The SMU Mustangs opened the conference schedule with a 1-0 victory over the Rutgers Scarlet Knights on the road after struggling through the early season.
Rutgers held a first half advantage, leading SMU 5-3 in shots and 4-1 in corner kicks.
However, a strong first half from SMU’s defense and a rebound game from Jaime Ibarra held Rutgers to no goals.
“The win is a great first step for the team and the school this season,” Head Coach Tim McClements said. “We obviously had a difficult start to the season, but we have the opportunity to open a new chapter. We’ve fallen on the wrong side of results but it feels great to get this win for the team and the staff. We hope there are more to come.”
SMU combined a little luck and some defensive skill in this match.
In the first half Kene Eze, second on the Scarlet Knights in points with 10, left the match due to an injury.
With Eze out, SMU focused on Rutgers’ points leader in Mael Corboz. Sure enough, SMU disrupted Corboz’s rhythm, holding him without a goal or assist in the match.
Heading into the match, SMU looked to Alfred Koroma to continue to put pressure on the defense. Koroma delivered.
In the 64th minute of the match, Koroma lifted the ball over the Rutgers defenders for a goal inside the right post. Andrew Morales, also a key contributor on defense, was credited with the assist.
“We knew we had to get into the offensive third and create more opportunities in the second half,” McClements said. “Rutgers is a really good team and I think they will do great in conference. We’ve just learned that with our schedule the margin of victory is very thin and we came back in the second half and made it a hard-fought match.”
Late in the game, Nathan Bruccoleri, a junior midfielder, had an attempt to tie the game up. However, Ibarra got between Bruccoleri and the goal to preserve his first shutout of the season.
“Jaime played great and kept the ball out of the net,” McClements said. “Rutgers had the ball in dangerous positions and they are very effective on set pieces, but Jaime played great for us.”
Looking to turn this win into a streak, the Mustangs will travel to Seattle next week to take on the No. 6 Washington on Friday at 6 p.m.