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LaPlant's shot seals upset for Rutgers behind emerging defense

After three years hampered by injury, senior forward Brittany LaPlant is on a campaign to make up for lost time in her final season on the Rutgers women's soccer team. She made her first mark on that campaign with a shot that delivered the Scarlet Knights (3-0) a signature win in this early season as her game-winner in the 47th minute on Thursday night was all Rutgers needed to upset No. 11 Tennessee 1-0 at Yurcak Field. 

"It's definitely up there," LaPlant said of her goal. "This is the first season that I've been completely healthy, so to be able to come out and be able to play for my team and something bigger than myself. It really means a lot to me." 

The upset win marks the highest-ranked opponent the Knights have defeated since Aug. 28, 2016. Against No. 10 UConn, a freshman LaPlant added a late goal to cement an upset win on the road. 

Her game-winner against the Volunteers (2-1) is the 10th of her career, but only the latest in a series of clutch and timely shots. As a sophomore in 2017, she delivered game-winners against then-No. 12 Ohio State and in overtime against Indiana. She even shined in the spotlight of the NCAA Tournament with a goal against La Salle in a 3-1 first-round victory. 

"It was a hard-fought win," LaPlant said. "I wouldn't have wanted it any other way. I'm happy we didn't go to overtime because those games are always brutal." 

LaPlant's shot was all it took to pull off the upset due to a Rutgers defense that has now pitched two straight shutouts and five straight scoreless halves dating back to the season opener.

Sophomore goalkeeper Meagan McClelland only recorded one save in the game as the back line tandem of seniors defender Chantelle Swaby, midfielder Taylor Aylmer and sophomore defender Shea Holland has stifled opposing defenses to this point, including Tennessee, who was only able to get seven total shots off in the game. 

"We're just communicating with each other, sticking by each other," Aylmer said. "If somebody makes a mistake, the next one's there, right behind their back ready to help them out and I think that's been great for us. It's a great mentality and it's showing."

The Knights start out 3-0 for the third straight season and have taken care of business so far on a lengthy homestand. Head coach Mike O'Neill has the privilege of opening this season with a five-game homestand before their first road trip. Rutgers takes hosts Providence and Hofstra before driving down Route-1 South to take on Princeton. 

"We always talk about the next game being the most important, and for us (Tennessee) was the most important because it was the next one," O'Neill said. "It was a game that we needed so we can see that play and big credit to the team."

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

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