The Scarlet Knights are moving on to the Round of 16 in the NCAA tournament.
Rutgers defeated St. Louis in an impressive 4-0 victory during the second round of the NCAA Division I Women’s Soccer Tournament at Yurcak Field on Friday night.
The Knights had a strong start the Billikens couldn't overcome. With more than 28 shots on net in 90 minutes of play, Rutgers’ relentless attack tested St. Louis’ keeper Emily Puricelli, who ended the game with 14 saves.
The Scarlet Knights will host Texas Christian University at 1 p.m. Sunday in the tournament’s Round of 16. TCU came back from a 2-1 deficit to beat Princeton, 3-2, in a close, double-overtime match moments before the Knights took to the field in Piscataway.
Rutgers secured an early lead with a goal from senior forward Amirah Ali (Eastern Regional), who found the back of the net to the cheers of fans in the third minute of the first half. Not even three minutes after that first goal, Rutgers put another shot on net. Then another.
"We wanted to score early and get up early, so that was really our focus," Ali said after the match. "The past few games, we’ve been kind of slow starting, so today it was definitely important for us to get the goal early and then go from there.”
Rutgers put 14 shots on goal in the first 45 minutes of the game. By comparison, St. Louis only managed to put three shots on net in the first half.
The second half was no different. Again, just three minutes into the half, freshman forward Riley Tiernan (Eastern Regional) scored from an assist by Ali. The goal was followed by more shots on net, and eventually another goal from Tiernan at the 70th minute. Kylie Daigle (The Pennington School) rounded out the scoring for Rutgers with the Knights’ fourth goal of the match at the 78th minute.
Tiernan was a key play maker for the Knights. Her first goal was a rocket just outside of the box, and her second came after a quick cut in that same dangerous area. She then launched the ball to the back of the net over a crowded defensive zone.
"We’ve had a couple of rough games and we needed to get our rhythm back, so I think this game was huge for us to just build our confidence, and we’re back where we started," Tiernan said. "Our team chemistry was just off the charts today and we just want to keep that going to the next game.”
Last weekend, the Scarlet Knights defeated Bucknell, 2-0, in the first round of the NCAA tournament, with senior midfielder Frankie Tagliaferri (Colts Neck) and Tiernan tallying goals in that match. The tourney opener marked the 10th consecutive appearance for the program, and sixth first-round win in the past eight seasons under coach Mike O’Neill.
The top-seeded Knights recently fell in the Big Ten championship game against Michigan, a disappointing blip in an otherwise-illustrious season for the Scarlet Knights.
The loss marked the end of the team’s 13-game winning streak, which was four games longer than the 2015 Knights' streak. This year, the team also secured the conference's regular-season crown with a 10-0 record in conference play, becoming the first university program to earn a Big Ten banner in school history.
But the team has since used the title game loss to fuel its impressive comeback.
"When you losem sometimes it refocuses you, and we feel that’s what it has done to us," O'Neill said Friday. "Sometimes that’s what happens. It happened to us earlier in the season, too. We lost two games, then we went on a 13-game run. So, that loss and then the Big Ten final [loss] — hopefully we get on a really good run again."
The Scarlet Knights hope to make history with the first women's soccer national championship title in university history. The tournament will wrap up in Santa Clara, California, between Dec. 3 and 5.
Melanie Anzidei is a reporter for NorthJersey.com. To get unlimited access to the latest news, please subscribe or activate your digital account today.
This article originally appeared on NorthJersey.com: Rutgers women's soccer moves on to Sweet 16 after routing St. Louis