Indiana entered its home regular season finale looking to bolster its postseason chances while No. 9 Rutgers entered the game looking to clinch the conference title outright.
Indiana was defeated by a score of 2-0 and watched its opponent celebrate a championship on its home field. After the game, Indiana head coach Erwin van Bennekom was drowned out by the overjoyed screaming and yelling from the Rutgers team celebrating on their sideline.
“I’d like for us to celebrate on our own field, not other teams,” van Bennekom said. “It’s never easy.”
The Indiana team that faced Rutgers Thursday night was missing a crucial component of the usual starting XI: freshman goalkeeper Jamie Gerstenberg, who broke the Indiana program record for shutouts in a season. She was called up for international duty with the Germany under-20 national team Monday, with senior goalkeeper Caitlin Arbuckle starting in Gerstenberg’s place.
The Hoosiers got off to a quick start offensively with sophomore forward Anna Bennett getting a quality chance in the fourth minute that culminated in a shot going just left of the net.
Despite the missed shot from Bennett, Indiana and Rutgers were playing a relatively even game until Rutgers senior forward Amirah Ali sent a rocket on frame past Arbuckle to put the Scarlet Knights up by one in the 22nd minute.
Ali’s goal represented a clear momentum shift in the match.
“The first thirty minutes were some of the best stuff we’ve played all season,” van Bennekom said. “We just couldn’t capitalize on any good opportunities from there on.”
Despite Rutgers leading in the shots on goal total 8-4 and being out-possessed by the Scarlet Knights for the better part of the 45 minutes, Indiana ended the first half only trailing their opponents by one goal.
The Hoosiers returned to the pitch in the second half visibly tired. In the 51st minute, Rutgers senior midfielder Frankie Tagliaferri took advantage and scored her 12th goal of the season to put her team up by two.
The Hoosiers had their last chance on goal from junior midfielder Avery Lockwood in the 72nd minute.
Rutgers dragged out every possession to drain the clock to the 90 minute mark and claim the Big Ten women’s soccer regular season championship.
The final whistle blew 18 minutes after that and the Hoosiers fell to 9-4-4 on the season and to 3-3-3 in Big Ten play.
With the win, Rutgers clinched their first women’s soccer championship as members of the Big Ten Conference and earned its first team championship in any sport since joining the conference in 2014.
Despite Indiana having one of their best seasons in recent memory, the team’s postseason outlook is still blurry after Thursday night’s match.
Van Bennekom was weary to look into the future, acknowledging the crucial nature of the Big Ten tournament but also stressing the severity of his team’s regular season finale on the road against rival No. 18 Purdue.
“We gotta win a game first,” van Bennekom said. “That’s the tough one, the way our schedule is, we need some points.”
The Hoosiers will play the Boilermakers at 1 p.m. Sunday at Folk Field in West Lafayette, Indiana.