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No. 20 Rutgers women's soccer falls in 1st round of Big Ten Tournament

Junior midfielder Becci Fluchel and the Rutgers women's soccer team will now have to wait two weeks to find out their postseason fate after losing in the first round of the Big Ten Tournament.  – Photo by Northwestern Soccer / Twitter

The Rutgers women’s soccer team, seeded seventh in the Big Ten Tournament, fell 2-1 in the quarterfinals today in Evanston, Illinois, against Northwestern. The No. 20 Scarlet Knights (13-4-2, 5-3-2) dropped three consecutive matches to close out their 2022 Big Ten slate after beginning the season with 12 victories and one tie in their first 14 matches.

Rutgers previously tied the second-seeded No. 12 Wildcats (14-3-2, 7-2-1) in a road contest at Lanny and Sharon Martin Stadium in the regular season, but unlike that match, it was the Knights who struck first this time. 

Rutgers was on the attack early on, applying plenty of pressure. In the 8th minute, junior midfielder Sam Kroeger connected with fellow junior midfielder Sara Brocious, who delivered an angled shot toward the back post. 

The strike was off target, but sophomore forward Riley Tiernan jumped in the way to redirect the ball and find the net, giving the Knights the early 1-0 lead. It was the sophomore’s 4th tally of the season, and her 3rd in her last five matches.

Trailing early, Northwestern quickly got momentum back on its side. After making some key defensive stops, the Wildcats equalized in the 22nd minute, as Rowan Lapi launched one from outside the box past graduate student goalkeeper Meagan McClelland to level the game at 1 goal apiece.

Each team would get a couple more shots off in the half, including a close chance for junior midfielder Becci Fluchel, before heading into the locker room tied.

Northwestern started the second half with a vengeance, playing with intensity and ramping up the attacks. In the 53rd minute, the Rutgers defense finally caved. Ella Hase found Nicole Doucette, whose slow rolling shot got past everyone and found the goal to give the Wildcats a 2-1 lead. 

From this point, it was a masterclass from the Northwestern defense with the crowd on its side. The Knights mustered a mere three shots and one shot on goal in the second half and failed to draw even. The Wildcats successfully defended their home field and, as a result, advanced to the Big Ten Tournament semifinals in Columbus, Ohio. 

Rutgers was outshot 17-10 and earned just a single corner kick compared to Northwestern’s six. The Knights also committed 10 fouls. 

Following a season where the program reached the NCAA Tournament College Cup, Rutgers closed October with just one victory in the team's last five matches, including three straight road losses. 

The Knights will now anxiously await the NCAA Tournament Selection Show on November 7 for an at-large bid. Last year, six Big Ten teams reached the national tournament, with Rutgers securing a one-seed.

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

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