August 18, 2019 | 73° F

Early deficit proves costly in ’Nova loss

The Rutgers men’s lacrosse team found itself in a familiar late-game comeback attempt against No. 13 Big East opponent Villanova on Saturday, eventually falling to the Wildcats, 14-9.

Like most of the Scarlet Knights’ late surges this season, the comeback was necessary against Villanova because of a disaster of a first half for the Knights (5-6, 1-3) at Yurcak Field.

By the time both teams entered halftime, Villanova (7-4, 3-0) already outscored the Knights, 11-2.

“The first half was a culmination of a perfect storm of not winning face-offs, not making saves, not shooting the ball well — we did not execute in any aspect of the game of lacrosse, offensively or defensively,” said head coach Brian Brecht. “We were not very impressive-looking in the first 30 minutes.”

Michael Diehl’s third-frame goal began not only the Knights’ attempted comeback, but cemented a career day for the senior midfielder. Diehl scored three more times in the second half, marking a career-high goal total and only his second hat trick in his time on the Banks.

“I feel bad because Michael Diehl certainly showed up ready to play,” Brecht said. “Michael, for the past two weeks, has been in the office at 7 a.m. taking a bucket of balls and shooting on his own. There is a reason he has been such a dominant force the last couple of days, and so successful [against Villanova].”

Diehl’s goal began a 7-1 scoring run by the Knights that pulled them to within only three goals of the Wildcats with eight minutes remaining in the game. Senior midfielder Will Mangan and sophomore attackman Scott Klimchak, who notched one and two goals, respectively, joined Diehl.

The Knights that emerged after halftime were a completely different squad than the one for the first two frames. “If you would have came after halftime, you would have liked what you saw,” Brecht said. “I keep wanting to say how the guys are working so hard, and I’m proud of them and they don’t give up and they keep on fighting, but at the end of the day we also need to execute.”

With only two Big East games left on their schedule and two more conference wins needed to qualify for the Big East Tournament, the Knights cannot afford to lose another game in the Big East.

“We have to win the rest of our games. We have Syracuse next Saturday, then we have Georgetown,” Brecht said. “Each game is a playoff game — there are no moral victories. We have to execute, and we have to get those wins.”

By Vinnie Mancuso

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