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CHARLOTTESVILLE, VA—Rutgers women’s soccer continues its quest for a first-ever national championship on November 27 when the Scarlet Knights visit the University of Virginia Cavaliers in the NCAA Tournament quarterfinals.
The matchup is a clash of Top 10 teams, as Rutgers is ranked #9 in the NSCAA Coaches’ Poll, while the Cavaliers are the top-ranked team in the nation.
Rutgers has been nothing short of dominant this season, posting an overall 19-3-2 record. They made it all the way to the Big Ten Championship in their second year in the conference, falling 2-0 to Penn State.
Since the Big Ten tournament, the Scarlet Knights have shown a renewed drive, and dominated the competition so far on their way to the NCAA Elite Eight.
On November 13, they beat in-state rival Fairleigh Dickinson 1-0 in the first round of the NCAA Tournament at Yurcak Field.
The following week, Rutgers toppled Hofstra University 2-0 on Friday, November 20.
After a short turnaround, the Scarlet Knights returned to the pitch at Yurcak Field on Sunday, November 22 with one of their most impressive wins of the season: a shutout of #18 Connecticut.
Rutgers dominated the Huskies 4-0 in the Sweet Sixteen round of the tournmanet, but now they face their toughest opponent yet.
On the road for the first time in the NCAA Tournament, Rutgers is looking to take care of some unfinished business.
In 2014, Rutgers was ranked 25th in the nation and had advanced to the NCAA Tournament’s Round of 32 after a 2-0 home win against LaSalle.
But the Scarlet Knights title hopes were quickly dashed when Rutgers visited #4 Virginia, who outshot Rutgers 17-3 and scored all three of their goals in a span of eight minutes in a 3-0 Cavaliers win.
Virginia would go on to reach the national championship game, but fell 1-0 to Florida State.
Both teams have higher aspirations this year.
Rutgers head coach Mike O’Neill has seen his program take a huge step forward in his second year at the helm.
The Scarlet Knights have been defensive juggernauts in 2015, outscoring their opponents this season 40-8.
Rutgers is allowing a paltry 0.33 goals per game, thanks in large part to the excellent play of sophomore goalkeeper Casey Murphy, who earned Big Ten Goalkeeper of the Year honors earlier this month.
Rutgers also knows very little about losing – they have lost just one game since September 27.
This is not the same Rutgers team that ran into a buzz-saw against Virginia last year. But to be clear, it’s also not the same Virginia team.
The Cavaliers have seemingly played with a chip on their shoulder after falling one game short of a national championship last year.
Virginia has accumulated a 19-1-2 record on the season, with their one loss coming against #6 Notre Dame in double overtime.
They have enjoyed a run in the early rounds of the tournament nearly as dominant as Rutgers.
The Cavaliers cruised through the first three rounds, outscoring their opponents Howard, UNC-Wilmington and USC by a combined score of 11-1.
Both Rutgers and Virginia have shown huge improvement since the last time they met, so fans should be in for a treat as two of the nation’s best teams square off, looking to keep their title hopes alive.
The winner of the game will face the winner of a November 28 matchup between Penn State and West Virginia.
The national semifinals are scheduled for Friday, December 4.