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NCAA Weekend Recap: Rutgers, Duke and Auburn open conference play with big wins

Week 5 of NCAA action saw what seems like half the country kick off conference play, while the other half got one more weekend of non-conference action under its belt. The SEC kicked off conference play with a surprising upset Friday night, while the ACC opened theirs with a Top-20 defensive battle that saw Florida State lose at home for the first time in over three years. Rutgers continued their undefeated streak in their Big Ten opener, while UCLA’s last non-conference match handed them their first non-win of the season. Here’s a recap of some of the NCAA action that went down this weekend.

Own goal hands Maryland first loss, Rutgers first conference win

Alex Ferreira’s shot forced the game-winning own goal in Rutgers’ 2-0 conference win over Maryland. (photo copyright Katie Cahalin for The Equalizer)

No. 13 Rutgers opened their conference play with a 2-0 home win over Maryland in a Sunday afternoon matchup at Yurcak Field. A 65th-minute own goal would eventually be Maryland’s downfall, snapping their 2017 undefeated streak. As for Rutgers, the shutout was their eighth of the season, and they are now the only team to have not conceded a goal all season.

“The shutouts start from our front five defending and our defense has been solid and compact, denying all shots and services,” said redshirt junior Casey Murphy, who has played every minute of the season in goal for the Scarlet Knights. “Their mentality is to deny everything and give the other team nothing. It comes from our coaching staff instilling those details and habits in our training every day.”

The first half was a 50/50 battle between the two sides, with both teams tallying four shots and three corner kicks. Rutgers put one more of those shots on goal than Maryland did, forcing Terrapin goalkeeper Rachel Egyed to make two saves to Murphy’s one. At the half, both teams had held the other scoreless.

Unfortunately for Maryland, the deadlock was finally broken in the 65th minute when Rutgers forward Alexa Ferreira, the Big Ten’s Freshman of the Week, fired off a shot that midfielder Hope Gouterman attempted to head clear, only to send it past Egyed instead for the Rutgers game winner. Rutgers secured the win in the 74th minute when senior Colby Ciarrocca and freshman Amirah Ali connected on a give-and-go that ended with Ciarrocca finding the back of the net.

Duke opens conference play with 3-0 shutout of Virginia Tech

Chelsea Burns is four-for-four in converted penalties this season, including the game winner over Virginia Tech on Sunday. (photo by Shane Lardinois)

Since dropping their season opener against the North Carolina Tar Heels, the No. 4 Duke Blue Devils have embarked upon an eight-game winning streak, most recently taking down the Virginia Tech Hokies, 3-0, to open ACC action on Sunday. Chelsea Burns converted a penalty kick at the end of the first half, while senior co-captains Ashton Miller and Imani Dorsey contributed a pair of second-half insurance goals to give the Blue Devils a perfect start to conference play.

The Hokies came out the more aggressive of the two and registered the game’s first shot in the 10th minute of action, forcing senior goalkeeper EJ Proctor to make the first of four saves on the day. They took another one less than two minutes later, but the Blue Devil defense finally found their footing and prevented Tech from taking another shot for the remainder of the first half. The Hokie defense started out as strong as their attack, holding the Duke attack from getting a shot off until the 20th minute.

The strong defensive efforts by both teams seemed to be sending the game into halftime still scoreless, but that all changed when a hard challenge inside the box resulted in⇑ a Duke penalty kick. Tech goalkeeper Mandy McGlynn dove right as Burns perfectly placed the ball in the bottom left corner to convert her fourth penalty and score her third game-winning goal of the year.

The second half started as aggressively as the first ended, with five fouls and a yellow card being issued to Virginia Tech in the first five minutes. The Blue Devils were not deterred, and scored their second goal just seconds later. With her back to goal, Dorsey played a short pass to Miller, who angled a low ball past McGlynn and inside the far post. Dorsey got one of her own in the 58th minute for her seventh goal in eight games this season.

Auburn upset No. 22 Texas A&M, 1-0, in SEC opener

The unranked Auburn Tigers were the less dominant team in almost every way but the most important one—on the scoreboard—in their 1-0 conference-opening home win over No. 22 Texas A&M on Friday night. The visiting Aggies outshot the home side 19-9, but a strong performance by Sarah Le Beau in net for the Tigers helped A&M succumb to an early Auburn goal.

That goal came in the ninth minute when senior Hannah Alspach, pushed up from her usual spot on Auburn’s backline, blasted a left-footed curler from 30 yards out past Aggie goalkeeper Cosette Morche and into the left upper 90. The goal was assisted by Kristen Dodson, who tallied her eighth point of the season to lead the team in points for the second straight season.

The Tigers took only four shots in the opening half, all of which were on goal, but the Aggie defense held them to just one more in the second half while the A&M offense cranked up the intensity in search of an equalizer. Eleven of their shots came in the final 20 minutes of the match, with sophomore Ally Watt contributing five of those herself. However, a lack of finishing and a solid night of goalkeeping by Auburn’s Le Beau prevented the Aggies from pulling even before the final whistle.

UCLA’s win streak snapped by 1-1 draw

The UCLA Bruins saw their perfect start to the season come to an end in their final weekend of nonconference action, drawing Pepperdine, 1-1, in double overtime. Although the Bruins remain undefeated on the season, the result no doubt feels like a loss for the top-ranked team in the nation. With the result, only two teams—Texas and Tennessee—remain perfect on the season.

After playing a scoreless first half in which a Bruins goal by Viviana Villacorta was called back by an offside ruling, the Bruins got on the board just 43 seconds into the second. Villacorta beat the Pepperdine defense to a long ball and took a couple of touches before sending a short, diagonal pass to Hailie Mace who one-timed the ball past Pepperdine keeper Brielle Preece. The goal is Mace’s team-leading sixth of the season.

The Waves pulled back level in the 78th minute off a set piece when Bri Visalli’s header was blocked by the UCLA defense, only to have the rebound sent in by Jamie Van Horn. The goal is the first scored against by Pepperdine against the Bruins since 2011.

Neither team could find the back of the net through the remainder of regulation and two overtime periods, sending the game to a 1-1 draw. UCLA keeper Teagan Micah recorded one save on the night, while Pepperdine’s Preece tallied a career-high nine saves off 20 shots.

Elsewhere in the NCAA…

– No. 6 West Virginia handed No. 20 Princeton their first loss of the season, defeating the Tigers, 1-0. Junior defender     Vanessa Flores scored the game winner in the 19th minute.

– Wisconsin sophomore forward Dani Rhodes leads the nation in game-winning goals after converting a penalty for the game winner in the Badger’s 1-0 win over Minnesota in their Big Ten opener. The goal is Rhodes’ fifth goal and fourth game winner in eight games this season.

– No. 12 USC overcame a one-goal deficit, scoring two second-half goals to defeat Loyola Marymount, 2-1, on Friday night. Melissa Lewis put the Lions on the board in the 66th minute, but two Trojan goals in the final five minutes (Leah Pruitt, 86’ and Erika Okuma, 88’) gave USC the come-from-behind victory.

– No. 11 Clemson suffered its second consecutive loss of the season, losing its ACC opener, 4-2, to Notre Dame. Jennifer Westendorf (8’), Sammi Fisher (26’), Natalie Jacobs (59’) and Sandra Yu (68’) all scored for the Fighting Irish with Jacobs tallying the game winner, while Shannon Horgan (27’) and Mariana Speckmaier (57’) got on the board for Clemson.

– LSU suffered its first loss of the season, dropping its SEC opener to Vanderbilt, 1-0. Madiya Harriott opened up her 2017 account by scoring Vandy’s game-winning goal in the 86th minute.

– As previously stated, only two teams remain perfect in 2017 NCAA action. Texas improved to 8-0 after defeating University of Texas Rio Grande Valley, 1-0, on Friday, while Tennessee extended their win streak to nine after downing Kentucky, 3-0, in their SEC opener.

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