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Rutgers women’s soccer picked third in B1G preseason poll as 2023 campaign kicks off Thursday



Head coach Mike O'Neill talks to his team during a preseason scrimmage. Photo credit

Rutgers women’s soccer kicks off the 2023 season on Thursday night at home against Holy Cross. The Scarlet Knights are coming off of a 13-5-2 campaign last fall that ended with a four game losing streak. Despite a disappointing end to last season, RU finished No. 29 in the RPI rankings. Head coach Mike O’Neill’s squad returns many contributors from last season as the program advanced to a 11th straight NCAA Tournament. There are reasons to believe this team is in position for another strong season this fall.

On Tuesday, the Big Ten Preseason Coaches Poll projected Rutgers to finish in third place in the conference. After winning the regular season title with a perfect 10-0-0 mark in 2021, the Scarlet Knights finished in a four-way tie for fourth place last season at 5-3-2.

Ten starters return from last season including the seven top points leaders. The league names three Big Ten Players to Watch for each team and Rutgers had Riley Tiernan, Sara Brocious and Becci Fluchel included in the preseason poll.

Tiernan was also named to the United Soccer Coaches National Players to Watch list for forwards for the second straight year. She had four goals and six assists last season following a standout debut that notched Big Ten Freshman of the Year honors. In just two seasons, Tiernan is already 8th all-time in program history with 19 career assists.

Brocious was tied for second on the team with 17 points last season with 5 goals and 7 assists. The Second Team All-Big Ten selection is 12th all-time with 16 career assists.

Fluchel is an instrumental part of the stout Rutgers defense while also having contributed with 3 goals and 4 assists last season. Getting star defender Emily Mason back from injury will be key to the success of this team as well.

Rutgers also welcomes three-time First Team All-Big East selection Gia Vicari to the mix up front on offense.

Finding a replacement for longtime stalwart in goalkeeper Meagan McClelland will be key to taking a step forward this season.

In addition, Rutgers has its top two goal scorers returning in Sam Kroeger and Allison Lowrey. On a recent episode of The Scarlet Faithful podcast, Kroeger spoke about the lessons learned from last season and the expectations for this fall for RU. with a challenging schedule once again, this talented team will be tested early and often. It all starts on Thursday night as head coach Mike O’Neill’s program looks to compete for a conference and national championship once again.

Here is the full Big Ten Preseason Coaches Poll.

2023 Women’s Soccer Preseason Poll

  1. Penn State
  2. Northwestern
  3. Rutgers
  4. Michigan State
  5. Wisconsin
  6. Nebraska
  7. Ohio State
  8. Michigan
  9. Minnesota
  10. Iowa
  11. Maryland
  12. Purdue
  13. Illinois
  14. Indiana

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1 Comment

1 Comment

  1. Henry Rutgers

    August 16, 2023 at 11:05 pm

    Solid article. Good analysis. I went over and watched a couple of the scrimmages. There are a lot of things I like about the way the team is coached. The scrimmages seemed to me to be experiments in how player combinations worked together in game like situations. It was a smart use of the experience to analyze the play, put the right player and player combinations together on the field to win.

    If I have any concerns going into the season, I’d say no clear on field leader has developed since Gabby graduated for the defense. Becci is awesome. I looked at the knee brace Mason had on and thought oh boy, she’s playing through injury, but more concerning was the lack of defensive organization. The talent is there. One of the four has to become the defensive leader.

    Offensively, there was so much talent that it was overwhelming. However, I did not see the cohesiveness I was hoping to see. It was good to see Lowrey without a knee or foot brace of some kind, but she has to develop into an assassin or someone else needs to step up into the center forward position. Honestly, she’s one of the hardest working, dedicated team members we have but she was not effective at the center forward in the later part of last season and looked a step slow in the preseason.

    In the midfield Sarah Brocious has improved year over year every year. She’s less tentative, shows good leadership and has great situational awareness. She has great stamina, but we need to be able to have her go 110%, be subbed for ten minutes and go 110%. She’s mastered pacing herself so she can play the entire game. Why? Rest her and let her use her burst ability to create plays and results. I also think we’ll see some exciting new faces this season emerge maybe starting tomorrow evening as we begin with a win over Holy Cross.

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