Rutgers completes undefeated Big Ten slate with 3-0 victory over Illinois
CHAMPAIGN, ILL. – No. 9 Rutgers women’s soccer capped its Big Ten slate undefeated with a 3-0 win at Illinois on Saturday afternoon. The 2021 Big Ten Champion Scarlet Knights extended their program record win streak to 11 straight, closing the regular season with a 15-2 record, the most regular season victories in program history.
Senior forward and MAC Hermann Trophy candidate Amirah Ali led the way with two goals, while sophomore forward Allison Lowrey added a goal in the win. Sophomores Sara Brocious and Sam Kroeger, and freshman Emily Mason added assists. Senior goalkeeper Meagan McClelland posted the ninth shutout of the season, also recording her first career assist in the victory.
“Going into the game, we knew we already won the conference, but we wanted to go undefeated. We did that, we got the job done. Anyone who comes on the field, they’re going to look to score. Everybody plays a huge role on this team. Playing for my home state it feels great to bring home the trophy to New Jersey, especially the first Big Ten win in Rutgers history. It feels really good. We hit one milestone and we’re looking for more. We’re going to keep going until the end,” said Lowrey.
The Scarlet Knights came out of the gates strong with a shot on target from senior midfielder Frankie Tagliaferri in the fourth minute, immediately followed by back-to-back corner kicks. Rutgers posted a total of eight shots and five corner kicks in the first 13 minutes of play.
In the 36th minute, RU broke through with a goal from Lowrey. Mason sent a pass from the right side to Brocious near the top of the box. Brocious would set up Lowrey, who would shoot from the center of the box a few yards out to put the Scarlet Knights in front, 1-0.
“Every goal has been created by multiple people, it’s not just one person doing everything and then finishing. It’s multiple people helping out, passing the ball, moving off the ball, communicating.It’s a team effort to score,” said Mason.
RU maintained its offensive momentum entering the second half. In the 56th minute, Riley sent in a cross to Ali in the box. Though a defender interfered on the pass, Ali regained possession and scored from six yards out to the center of an empty net, extending the RU lead to 2-0.
Minutes later, McClelland sent a goal kick to Kroeger at midfield. Kroeger headed the kick to Ali. Ali broke away for the goal, passed the keeper, and shot into an open net to set the score at 3-0 in the 61st minute. McClelland would go on to record a huge stop in the 67th minute to secure the team’s fifth clean sheet in league play.
“To get a defensive shutout, it’s a great feeling. Our team put so much work behind the ball and to be able get a shutout to prove that is awesome. The assisting was really excited, I didn’t even know about until after the game. A lot of what we focus on is just the depth on our team and being 28 strong. Every person on this team contributes and that’s on and off the field. It’s really important keeping that mentality that everyone here has a role and everyone plays that role great. Without all 28 people being able to put in the effort they put in, we wouldn’t be able to have as successful as the season we are having so far,” said McClelland.
The 10-0 Big Ten record marks first undefeated conference season in Rutgers women’s soccer history, becoming the first Big Ten team to complete the feat since 2005.
“It’s honestly the greatest feeling. We know that today was a little bit of a high strung game because we wanted to end strong and want to be undefeated heading into the Big Ten Tournament. Being able to now bring the trophy home undefeated is just more to celebrate and lifted everyone’s spirits,” said McClelland.
“Being undefeated was that final step in conference play that we wanted. It proving to everyone that we are the best. Even when we had the trophy already, we didn’t stop the hustle. We kept the momentum going and front foot forward. We kept striving for it and I think that’s a good pace that we have to continue throughout the rest of the season,” said Mason.
Up next, Rutgers opens the 2021 Big Ten Tournament on Sunday, Oct. 31. The Scarlet Knights have secured the No. 1 seed for tournament and await the final bracket following the conclusion of Sunday’s remaining league matches.