No. 6 Irish stymie Knights comebacks
In the Rutgers men’s lacrosse team’s first Big East matchup of the season last week, St. John’s denied the Scarlet Knights their first conference victory after completing a climb out of a 3-point hole in the last two seconds.
The Knights found themselves on the other end of the spectrum Sunday against No. 6 Notre Dame, attempting to overcome the Fighting Irish’s early five-goal advantage.
But where St. John’s was successful, Rutgers came up short. Notre Dame’s defense proved too much for the Knights, whose upset bid eventually fell short, 12-9.
“We allowed a bit too many in the first five or 10 minutes of the game,” said head coach Brian Brecht. “After the first 10 minutes, we were right there offensively and defensively. We gave them everything they could handle, but when you spot them five in the early going, that is hard to come back from.”
The early portion of the fourth quarter officially ended the run for the Knights (4-5, 0-2). The Irish started the period firing off three straight goals, answered by only one from senior midfielder Mike Diehl.
But before the final frame of the contest, the Knights found themselves on the cusp of a comeback against the No. 6 team in the nation.
They chipped away slowly at Notre Dame’s (6-1, 1-0) lead throughout the second and third quarters. The third ended with Rutgers only one goal behind at 9-8. Sophomore attackman Scott Klimchak led the offensive surge, recording both of his goals in the period. Another goal from sophomore attackman Nick DePaolera brought the Knights within 1.
The comeback attempt began in the second period, with Rutgers scoring four goals from four different players. Senior midfielders Zachary Zenda and Nick Zerrillo joined DePaolera and Diehl in the offensive flurry that brought Rutgers as close as 7-5 entering the third.
Despite the productivity of the offense — which ended the game with four different players scoring at least two goals — Brecht was not satisfied. The first-year head coach was adamant he would not be unless the same productivity resulted in wins.
“I give the guys credit to get nine goals, but I don’t want to have any moral victories,” Brecht said. “We have to win a game. We keep leaving them on the table. We are going to have to grab one of them these days if we want to play with the big boys.”
The largest reason the Knights’ mid-game offensive groove fell short is what took place in the first frame. The Irish began the matchup by firing five goals past redshirt sophomore goalkeeper Steven Lusby, who endured 41 shots with from Notre Dame with 13 saves.
“It was not Steven’s fault they got those five goals in the early going,” Brecht said. “He is once again in the double digits in saves against one of the top 10 teams in the country, let alone our conference.”
The Knights’ only response in the disastrous first period was a single goal from senior midfielder Will Mangan.
“Notre Dame is one of the best defensive teams in the country, let alone a top 10 team in everything else,” Brecht said. “I wish we would have not been so tentative in the first 10 minutes.”