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Rutgers men's soccer advances to Big Ten Tournament final

Sophomore defender Joey Zalinsky and the Rutgers men's soccer team advanced to their first ever Big Ten Tournament final by defeating Ohio State. – Photo by Leigh Lustig

In front of a packed house at Yurcak Field on Busch campus, the Rutgers men's soccer team defeated Ohio State 2-1 in the Big Ten Tournament semifinals. The Scarlet Knights (9-4-6, 4-2-2) will now take on Indiana in their first appearance in a conference championship game since 1997 as members of the Big East.

Both teams were hesitant to attack in the first half and wanted to establish control in the midfield. That all changed in the 25th minute when junior forward Ola Maeland found the overlapping run of senior defender Chris Tiao on the edge of the box.

Tiao took a touch and crossed the ball in the box. The cross found the head of senior midfielder Jackson Temple who headed the ball off the crossbar and into the net to give Rutgers the 1-0 lead.

The Buckeyes (10-3-5, 4-2-2) produced many chances in the first period, but freshman goalkeeper Ciaran Dalton stood tall and made three crucial saves, keeping the Knights even with their opponents.

The first period was extremely physical. Three yellow cards were handed out in total. 

Many pushing and shoving matches broke out, most notably in the 39th minute when Thomas Gilej brought down freshman midfielder Cole Cruthers. A scrum of players yelling and pushing each other ensued and the referee took a couple of minutes to break everything up.

Both teams took four shots in the first half. Rutgers committed eight fouls in the first period, and Ohio State committed four.

The second period started at a breathtaking speed for the Buckeyes. Ohio State put on pressure and in the 51st minute, a deflected cross from Luciano Pechota found the feet of Xavier Green who slotted the ball past the keeper to tie the game.

Tiao responded in the 61st minute for the Knights, taking a pass from senior forward MD Myers driving into the box and shooting the ball into the bottom right corner of the goal to give Rutgers a 2-1 lead. From there the Knights were able to hold onto the lead and clinch the victory.

The Buckeyes took 14 shots and six shots on goal. Rutgers took 10 shots and four on goal. Dalton made five crucial saves for the Knights. The game was extremely physical as the two teams combined to commit 21 fouls.

The Knights will look to win the Big Ten Tournament for the first time in school history at home on Sunday. Kickoff is scheduled for noon and will be broadcasted on the Big Ten Network.

“I feel great for the players,” said head coach Jim McElderry. “We had some guys out sick tonight … Some guys really stepped up tonight … Just really proud of the effort and the toughness we showed.” 

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

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