Nneka Moneme records first Rutgers hat trick in 8 years

It was business as usual for the Rutgers women's soccer team on a sunny afternoon at Yurcak Field, as the Scarlet Knights (2-0) dominated Fordham in a 5-0 rout to earn their second consecutive win.

Much of the credit for this win had to go to junior forward Nneka Moneme, who led Rutgers offensively with her first career hat trick.

“I feel like today was a confidence booster and we really demonstrated the way we want to play for the rest of the season,” Moneme said.

The Knights came out aggressively early in this matchup, getting several shots on target in the opening 10 minutes. The Rams (0-2) were able to maintain their shape defensively, coming out in a defensive 3-5-2 formation and sitting back in their own defensive third. 

The opening goal came in the 29th minute, when junior forward Amirah Ali sent a low cross to the far post and found an unmarked Moneme, who beat Fordham's Kelly LaMorte one-on-one for her first goal of the season.

It would take just 4 more minutes for Rutgers to double their advantage, as senior back Tiernny Wiltshire pounced on a deflected cross at the edge of the 18 in the 32nd minute. 

Coming out of halftime, the Knights were much more composed and efficient in the midfield, allowing them to control the flow of the game and create better opportunities. 

They would capitalize yet again in the 50th minute, as Ali played Moneme into the box with a perfectly placed through ball, and Moneme would beat LaMorte one-on-one with a clinical finish to put Rutgers in the driver’s seat.

Ali would get the fourth goal of the game in the 67th minute, slotting a penalty just inside the left goalpost. The goal capped off another stellar game for Ali, who scored both goals in last week’s win over Central Connecticut.

It took just 83 seconds for Moneme to complete the hat trick, lofting a close-range shot past LaMorte to complete the blowout.

With her hat trick, Moneme made history as the first Knight to score a hat trick since Jonelle Figno, who also scored 3 goals against the Rams back in 2011. The 5-goal outing was also the highest-scoring showing for Rutgers since a 7-0 win against Mount St. Mary's in 2017.

In addition to the efficient attacking performance, the Knights did a great job of shutting down Fordham completely, only allowing one shot in the entire game. This was largely due to the aggressive press employed in the midfield, which kept the Rams from getting any sort of rhythm going with the ball. 

“(Coming) off the last game (against the Blue Devils), we weren’t really happy with giving up a goal,” said sophomore goalkeeper Meagan McClelland. “During practice we focused on the details, and it worked.”

The win gives Rutgers a major confidence boost heading into a critical matchup with No. 10 Tennessee at Yurcak Field on Thursday night. The Volunteers (2-0) made the NCAA quarterfinals last season and will serve as the first major test for the Knights before conference play gets underway.

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

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