This was one game that IU women’s soccer couldn’t afford to let slip away. But it did.
In the final home game of the season, IU was in a defensive fight against No. 25 Rutgers.
The game featured few offensive chances for either side and went into overtime at 0-0.
The Scarlet Knights capitalized in the extra period to win 1-0, ending all hope for the Hoosiers to make the Big Ten Tournament.
“One thing we knew about them was that they were a really great team about playing through the lines,” junior forward Maya Piper said. “I think our defense was tight and played really great 1v1. I think that we had a lot of big plays from Bethany as our goalkeeper, so I was really proud of our defense and they probably couldn’t have done anything better. It was just an unfortunate goal at the end.”
The two teams looked evenly matched in the first 45 minutes.
Neither defense blinked as Rutgers was trying to push the ball early, but IU rarely allowed the ball to get inside the 18-yard box. Both teams combined for just six shots taken, and the Hoosiers failed to get a shot on goal in the opening half.
Despite the strong defensive performance from both teams, IU had a couple of solid looks that didn't find the back of the net. In the 16th minute, Piper sent a rocket that skimmed off the top of the crossbar that was inches off from going in.
“We penetrated well,” IU Coach Amy Berbary said. “We worked all week continuing to change the ball and keeping to the point of attack, we certainly got in on them.”
Rutgers came out trying to make a statement in the second half.
Within the first 10 minutes of the second period, the Scarlet Knights already attempted five more shots to keep the IU defense off balance. It seemed as if a Rutgers goal was inevitable at that point, but IU never flinched.
The Hoosiers became aggressive with their opportunities within the 18-yard box to keep the top defense in the Big Ten on its toes. The best Hoosier look of the night came from Piper in the 83rd minute after she sent in a header that sailed above the net.
In the 84th minute, freshman forward Amirah Ali almost won the game for Rutgers after she got a 1v1 opportunity with IU freshman goalkeeper Bethany Kopel, but the shot was just wide right.
“We really used our width in this game,” Piper said. “We had a lot of great crosses, I think that we attacked a lot of the box. We tried to be aggressive in the 18-yard box.”
Coming into overtime, it seemed like anybody’s game.
IU had two shots from Piper in the 92nd minute that could’ve won the game, but Rutgers junior goalkeeper Casey Murphy still held strong to prove why she’s been named one of the best in the Big Ten all season.
The 95th minute is when IU saw its season flash before its very eyes. Sophomore forward Brittany LaPlant knocked in a header from five yards out to seal the victory for the Scarlet Knights.
“I thought our defense put together an unbelievable performance,” Berbary said. “We had to make a change early and we pushed through, we tackled, we won balls in the air. It’s just unfortunate that we lost track of a player in the box in overtime.”
Despite playing so well against a ranked opponent, one mistake ended up being the nail in the coffin for the Hoosiers. Even though a Big Ten Tournament bid is no longer on the line, IU will travel to Ohio State on Wednesday night in the final game of the season.
“We just fight,” Berbary said. “We just try to snag one more win, some of our juniors just stepped up and talked about how much we’ve progressed over the two-three years. We’ve lost games before last year and the year before 1-0 but we certainly weren’t in the game. I think this team has grown so much, it’s just unfortunate that we were unable to put one away today.”
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