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No. 5 Rutgers women's soccer defeats Arkansas, advances to NCAA College Cup

Sophomore midfielder Becci Fluchel collected an assist in the Knights' win over Arkansas.  – Photo by Samantha Cheng

After facing its second consecutive penalty shootout, the Rutgers women’s soccer team defeated Arkansas in the Elite Eight on penalty kicks after a tense 120 minutes of soccer. The No. 5 Scarlet Knights (19-3-2, 10-0-0) will advance to the NCAA College Cup and face fellow No. 1 seed Florida State on Friday.

The Razorbacks (19-5-0, 9-1-0) almost converted directly off kickoff as Parker Goins hit the crossbar in the first 45 seconds. Rutgers quickly responded to Arkansas’ high press play with a weak-footed goal from freshman forward Riley Tiernan. Senior midfielder Frankie Tagliaferri and sophomore midfielder Sara Brocious assisted Tiernan’s eighth goal of the season.

Just less than 6 minutes late, the Razorbacks drew the game level with an overhead goal from Anna Podojil and an assist from Malham Taylor

Not letting its momentum burn out, Arkansas converted a corner kick whipped in by Goins into a headed goal by Reagan Swindall

The Knights contained the Razorbacks' high-pressure play and found many fast-break openings later in the first half. Just 2 minutes before the end of the first half, Rutgers countered with a clever pass from Tiernan and sophomore midfielder Becci Fluchel. Both players found senior forward Amirah Ali in dangerous territory and assisted her game-tying goal before the half. 

The second half at Yurcak Field saw much less offensive action than the first. The fast-paced, counter-attacking play dampened in the final minutes of regulation play as both teams headed to overtime.

The game was as level as possible after 90 minutes. Both teams had six saves, eight shots on target and were separated by one total shot. 

The 20 minutes of extra time were deadlocked from beginning to end. The Knights faced their second penalty shootout in as many games, with senior goalkeeper Meagan McClelland having saved three consecutive penalties to bring Rutgers to this game. 

McClelland converted once again, saving the first Razorback attempt and setting the tone for the rest of the penalty shootout. After Arkansas missed its second attempt and McClelland scored, Tiernan slotted home the game-winning goal to make the tally 4-2 for the Knights. 

“One of our slogans is ‘we bend but we don’t break,'" said sophomore midfielder Sam Kroeger. "We’re a resilient team that’s here to make a statement for Rutgers.”

Rutgers heads to Santa Clara, California on Friday to face the Seminoles (20-1-2, 12-0-1). The kickoff time for the semifinal match is yet to be determined.

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

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