No. 16 Rutgers holds Indiana scoreless in Big Ten quarterfinals
One down. Two to go. The Rutgers women’s soccer team defeated Indiana in a 1-0 shutout on Sunday afternoon at Yurcak Field. Scoring the game-winning goal was not the No. 16 Scarlet Knights (15-2-2, 8-2-1), but the Hoosiers’ (8-9-2, 4-5-2) Madeline Carlson on a big mistake that cost Indiana its spot in the tournament.
“In the past two years, we’ve been knocked out of the quarterfinal on our home field and we knew this year that wasn’t going to happen, but we knew we had to take it one game at a time,” said junior midfielder Gabby Provenzano. “Honestly, speaking for all of us, it’s unbelievable and it’s an incredible moment.”
Rutgers’ defense held the Hoosiers to zero shots on goal compared to the Knights’ seven shots on goal. As one of the leading defensive teams in the nation, Rutgers stands firm on the belief that everyone defends the ball no matter what position the Knights play.
“They’re always good,” said head coach Mike O’Neill on the defense. “They do such a good job of defending as a team … They understand what they’re supposed to do and they have this pride about them that they don’t give up opportunities. They had a successful year and they need to have pride in that.”
In the first half, Rutgers struggled to score a goal with a strong Indiana defense that had a lineup of nine Hoosiers in the back — five players in the back and four players slightly in front. That defensive strategy left only Indiana’s Chandra Davidson in the offense.
The Knights opted for a larger spread and still managed to bypass the Hoosiers’ wall.
With a couple of breakaways and smart passing, Rutgers had plenty of opportunities to make its mark, but was unable to take the ball to the back of the net. Senior forward Tiernny Wiltshire had fans screaming with her ball-handling skills that left Indiana’s ankles rolling on the field.
“I believe we were really confident and we trust one another to take care of the ball and to be aware of our surroundings,” Wiltshire said. “Overall, I think we have confidence in one another to keep the ball moving and have courage to go forward.”
At the 28-minute mark, a behind-the-back pass by junior forward Amirah Ali to a wide-open senior midfielder Taylor Aylmer sent the crowd into a frenzy. Aylmer quickly passed to junior Nneka Moneme, who sent the ball flying above the net.
Only a minute later, Aylmer drove up the side of the field and launched a long pass across to put Ali or Moneme in position to score. The ball passed by Ali, but was close to Moneme. Carlson came into the mix to try and block the ball from Moneme, but, Carlson ended up scoring a goal for the Knights to the back corner of the net.
Although the numbers show that the Hoosiers didn’t have a shot on goal, sophomore goalkeeper Meagan McClelland was very much in the thick of things to help Rutgers reset when it needed to and capture the win.
“It starts with Meagan McClelland, our goalkeeper,” Provenzano said. “She sets the tone for us, keeps us organized and then our team always prides ‘No service. No shots. No goals.’ We really stick to that, and it’s not just the backline of defense, it’s all 11 of us.”
Winning the quarterfinal match, the Knights move on to face Michigan on Nov. 8 for the Big Ten semifinal game at Yurcak Field. Rutgers and the Wolverines (14-4-1, 8-2-1) will kick off at 1:30 p.m., directly after the other Big Ten semifinal match.
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