Tomorrow evening, the Rutgers men’s soccer team will travel to Philadelphia to take on UPenn in the first round of the NCAA Tournament. The Scarlet Knights (10-4-6, 4-2-2) will look to win their first NCAA tournament game since 2015.
Last time out, Rutgers defeated Indiana 3-1 to capture its first Big Ten Tournament title in program history. This was the Knights’ first conference title since 1997. Winning the Big Ten Tournament meant that Rutgers clinched an automatic berth into the NCAA Tournament. The team found out about its matchup on Monday afternoon.
The Knights’ opponent will be the Ivy League champion Quakers (12-2-2, 6-1). UPenn is coming off of a 3-0 victory over Princeton that clinched the Ivy League Championship and are coming into the tournament on a two-game win streak.
In addition, the Quakers are only allowing their opponents to take 7.5 shots per game while taking 14.9 shots per game themselves. Rutgers will have to keep an eye on forward Stas Korzeniowski, who leads UPenn with 10 goals and has also chipped in six assists.
The Knights started the season struggling defensively, but the backline has been much improved over the last month. While Rutgers’ backline is still allowing opponents to score 1.60 goals per game on the season, the team has not allowed an opponent more than 1 goal in a game since a 4-3 loss to Michigan State on October 16.
This is in part due to the emergence of freshman goalkeeper Ciaran Dalton. In the 15 games Dalton has played, he has a 71.6 save percentage, made 48 saves and is only allowing 1.25 goals against. Dalton made crucial saves throughout the Knights’ run in the Big Ten Tournament.
Rutgers' strength all season has been its offense. The Knights have scored a Big Ten-leading 42 goals on the season and average 14.2 shots per game and 2.10 goals per game as a result. The team was only shut out twice in the season.
The success on offense has been a team effort with 13 different players scoring goals for Rutgers. The duo of senior forward MD Myers and senior midfielder Jackson Temple has led the attack. Myers has a Big Ten-high of 13 goals on the season and is also tied for second in the conference with seven assists.
Temple is tied for first on the team and in the Big Ten with eight assists and has also contributed 6 goals. Expect Myers and Temple to try and link up tomorrow night.
The game will kick off at 7 p.m. and will be broadcasted on 88.7 WRSU-FM as the Knights looks to advance to the second round of the NCAA Tournament.
“We feel that if we play the way we did today, we can beat anybody," said head coach Jim McElderry after Sunday’s title win. "We're a tough team to play against, and we have some special guys.”
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