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Rutgers drops 6-3 decision to Wisconsin in Big Ten Tournament quarterfinals

For the third straight season, the Rutgers men’s soccer team took an early exit in the Big Ten Tournament’s quarterfinal round. 

The No. 7 Scarlet Knights (4-13-1, 2-6) led early at halftime, but the No. 2 Badgers (10-5-2, 6-2) scored 4 unanswered goals in the second half en route to a 6-3 victory in Madison, Wis.

Rutgers scored all 3 goals in the first 40 minutes of the first half. Sophomore defender Brandon Golden got the ball rolling, heading in his first collegiate goal in the 10th minute. Freshman defender Thomas DeVizio, who was recently selected to the Big Ten All-Freshman Team, was credited with the assist off a free kick. 

DeVizio set up the Knights’ 2nd goal a short 4 minutes later. Fifth-year senior forward Miles Hackett netted his 3rd goal of the season, after junior forward Brian Hawkins controlled DeVizio’s throw-in. 

Wisconsin saw limited offensive chances until the 30th minute. Noah Leibold played a loose ball in the Rutgers box and drilled a shot past senior goalkeeper Rafael Pereira for the team’s 1st goal.

Junior forward Jordan Hall broke the tie in the 37th minute. Hall, who was recently named to First-Team All Big Ten, netted his 14th goal on a left-footed shot off an assist from Hackett.

The Badgers found a counter 6 minutes later. Midfielder Patrick Yim connected with a corner attempt from midfielder Noah Leibold and headed it past Pereira. 

Going into the locker rooms at the half, the Knights held a narrow 3-2 lead over Wisconsin, but was outshot 9-5.The shots would keep adding up in the next 45 minutes. 

Five minutes into the second half, forward Isaac Schlenker scored on a long throw-in to give the Badgers the equalizer. He finished with a game-high six shots, two of which were on goal. 

The quarterfinals match was ultimately decided in the 69th minute. Forward Noah Melick, an All-Big Ten Freshman Team selection, headed in the game winner past Pereira. He netted an additional goal in the 76th minute to cap off a 2-goal performance.

Midfielder Alex Alfaro bicycle kicked a corner kick off an assist from Melick to put the exclamation point on Wisconsin’s strong win in the 83rd minute. 

The Badgers were able to score their 4 goals in the second half off restart situations and set piece plays. Wisconsin finished the game with 11 corner kicks, seven more attempts than Rutgers. 

“It was kind of our own fault in the second half to give those guys some of those opportunities,”  said head coach Dan Donigan. “We made some decisions that led to their opportunities. They’re difficult to deal with when they get those situations.”

After a productive first half offensively, the Knights had several opportunities to tie the match in the second half. In the 71st minute, DeVizio found a wide open Hall at the top of the 18, but his header was stopped by Badgers goalkeeper Dean Cowdroy. 

Pereira, in his final game donning the scarlet uniform, tallied three saves before junior goalkeeper Joe Bruno finished the match. Cowdroy logged four saves in the full 90 minutes.

The conditions at McClimon Track/Soccer Complex were rainy and windy, certainly a factor in Rutgers’ abilities to control corner kicks and set piece plays. The team played the second half against the wind in a half where it managed five shots and three attempts from the corner.

“In the first half, we were more attack minded. I think the wind played a huge factor today because of their long throws and corner kicks,” Hall said. “We weren’t really able to utilize much going forward in the second half.”

Wisconsin will take on No. 3 Michigan in the Big Ten Tournament’s semifinal round next weekend in Westfield, Ind. 

“It was very unfortunate," Donigan said. “I thought the game plan was great going in. We got out to a great start. If we had kept it at that, we would have been better in the second half."

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

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