The Rutgers men's soccer team will go on the road to face off against Penn State on Friday in the first round of the Big Ten Tournament. The Scarlet Knights (5-7-3, 3-4-1) will be the No. 7 seed in the tournament, and the Nittany Lions (9-3-4, 4-2-2) will be the No. 2 seed.
Earlier this season, Rutgers defeated Penn State by a score of 2-1 at Yurcak Field on Busch campus. In that match, junior midfielder Matthew Acosta and senior forward Ola Maeland both scored a goal, and graduate student midfielder Jackson Temple provided two assists.
Penn State's regular season success can be attributed to its high-powered attack, as the team has scored a conference-leading 29 goals. Peter Mangione leads the Big Ten with 9 goals and has dished out four assists. Liam Butts and Caden Grabfelder both have eight points off 3 goals and two assists.
The Nittany Lions are also strong on defense. They have conceded just 12 goals this season, the second-fewest goals allowed in the Big Ten. Their .75 opponent goals-against average can be attributed to Kris Shakes. Shakes has an outstanding save percentage of 81 and has totaled seven shutouts this season.
The Knights will look to take advantage of Penn State's physical style of play to draw fouls, as the Nittany Lions have committed the third-most fouls in the Big Ten. Since Penn State is strong defensively, set pieces could provide the best scoring opportunities for Rutgers.
The Knights must also be sharper on defense. Rutgers conceded a conference-leading 30 goals in the regular season and has let in 8 goals in its last two games.
Sophomore goalkeeper Ciaran Dalton has faced a flurry of shots this season, resulting in an average of 3.85 saves per game. Despite the high number of saves, his 64.1 save percentage is the third lowest in the Big Ten.
The Knights will look to Temple to lead the team and replicate last year's Big Ten Tournament championship.
The contest between Rutgers and the Nittany Lions will kick off on Friday at 6 p.m. at Jeffrey Field in University Park, Pennsylvania. The game will be broadcast on Big Ten Plus and 88.7 WRSU-FM.
For more updates on the Rutgers men's soccer team, follow @TargumSports on X.
To view more of Matthew Mangam's work, follow @matthewmangam on X.