NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ—With just one conference game remaining on their schedule, Rutgers’ men’s soccer sits atop the Big Ten standings.
The Scarlet Knights moved into first place on Sunday after taking down Ohio State, who had been ranked 18th in the nation in the NSCAA Coaches’ Poll.
Sunday’s contest was Senior Day for the Scarlet Knights, who honored their graduating seniors with a big win.
The game remained scoreless until the 74th minute, when sophomore forward Miles Hackett set up Rutgers’ leading scorer Jason Wright for the game-winning goal.
“It's great, we're working hard,” head coach Dan Donigan told ScarletKnights.com after the game. “You love to be here every year. We're proud of the work our players have put in and the results they have gotten on the field. It's very gratifying and rewarding for us.”
The victory was the sixth straight for Rutgers, as they snapped Ohio States’ eight-game winning streak.
The success Rutgers’ men’s soccer has found this season is a far cry from what they experienced last year in their first season in the Big Ten.
In 2014, Rutgers finished 6-12-1 overall, with a record of just 1-6-1 in conference play. They placed eighth out of nine teams in the regular season standings.
While they defeated Wisconsin in the play-in game of the Big Ten Tournament, Rutgers was eliminated from the tournament in the very next round.
One year later, the Scarlet Knights are in contention for the regular season title.
The Scarlet Knights are now 10-4-1 overall, and 4-3-0 in Big Ten play. In the Big Ten standings, a win is worth three points, a tie is worth one, and a loss is worth zero, meaning Rutgers has a conference-high 12 points.
The Buckeyes are in second with ten, with Maryland and Northwestern right behind them with nine.
Donigan’s squad has enjoyed some big wins this season.
The Scarlet Knights first started making noise in the conference when they went on the road and beat Indiana on Sunday, September 20. At the time, the Hoosiers were ranked 22nd in the nation.
Later that month, Rutgers blew out Loyola at Yurcak Field to the tune of 8-0 on Tuesday, September 29. It was the highest-scoring game Rutgers has had since 2000, when they beat West Virginia 8-0.
The Scarlet Knights would do it again on Saturday, October 10 when they shocked the No. 25 Michigan Wolverines with a 1-0 overtime win.
Rutgers will finish conference play on the road on Wednesday, November 4 when they visit College Park to take on Maryland, the defending Big Ten champions. The Scarlet Knights will be looking for revenge after the Terrapins knocked Rutgers out of the conference tournament last year.
While it’s not a guarantee, a win against Maryland would go a long way in helping Rutgers secure its very first Big Ten regular season title.
Meanwhile, Maryland, Ohio State and Northwestern are still very much alive in the hunt for the regular season crown.
A lot will depend on how other contending teams fare over the next week and a half, especially with seven Big Ten teams having two games to play.
The winner of the regular season title not only receives that great distinction, but they also receive home-field advantage throughout the Big Ten Tournament, meaning Yurcak Field could host men’s soccer tournament games for the first time since 2011.
While Rutgers’ final place in the regular season standings is to be determined, the Scarlet Knights have clinched a spot in the top seven, meaning they will be playing in the first round of the Big Ten Tournament, bypassing the play-in game they took part in last year.
Rutgers will host its final regular season home game on Saturday, October 31 against Nebraska-Omaha before heading to Maryland to close out the regular season.
The first round of the Big Ten tournament kicks off on Sunday, November 8.