Rutgers looks forward to Big Ten Tournament

With the Big Ten Tournament just around the corner, the Rutgers women’s soccer team is hungry for its first conference championship at home. The No. 16 Scarlet Knights (14-2-2, 8-2-1) have had one of their best conference seasons since joining the Big Ten. 

Rutgers had a rocky start with back-to-back losses against Wisconsin and Maryland at home. Being kicked to the ground motivated the Knights more than ever to come back around and dominate the rest of their matches both home and away. Most recently, Rutgers upset No. 16 Michigan in a 1-0 shutout in Ann Arbor, Michigan.

The Big Ten Tournament schedule won’t be released until Wednesday when competition ends. There are still matches between the No. 7 Badgers (13-2-2, 9-0-1) and Ohio State as well as Indiana and Michigan State, but the standings will likely remain the same heading into the tournament.

As of today, the Knights are seated comfortably in second. Rutgers is expected to play its quarterfinal match in Piscataway on Sunday. If the standings remain the same, the Knights will face off against the Hoosiers (7-8-2, 3-5-2). 

Rutgers has never lost a game to Indiana, and if the Knights were to win their quarterfinal matchup, Rutgers would play either Michigan or the Terrapins (9-7-3, 5-5-1) in the semifinal match on Nov. 8 at Yurcak Field. But anything can happen in the Big Ten Tournament, and the Knights will have to fight tooth and nail to get to the top of the conference.

Following the quarterfinal matches, the winners of each game will compete in the semifinals on Nov. 8 with the championship final being held on Nov. 10 at Yurcak Field.

Like last year’s seedings, Rutgers will hold the No. 2 seed heading into the tournament. Wisconsin has the top seed and remains undefeated in Big Ten play. Producing seven shutouts in the conference season, the Badgers will be the team to beat as only three other Big Ten programs have been able to score on them, with one of them being the Knights.

Rutgers Impact Players

Junior forward Nneka Moneme: Eleven. Goals. Five of them are from the past four games. Four consecutive game-winning goals. The stats speak for themselves for the budding Knights superstar. Last season, Moneme scored a total of 3 goals and since then, she’s been getting stronger through each game.

Sophomore goalkeeper Meagan McClelland: With a .843 save percentage on 59 saves, McClelland is one of the top goalkeepers in the conference. She hasn’t racked up as many saves as other goalies due to Rutgers’ strong offense, but when the ball is close to home, McClelland is a brick wall that the ball rarely gets past. 

But during the last game against Michigan State, McClelland struggled at the net, letting 2 goals past her within the first 20 minutes of the match. McClelland has the highest number of shutouts in the Big Ten with 10, and she’ll be looking to increase that number as the tournament begins.

Senior midfielder Taylor Aylmer: The queen of long assists goes to Aylmer. Hailing from Garnerville, New York, Aylmer has a keen eye for creating goal opportunities. Three assists this season allowed the Knights to head the ball into the back of the net off of corner kicks. A handful of Aylmer’s other assists were long passes that cleared the ball to Rutgers' offense running down the field. 

The Big Ten quarterfinal matches are all on Sunday, Nov. 3, which will be aired on the Big Ten Network and BTN+. 

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

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