The college soccer season is heating up. Portland Thorns draftees Amirah Ali and Sam Coffey have continued to rack up goals and assists for their respective sides, Rutgers and Penn State. Both teams would have believed that they were the outright favorite to win the BIG Ten regular season title. But after this week one team has a much firmer grasp on the trophy and the other dug themselves quite a hole.
On Sep. 12, Rutgers was handed their second consecutive ranked loss. The Scarlet Knights were defeated 1-0 by #24 Georgetown in Washington, D.C. Rutgers were wasteful with their chances. They registered 10 shots, eight of which were on frame, to the Hoyas’ six and two. Ali played 57 minutes and fired two shots on target.
The Nittany Lions played in a match on the same day that resulted with the same scoreline. But PSU came out victorious after a 90th-minute winner broke the deadlock. Coffey put one of her two shots on goal.
Penn State went into the BIG Ten season ranked eighth in the nation after a thrilling upset of #3 Virginia and the win over NC State. The Scarlet Knights were eight spots behind them at No. 16 after two losses against ranked opponents and had one more match before they started conference play.
Rutgers hosted Drexel on Sep. 16 at Yurcak Field and the Scarlet Knights would run away with this one 4-0. Ali assisted Frankie Tagliaferri in the 11th minute and Rutgers went into halftime up 1-0. At the start of the second half, Ali was played down the right side by Samantha Kroeger. Ali cut inside on her left foot and unleashed a shot that hit off the underside of the crossbar and down past the goal line to make it 2-0.
Ali was credited with another assist in the 58th minute. Ali’s shot was blocked but it fell perfectly for the in-form Tagliaferri, who made no mistake. Emily Sapienza added a fourth in the 87th minute. Through 41 minutes of play, Ali was credited with a goal and two assists.
Then came the big one. Ali versus Coffey and Rutgers versus Penn State. A battle between the two conference title hopefuls. The first half was cagey and measured. Neither team created too many opportunities and they went into the locker rooms scoreless.
The second half was exciting and back and forth as both teams pushed for the opener. Kroeger opened the scoring for Rutgers in the 63rd minute with a well-placed strike. The Nittany Lions’ Rachel Wasserman equalized five minutes later thanks to some silky skills and fortunate bounces.
In the 81st minute, Ali made a move in the box and was taken down. The referee whistled for a penalty kick and Becci Fluchel placed it perfectly. Rutgers got off to a dream start in conference play at the expense of Penn State.
The Scarlet Knights were set to play the University of Michigan on Sep. 23 but weather prevented the match from being played. The Nittany Lions were able to play on Thursday although they may have wished that they too had their match canceled after the final whistle.
Penn State lost at home to Northwestern 2-1. The Wildcats opened their account in the 11th minute and doubled their lead in the 37th. PSU had dug themselves a potentially irreversible hole to climb out of in the BIG Ten standings and their dreams of repeating as regular season conference champions may have been shattered early in the season.
The Nittany Lions were able to pull one goal back in the 81st minute. Coffey shot the ball toward goal and it was saved to the feet of Abello, who struck it into the back of the net. It was Coffey’s 50th career NCAA assist.
Another look at Abello's goal to cut the lead to 2-1. pic.twitter.com/tJXgQPl1rS— Penn State Women’s Soccer (@PennStateWSOC) September 24, 2021
The currently ninth-ranked Scarlet Knights host Nebraska next at 10 a.m. (Pacific) on Sunday. Rutgers will then travel to Minnesota and Ohio State on Sep. 30th and Oct. 2. The matches will kickoff at 4 p.m. and 9 a.m. (Pacific).
The 12th ranked Nittany Lions will welcome The Ohio State University to Jeffrey Field on Sunday, Sep. 26. Kickoff is slated for 12 noon (Pacific). Then PSU will travel to Wisconsin and Minnesota on Sep. 30 and Oct. 3. The games are slated to kick off at 5 p.m. and 11 a.m. (Pacific), respectively.