No. 3 Maryland hands Rutgers heartbreaking defeat
The Rutgers men’s lacrosse team might as well ban the number 13 from the program.
After a back-and-forth battle with No. 3 Maryland on Sunday at High Point Solutions Stadium, the Scarlet Knights (4-9, 0-3) fought back from two goals down to tie the Big Ten's top dog in an 8-8 deadlock.
But with 13 seconds to play, the clock struck midnight on Cinderella and the Knights' upset bid was forced into retraction at the hands of Maryland’s Matt Rambo. Junior goalkeeper Kris Alleyne dazzled with nine saves to hold the Terps, who average 10.58 goals per game, to eight goals through 58:47.
But a goaltender can’t stop what he can’t see. And the unluckiest of numbers appeared at the worst possible time.
Rambo, younger brother to Rutgers senior midfielder Rich Rambo, raced from behind the cage and flung a shot top shelf. The shot sneaked by Alleyne, who was screened by two Knights on defense, preventing him from reacting quickly enough.
“Kris is a great goalie -- I think the best in the country,” said junior attacker Scott Bieda.
Bieda expanded on his view of the game’s deciding goal.
“A great player made a great play,” Bieda said, “(Alleyne) was screened a little bit and couldn’t really see, but great players make great plays and that was just a great shot. Sometimes you can’t really do anything about that.”
The game began as a defensive struggle, which was expected from the Terrapins (11-1, 3-0). Allowing just 5.5 goals per game according to ncaa.com, the Terps boast the nation's top-ranked defense.
But Rutgers was up for the challenge.
“I think our defense played the best game they’ve ever played," Bieda said. "Credit to them. They’ve grown so much as a defense and I can’t say anymore about that."
Maryland drew first blood with 4:43 remaining in the first quarter and the teams stayed scoreless for the remainder of the period.
Just 51 seconds into the second quarter, freshman midfielder Chad Toliver converted to spur a three-goal run for Rutgers. Sophomores Jeff George and Christian Trasolini followed Toliver with tallies to give the Knights a 3-1 lead.
Rutgers rode a 4-2 lead into the break and scored two of the first three goals in the third, Trasolini and George’s second of the contest.
But then Maryland made a comeback.
The Terps scored five unanswered to nullify the Knights' lead and build a two-goal advantage of their own.
At 8-6, with just over seven minutes to play, it appeared all hope was lost for Rutgers.
But after a man-up opportunity presented itself, the Knights capitalized.
Senior midfielder Brian Goss scratched his name on the scoresheet to make it 8-7.
“That man-up (goal) was huge," Bieda said. "We knew that opportunity was gonna be a goal the whole time. Goss probably could’ve shot it twice before, but he was waiting for that right time and finally the third time he stuck that near corner. That definitely rallied the troops.”
A little under three minutes later, Bieda bullied one past Maryland goalkeeper and nation's leader in goals against average (5.30), Kyle Bernlohr, to tie the game at eight apiece.
“The ability that Scott (Bieda) has shown all year to be the quarterback or take things upon himself, whether it’s the Princeton game or this one, it was a great job by him to find the back of the cage and tie us up,” said head coach Brian Brecht.
In the end, Rambo’s revenge quelled Rutgers' realistic chance for an upset win.
But don’t close the book on the 2015 campaign for the Knights. Although the chance is slim, Rutgers still has an outside shot at a postseason berth.
In order to make the postseason a possibility, the Knights will need to win out and get some help.
Those conditions stack the odds against them, but both Brecht and Bieda know one thing for certain –– this team will not quit.
“What happens next is we come to practice and we do the same thing we’ve done every single day,” Bieda said, “which is working as hard as we can because you can’t give up. And no one’s doing that.”
Brecht expressed gratitude for his team’s effort and encouraged them to keep their focus, because it’s not over yet.
“The first thing I said to them was that I was proud of them, proud of the way they carried themselves on the field, but also proud of the way they prepared this week," Brecht said. "I think we’ve got a resilient group. I have no doubt that it will continue into this week against Penn State as we continue the Big Ten schedule.”
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