Knights were without junior defender and captain Kenie Wright for most of the match. Wright left the game in the first half with an apparent knee injury and did not return for the rest of the game.

With most of the match being played in a downpour, the slick conditions also did not help either team.

“Sometimes when you play in those conditions, it’s not always (about) the soccer,” O’Neill said. “But I felt we got beat to too many first and second balls, and sometimes that’s what happens in these types of conditions, but the times that we did that we were successful, but we just found ourselves chasing a little bit too much.”

Rutgers had its fair share of chances early but just could not convert. The Knights had five shots in the first half but only three for the rest of the game.

But the team felt confident going into penalty kicks knowing they had one of the best goalkeepers in the country, junior Casey Murphy, in the net.

“We go anywhere pretty confident knowing we have Casey with us,” O’Neill said. “I think the ending, it was a game that we didn’t play the way we needed to play, but we still gave ourselves a chance in the end because of probably one of the greatest displays of goalkeeping I’ve seen.”

Murphy did have two saves during penalty kicks, but ultimately, Penn State converted on more chances than Rutgers did by a score of 4-3.

The Knights will remember this loss but regroup and look ahead to the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) Tournament starting November 10. The Selection Show is on November 6, but with their strength of schedule and the season it just had, Rutgers is a shoo-in to be one of the 64 teams selected.

“Definitely we’re just hungry now,” Ali said. “Since we couldn’t get the Big Ten (Championship), we definitely want to come after the NCAAs. We wanna take it and win it all and bring home the trophy.”

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

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