January 22, 2019 | ° F

Diehl nets two in first game as Scarlet Knight

Photo by Ramon Dompor |

Freshman midfielder Mike Diehl scored two goals in his first game at the collegiate level, but Rutgers lost 8-4 to Villanova.

Freshman midfielder Mike Diehl wasted no time making an impact as a Scarlet Knight, scoring the Rutgers men's lacrosse team's first goal of the game and season.

With 53 seconds left in the first quarter of RU's 8-4 loss Saturday to Villanova, the Flemington, N.J. native scored his first career collegiate goal.

Diehl added another goal early in the third quarter off of a pass from his former high school teammate, junior midfielder Justin Pennington.

Diehl and Pennington were teammates for two seasons at Hunterdon Central, winning back-to-back state championships for the Group IV powerhouse.

"It's really good," Diehl said on playing with Pennington once again. "He's a really good player. It takes a lot of pressure off [me] because he's a real leader out there so he helps me out."

Head coach Jim Stagnitta praised his freshman's play.

"He went to the cage hard and shot the ball overhand the way we asked him to shoot it," Stagnitta said. "He's a talented kid and going to be a really good player."

Diehl's day of firsts was not finished after his first career goal, though, as he also picked up his first career penalty. The freshman drew an unnecessary roughness call while fighting for a loose ball.

As expected, the slides and double-teams came early and often on Pennington as they will all season long.

The junior midfielder responded by scoring two goals and dishing out one assist.

Despite the individual success Pennington had handling the double team, Stagnitta said that his team needs to capitalize on the double teams his star player is drawing.

"We could have taken more advantage of it. We mishandled a couple opportunities," Stagnitta said. "But it opened up a couple chances and we have to stick in more of those opportunities that we have."

Three was the magic number for Villanova as the Wildcats were led by senior attack Tim Driscoll's hat-trick and junior attack Paul Webber's three assists.

Nova was also only able to win three face-offs as RU sophomore midfielder Chris Mattes dominated the Wildcats, winning 13-of-16 face-offs. Both freshman midfielder Nolan Vihlen and sophomore midfielder T.J. O'Donnell were unable to slow down Mattes as they went 2-of-9 and 1-of-4 against him, respectively.

The cliché "ground balls win games" did not hold true for Rutgers as they won the ground ball battle 23-16.

The Knights were unable to capitalize on that stat and it did not help that they turned the ball over 12 times while Villanova only turned it over nine times.

Matt Sugam

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