As the Rutgers women’s soccer team finished its regular season, the Scarlet Knights (6-2-3, 6-2-3) now look to the 2021 Big Ten Tournament as it travels to Columbus, Ohio, to play Michigan State in round one. Rutgers, which is in the Eastern region, faced the Spartans (1-9-1, 1-9-1) earlier in the season on March 4, winning 3-1 at Yurcak Field.
The tournament quarterfinals will take place at the soccer fields of Ohio State, Illinois, Penn State and Wisconsin, while the semifinals and finals rounds will take place at the higher-seeded team’s stadium.
The Knights, who have made the tournament every year since joining the Big Ten, are looking to change their recent outcomes over the past several seasons. Such outcomes have included falling to Michigan 2-1 in overtime during last year’s semifinals and a 2-0 loss in 2015 to the Nittany Lions (9-1-1, 9-1-1) in the championship game.
Rutgers registered 12 goals this season, where it has been led offensively by senior forward Amirah Ali. Ali leads the team in goals with 5, while freshman midfielder Sara Brocious has 1 goal and three assists on the year.
The Knights have found offensive production not only from their top senior in Ali and new freshmen like Brocious, but also from other successful players across the board. Freshman midfielder Sam Kroeger also has played her part, registering 1 goal and three assists on the year.
“Freshman year went really well. It’s always been exciting to come to Rutgers," Kroger said, when recapping her freshman season. "Also, with the (coronavirus disease) (COVID-19) pandemic and all the different setbacks we've had, just playing our first game against Penn State was probably the most exciting part of our season, considering it's been a little (more than) a year since that game has happened … Getting back on the field has probably been my most exciting moment of 2021."
Rutgers has also been able to find defensive success this season, as its backline, led by senior midfielder Gabby Provenzano and sophomore defender Allison Lynch have led the Knights to give up only 8 goals this season, with four total shutouts through the 11-game in-conference season.
Provenzano scored the game-winning goal in a 1-0 shutout win at Purdue this year, while Lynch recorded her second career goal-scoring assist on Ali’s fourth goal of the season in a 2-1 win versus Iowa. Lynch was also named Big Ten Defensive Player of the Week in March.
“My relationship with (Lynch) is great, but more importantly, we talk about a whole back four relationship and then including (junior) goalkeeper (Meagan McClelland) as well. Nothing is possible without all five of us, and even the rest of the team, our mentality is everyone attacks and everyone defends,” Provenzano said regarding her relationship with Lynch and her entire defensive unit.
McClelland has recorded four shutouts this season, three on the road, while totaling 30 saves off 89 total shot attempts faced this year. McClelland recorded a season-high seven saves against the Hawkeyes (2-8-1, 2-8-1), while also facing a season-high 14 total shots against Iowa. The junior keeper has only allowed 8 goals.
Rutgers was able to go 5-0-0 at home while recording a 1-2-3 record on the road this season. As the Knights finished their final road trip of the season winless, they look to turn back the clock to their earlier success this season, especially the success they had against their first-round opponent.
Michigan State recorded nine-straight losses and a postponement against Indiana to end the regular season after starting the season with one win and one tie. The Spartans conceded 22 goals this season, which is recorded as the second most goals allowed in-conference this year. That comes behind only Maryland, who has allowed 25 goals while also going winless.
Rutgers will look to bounce back against a team it has defeated earlier in the season as the Big Ten Tournament kicks off this Thursday, where the team will play at a time that is to be determined.
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