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No. 20 Rutgers women's soccer opens up Big Ten Tournament at No. 12 Northwestern

The Rutgers women's soccer team begins the Big Ten Tournament on Sunday, facing Northwestern in the first round.  – Photo by Rutgers Women's Soccer / Twitter

Last season, Rutgers women’s soccer was the first seed in the Big Ten Tournament, hosting the entire playoff at home at Yurcak Field on Busch campus. This season, the No. 20 Scarlet Knights (13-3-2, 5-3-2) have dropped to the seventh seed and begin the 2022 Big Ten Tournament on the road at Evanston, Illinois, against the second seed Northwestern. The No. 12 Wildcats (13-3-2, 7-2-1) and Rutgers met in Illinois in late September, tying 1-1.

The Knights began the season 9-0-0 but went 4-3-2 in their final stretch of the season. Rutgers began the season as the sixth-ranked team in the nation, now it stands just inside the top 20.

With junior forward Allison Lowrey and junior midfielder Sam Kroger, the team has seen plenty of offense all year. Even with the second-half slump, both players have 7 goals and 18 points, both program highs. Sophomore midfielder Kylie Daigle has taken a massive step forward this season as the underclassman has 5 goals, a team-leading seven assists and 17 points. 

Behind those three are junior midfielder Sara Brocious and sophomore forward Riley Tiernan. Brocious has totaled 5 goals, six assists and 16 points, while Tiernan has 12 points on the year. Junior midfielder Becci Fluchel has totaled 3 goals and four assists while sophomore defensive back Emily Mason has totaled 3 goals and one assist.

The Knights have seen plenty of offensive success, as all seven players mentioned have combined for 11 game-winning goals this season. The defense has also had its bright moments and its tough breaks.

The back line consisting of Mason, senior defensive back Allison Lynch, sophomore defensive back Kassidy Banks and junior back Emma Misal started the season allowing 2 goals in nine games. From September 22 onward, the back line has allowed 12 goals, with 7 of them coming in the second half.

Graduate student goalkeeper Meagan McClelland has started every game this season. The Kearny, New Jersey, native has registered a 13-3-2 record, with eight shutouts this season. The goalkeeper also has a goals against average of 0.79 and a save percentage of .745. McClelland has made 41 saves this season while facing 161 shots and allowing 14 goals.

Northwestern last time around led in the first half of its game against Rutgers on September 29. Lowrey tied the game early in the second half, resulting in the last matchup as a tie. The Wildcats come in with seven in-conference wins and enter the tournament with five players totaling 13 or more points.

The Knights look to make a run in the Big Ten Tournament for the second straight season but will do it against a Northwestern team that has climbed up the ranking of college soccer nationwide. Gametime is at 1 p.m. on Sunday and will be broadcasted on Big Ten Network+.

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

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