Rutgers finishes season with 2 wins in Michigan

Nothing can stop the Rutgers women’s soccer team. In its last two Big Ten matches in Michigan, the No. 21 Scarlet Knights (14-2-2, 8-2-1) upset the No. 16 Wolverines (12-4-1, 7-2-1) in a 1-0 shutout, then took down Michigan State 3-2 to close off their conference season on the way to the Big Ten tournament.

Leading the pack is junior forward Nneka Moneme. The Union, New Jersey, native has had a breakout season, marking four consecutive games where she’s scored a goal against a Big Ten opponent. 

Moneme clinched the game-winning goal against Michigan on Thursday evening and scored 2 goals against the Spartans (8-9-1, 1-8-1) on Sunday to come back from a 2-0 deficit. Her total is now at 11 goals this season.

At the start of the match against the Wolverines, Rutgers held a tight defensive battle with Michigan that put together seven shots in the first 40 minutes of play. The Knights only registered one shot in the beginning, having to defend the net for most of the first half. 

With just more than 2 minutes left in the half, senior midfielder Taylor Aylmer posted two back-to-back shots to claim possession of the ball. Neither of Aylmer’s shots went in, but Rutgers was able to retake possession, giving junior forward Amirah Ali an opportunity to quickly pass to senior forward Brittany LaPlant. 

LaPlant bounced the ball into position for Moneme to storm into the box and seal the deal with a shot to the back corner of the net.

The Knights may not have had many offensive opportunities, but they took the advantages that they did have to upset the Wolverines for their second Big Ten loss of the season.

Fast forward to Sunday afternoon, Rutgers rallied a comeback win against Michigan State to come from behind its biggest deficit this season.

Coming off of their conference win against Michigan, the Knights were sloppy in the first couple of minutes of the Spartans' game. The ball flew back and forth in the first half, and Michigan State scored its 2 goals in 17 minutes of play. 

Instead of shutting down, Rutgers rose to the occasion and responded with 2 goals of its own. Aylmer sent a long pass from midfield into position for Moneme. 

The Spartans' goalkeeper ran forward to try and take over the ball. Moneme and the goalie collided, but it was Moneme who came around the other end to tip the ball into the net.

Less than 3 minutes later, Ali was surrounded by four Michigan State defenders. She cleared the ball to LaPlant, who short passed it back to Ali in a better position for her to shoot. Ali launched a fast ball to cross over into the far back corner to tie up the game.

After the score was equaled, the Spartans subbed in half of their team to try and get a different flow going, but the Knights took it upon themselves to seize the opportunity and score what would be the game-winning goal from none other than Moneme.

Unlike other corner kicks, Aylmer tapped the ball to freshman forward Emily Harrigan, who sent the ball right back to Aylmer. Aylmer then launched the ball into the box where Moneme budded heads with the Spartans' goalie for the ball and headed the ball into the net for the win.

"We've said all year long that we bend, but we don't break. This win today really showcased that mentality," LaPlant said. "Going down 2 goals early on is never easy to come back from, but we never put our heads down. We worked our way back and scored 3 nice goals along the way."

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

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