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Rutgers women's soccer season ends in NCAA Tournament loss to Columbia

Freshman forward Ashley Baran scored the first goal of the game, but the Rutgers women's soccer team was ultimately knocked out of the NCAA Tournament by Columbia. – Photo by Evan Leong

The Rutgers women's soccer team took on Columbia in the first round of the NCAA Tournament on Sunday. The Scarlet Knights (9-6-3, 5-4-1) were defeated by the Lions (9-4-2, 3-2-2) by a score of 2-1.

Rutgers nearly scored early in the contest when freshman forward Ashley Baran had a great opportunity in the box. Baran was knocked down on the play but did not receive the penalty call, and Columbia scrapped the scoring chance.

The Knights continued to threaten in the early stages as their offense looked sharp. They were connecting on their passes and dominating the time of possession over the Lions.

Rutgers was awarded a free kick from outside the box in the 12th minute after junior midfielder Kylie Daigle was fouled. Senior midfielder and forward Sam Kroeger took the free kick and put a strong left-footed shot toward the top right corner of the goal, but Columbia's First Team All-Ivy goalkeeper Paige Nurkin made an excellent diving save.

Through approximately 15 minutes of play, the Knights had already fired off four shots, with three of them being on goal. The Lions did not have a single shot to this point.

Columbia had a promising breakaway in the 26th minute and recorded its first shot attempt, but redshirt freshman goalkeeper Olivia Bodmer made the save.

In the 40th minute, Rutgers had a strong-looking counterattack and got a scoring opportunity, but midfielder Sara Brocious' shot sailed high.

Moments later, senior back Emma Misal launched a shot from deep outside the box, and, similarly to Brocious' shot attempt, her attempt went high.

The game went into halftime scoreless, but the Knights looked crisp and comfortable controlling the ball. Rutgers led 8-3 in shots and 4-1 in shots on goal.

In the 66th minute, senior forward Allison Lowrey flicked a great pass to graduate student back Allison Lynch. Lynch played a cross into the box, and Baran found the back of the net for the goal. The Knights took a 1-0 lead.

With more than 10 minutes left to play, the crowd at Rocco B. Commisso Soccer Stadium in New York, New York, erupted as the Lions scored the equalizer. A foul from junior forward Riley Tiernan led to a free kick for Columbia, and on the receiving end of the kick was Kat Jordan, who finished with a header.

In the final moments of the match, The Lions crossed another pass into Rutgers' box. Bodmer extended her body as far as she could, but the ball made it past her. She was left on the ground while Columbia had a wide-open net and converted.

Trailing 2-1, the Knights had more than a minute to try and tie and force overtime, but they could not get it done. The Lions pulled off the victory in dramatic fashion with their 2 late-game goals ending Rutgers' 2023 season.

Columbia will now advance to the second round of the NCAA Tournament, where it will go on the road to face No. 1-seeded Clemson.

Head coach Mike O'Neill will look ahead to 2024, hoping the Knights can learn from the devastating loss.

"You have to remember this feeling," said O'Neill. "We want them to remember this because that should supercharge them and everything that they do from the time the season ends today to the time we start again."

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

To view more of Camden Markel's work, follow @CamdenMarkel on X.

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