PISCATAWAY – Rutgers is heading to the Final Four.
The No.5-seeded Scarlet Knights beat No.7 Arkansas in the quarterfinals of the NCAA Women’s Soccer Tournament on a bitter Friday night at Yurcak Field in Piscataway.
The game ended in overtime tied 2-2 and neither team scored in either overtime. Rutgers scored on four on penalties and limited Arkansas to just two.
It was the second game in a row that the Scarlet Knights needed a penalty shootout.
Rutgers now head to the semifinals in Santa Clara, Calif. For the next round of the NCAA tournament on Friday against Florida State, the top-ranked team in the country, which beat Michigan, 1-0, in extension. This is the first time Rutgers has reached the Final Four since 2015.
The NCAA Division I women’s soccer championship game is scheduled for Dec. 5 at 8 p.m. ET. The Knights are poised to become the first women’s soccer team to win a national championship title in university history. They are the only team still in contention for the Big Ten.
Rutgers started the game strong, scoring an early goal in the opening two minutes by freshman phenomenon Riley Tiernan. The Razorbacks responded quickly with goals from junior forward Anna Podojil in the seventh minute and another from junior defender Reagan Swindall in the 14th minute from a corner.
Arkansas maintained a solid lead for most of the second half, but the Scarlet Knights picked up momentum and equalized before the halftime whistle. Rutgers senior forward Amirah Ali scored a major goal for the Scarlet Knights with two minutes left in the first half, tying the game 2-2 with 45 minutes remaining.
The Scarlet Knights were able to keep that equalizer’s momentum going and held the ball in their third attacker for most of the second half. But, after 45 scoreless minutes in the second half, Rutgers and Arkansas remained tied and went into double overtime, where neither team managed to score another goal in the net.
The final score came down to penalties. Rutgers came out on top with goals from Becci Fluchel, Amirah Ali, Megan McClelland and Riley Tiernan. Arkansas failed to make two of four attempts, giving the victory to the Scarlet Knights.
The quarterfinal round was the last home game for the Scarlet Knights this season, who had a historic streak in this year’s playoffs.
Last week, the Scarlet Knights beat Texas Christian University in a penalty shootout after a 1-1 double-overtime draw to reach the Elite Eight round. Rutgers senior goalkeeper Meagan McClelland was perhaps the most valuable player in this game: After scoring a penalty in the fierce shootout, the goalkeeper managed to save three consecutive TCU attempts after 7 penalty rounds.
This year marks Rutgers’ 10th consecutive appearance in the NCAA tournament. The seeded Knights recently fell in the Big Ten Championship game against Michigan, a disappointing move after going unbeaten in the Big Conference game.
The loss marked the end of the team’s 13-game winning streak, four more games than the 2015 Knights’ streak. This year, the team also won the regular-season conference title with a 10-0 record in a conference game, becoming the first varsity program to win a Big Ten banner in school history.
Melanie Anzidei is a reporter for NorthJersey.com. To get unlimited access to the latest news, please subscribe or activate your digital account today.
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