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Rutgers closes out regular season against Penn State

The Rutgers men’s soccer team closes out its regular season schedule against Penn State on Sunday, Oct. 28, at 4 p.m.

The Scarlet Knights (4-11-1, 2-5) can secure the No. 6 seed with a win over the Nittany Lions (5-8-2, 2-3-2) in University Park, Pa. 

Rutgers dropped a close 2-1 contest against Columbia in its last non-conference match of the season. Junior forward Jordan Hall drilled the lone goal for the Knights in the first half. 

The Big Ten’s leading scorer contributed half of Rutgers’ 12 shots against the Lions, giving him the conference lead in shots. The Knights were only awarded one attempt from the corner.

Junior forward Brian Hawkins picked up his second assist of the season on a long pass that set up Hall’s Big Ten-leading 13th goal of the season.

Penn State fell to Maryland, 3-2, in double overtime Tuesday night, in College Park, Md. Down a 1-goal deficit at halftime, the Lions would not net the tying goal in the 84th minute, when midfielder Aaron Molloy connected on his 2nd goal of the season.

The Terrapins controlled the match right from the get-go. They pressed goalkeeper Josh Levine early in the first 10 minutes of the match.

Forward Vinicius Lansade drilled the 1st goal of the match for Maryland in the 26th minute, after a scramble in the box on a close shot. Midfielder Amar Sejdic netted a 12-yard shot to put the Terrapins on the board again 20 minutes later. Sejdic had a game-high six shots.

Levine made seven saves, five more than Dayne St. Clair on the other side of the field. The double overtime thriller was his seventh loss of the season as the team’s starting net minder.

Penn State’s goalkeeper ranks above Rutgers' senior goalkeeper Rafael Pereira as the Big Ten’s leader in saves per game, averaging 4.20 per game while the Lisbon, Portugal native is averaging 4.10 saves per game.

The Lions and Maryland had five shots each at the end of regulation, but it was the Terrapins who came out on top. Forward Paul Bin netted his 2nd game-winning goal with 4 minutes left in the second overtime period to give Maryland the win.

Offensively, as a unit, Penn State has only scored 15 goals on the season. Forward Jeremy Rafanello leads the team with 3 goals. 

Rafanello has not scored since the Lions defeated Wisconsin several weeks ago. He has accumulated 7 points on the season.

Midfielder Callum Pritchatt leads the team with three assists. Like Hall, Pritchatt is a native of England but has not scored a goal this season.

Like this year, the Knights played Penn State in their last Big Ten regular season meeting in 2017. Rutgers hosted the Lions on senior day and fell, 6-2, in a match where the home team was outshot 16-12. Hawkins and junior midfielder Tim McQuaid scored the only 2 goals for the team at Yurcak Field. 

The Knights have not defeated Penn State since 2013, their last season in the American Athletic Conference. 

As a team, the Lions tend to score the majority of their goals in the first half. They have scored 10 of their 15 in the first 45 minutes. 

They are third to last in the Big Ten with 146 total shots, averaging less than 10 attempts per game. 

A key for a Rutgers win would be to pressure Penn State early by using the combination of Hall and sophomore forward Brendan Wall to power the offense. Wall had two shots against Columbia with one on goal.

Fifth-year senior forward Miles Hackett is one of the Big Ten’s best in leading uptempo transition plays. Although he had one shot in the last match, Hackett has been a key factor in Rutgers’ ability to move the ball. He leads the team with four assists and has played quality defense, as well.

"We have a chance to jump them in the standings if we can beat them on Sunday,” said head coach Dan Donigan after the Columbia match. “Our whole focus is on this game on Sunday. That’s our mindset.”

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

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