November 28, 2015
FINAL FOUR BOUND
Rutgers women stun top-ranked Virginia in a shootout win
CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. - The Rutgers women overcame missing their first two penalty kicks in the shootout and rallied to stun top-rated Virginia, 7-6, in the tie-breaker at Klockner Stadium to earn the program's first Final Four appearance in the NCAA Division I tournament Friday.
No. 9-ranked Rutgers (19-3-3) will face the winner of Sunday's Penn State-West Virginia game in the College Cup at Cary, N.C. Friday.
The Scarlet Knights achieved the latest program first with their trademark defense, suffocating a Cavaliers team that came in No. 2 nationally in goals per game. Virginia (19-1-3) outshot Rutgers, 12-6, and had an 8-2 advantage on corner kicks but could not solve a defense led by senior center backs Erica Skroski and Brianne Reed and star goalkeeper Casey Murphy as the Cavaliers were blanked for the first time this season.
The shutout by the Scarlet Knights was a school-record 19th. It was the first time Rutgers has defeated the nation's top-ranked team.
"Where do I rank this defensive performance on a scale of one to 10? An 11," said Skroski, the Big Ten defender of the year. "We knew what we had to do. At times they had a lot of the possession. But we've faced them all three of my years here before this, so we knew what they wanted to do. They're an amazing team. But we stayed with them and stayed together."
Rutgers nearly undid its stellar defensive performance after 90 minutes of regulation and two 10-minute extratime sessions when Skroski and Colby Ciarrocca missed the first two penalty kicks, putting the Scarlet Knights in a quick 2-0 hole in the best of five session.
But Murphy made her penalty kick, saved Virginia's third kick, then saw the Cavaliers' Makenzy Doniak hit the cross bar in round five when she could have won it for the ACC school.
"When she hit the cross bar I thought to myself `this is a sign for us,' " Murphy said.
Rutgers made its next seven kicks after missing the first two, including all four in the sudden-death session of the penalty kick stage. When Murphy dove right - admitting she guessed on the play - to stop Tina Iordanou's penalty kick, the Scarlet Knights were Final Four-bound.
"Honestly, I didn't think once that we were going to lose this game," Murphy said. "I just kept talking to myself, reminding myself why we were here. People probably though I was crazy. All I kept saying was `College Cup. College Cup.' "
Of her final save, Murphy said "there was nothing that made me go that way. I just went that way. Luckily I was able to save it."
Murphy's save wound up as the game-deciding moment because junior Tori Prager converted made the final Rutgers PK attempt.
The Final Four appearance is the first by a Rutgers team since the women's basketball team reached that event in 2007.