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No. 13 Rutgers readies for 2-match Big Ten homestand

Inching its way closer to the top of the national rankings, the Rutgers women’s soccer team has yet to drop a match going into Big Ten play this weekend. The No. 13 Scarlet Knights (6-0-1) will open the Big Ten season against Minnesota at Yurcak Field on Friday at 7 p.m., followed by a noon game against Wisconsin on Sunday.

Thanks to an undefeated non-conference season, Rutgers now sits as the highest Big Ten ranked school in the nation. The Knights have continuously improved their placing in the United Soccer Coaches Poll (No. 13), (No. 8) and Soccer America (No. 10) rankings.

Sophomore goalkeeper Meagan McClelland and the defense are fourth in the nation and first in the Big Ten for goals against average. McClelland has saved 17 of 19 goals, coupled with five shutouts this season.

Offensively, senior forward Brittany LaPlant is third in the conference, averaging 3.71 shots per game, while junior forward Amirah Ali has gotten the job done with 5 goals, putting her third in the Big Ten as well.

With an aggressive offense and strong defense, Rutgers is looking better in communication and playing with one another heading into this weekend’s games.

Scouting the Golden Gophers (1-5-2)

Sitting at the bottom of the standings, Minnesota had a tumultuous non-conference season. The Gophers recently lost 0-1 to South Dakota State, but before that, they secured its first victory of the year against then-No. 14 NC State. 

Even though they are 2018 Big Ten Champions, Minnesota is unpredictable. The Gophers struggle both offensively and defensively with no player hitting double digits in shots this season. 

Key players for Minnesota have been the freshmen offensive squad, but they have yet to get a grip on working together. Despite their lack of Big Ten experience, the young squad has the potential talent for success. Luckily for the Knights, upperclassmen are heading way for a team where the freshmen are quickly learning to play among other conference teams.

In the past, the Gophers have won 3 of the last 4 matchups. Last time Rutgers faced Minnesota was at the Big Ten quarterfinals where the Knights lost 0-1 to get kicked out of the tournament.

Scouting the Badgers (4-2-1)

Fairing in the middle of the Big Ten pack, Wisconsin has faced tough opponents, their most recent being a 0-1 loss to then-No. 5 UCLA. Last week, the Badgers ranked No. 22, but dropped this week to receiving votes in the United Soccer Coaches Poll. 

Wisconsin has a similar aggressive offense to Rutgers, having reached more than 100 shots this season. Not to mention, the Badgers' defense is also a tough wall with Wisconsin goalkeeper Jordyn Bloomer letting in only 4 goals over the past seven games.

Before the Knights and the Badgers face off on Sunday, Wisconsin takes on Maryland on Friday. 

Last time the Rutgers and the Badgers played, it was an away game where both teams left empty handed in a 0-0 double overtime tie. The Knights have claimed one 1-0 win against Wisconsin at home back in 2017.

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

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