Rutgers replicates result in 17-7 defeat
As all fans in attendance left for the exits at High Point Solutions Stadium and the players headed into the locker room following 60 minutes of action, Semisonic's “Closing Time” blared from the speakers.
Like the doors of the bar where the events of the tune took place, the curtain of the Rutgers women’s lacrosse team’s season came down.
Two weeks to the day after falling, 17-7, against No. 20 Ohio State in Columbus, the Scarlet Knights were defeated by the same scoreline on their home field in the quarterfinals of the inaugural Big Ten women’s lacrosse tournament.
At the beginning of their second half, the fifth-seeded Knights (3-15) had the task of erasing a five-goal halftime deficit if they hoped to continue their season.
But the same issue that haunted Rutgers in the first half — and throughout the season — came back to bite it.
“We fought the whole time. The draw was what killed us,” said head coach Laura Brand-Sias. “They had a girl taking the draw that didn’t play in our previous game so we only had film of her against Northwestern. She had eight draw controls so we couldn’t really figure her out. I tried every draw taker we have. That was really the difference. If you look at the draw stats, it was 19-7 and that directly relates to the score.”
After winning the first three faceoffs, Rutgers lost 19 out of the next 23.
Being dominated in a crucial aspect of a game can take a mental toll on a team.
At the 25:25 mark of the second half, fourth-seeded Ohio State (12-6) scored its 11th goal to stretch its lead to seven.
Before getting back into position for the draw, the players on the field for Rutgers gathered in their defensive eight-meter area in a huddle. Their aim was to ease the nerves and ensure every player had their head in the game.
“It was a mental check-in,” said senior goalkeeper Candice Dandridge. “Every now and then, we have to make sure we’re all checked in and making sure we’re putting our best foot forward and making sure we’re not letting them run over us. So we all get together and look at each other in the eyes and say ‘Chop’ and that’s all.”
When the draw was in their favor, the Knights instilled hope for the Scarlet faithful among the 372 Big Ten women’s lacrosse fans in the crowd in Piscataway. After falling behind 2-0 within the first five minutes, the Knights bit the Buckeyes back when Lauren Sbrilli zig-zagged through the defense and scored her first goal on the afternoon.
The fifth-year senior midfielder was unable to continue her sparkling goal scoring form, but contributed in every aspect of the game. The Bridgewater, New Jersey, native finished the game with a goal, an assist, a ground ball, two draw controls and two caused turnovers.
Sbrilli was disappointed in the end result, but proud of the fight shown by her teammates throughout the contest.
“It sucks that it didn’t end the way we wanted, but I’m happy we gave them a game,” Sbrilli said.
Both teams traded goals, and with 20 minutes remaining in the first half, the Knights were within one goal in a 3-2 deficit.
Then, Ohio State’s balanced attack struck.
The Buckeyes went on a four-goal run to extend their lead to 7-2. Rutgers scored through Melissa Arthur to end the scoring run, but the onslaught continued.
Ohio State outscored the Knights, 6-2, in the final 20 minutes of the half to enter the locker room with a 9-4 halftime lead they would not relinquish. They outscored Rutgers in the second half, 8-3.
While the Knights didn’t make history by winning their first Big Ten Tournament game, history was made as they played in and hosted the first ever Big Ten Tournament.
It's a small piece that sticks with Dandridge.
“We made history today regardless, so we just take away all the good things we can,” Dandridge said. “To be a part of history is huge, but to do it with 29 of my sisters, that’s even better.”
When the final horn sounded, six seniors played their final minutes in a Rutgers uniform. Next season, a new generation of Knights will don the block 'R' and continue the legacy of Sbrilli, Dandridge and their fellow classmates.
While suffering a loss in the final game she played was not easy to swallow, Sbrilli believes the experience will be beneficial to the returning players next season.
“It’s very difficult especially for the seniors because it’s our last shot, but I hope (the underclassmen) take this and learn from it, go out next season and kill it,” Sbrilli said.
For updates on the Rutgers women’s lacrosse team, follow @briannnnf and @TargumSports on Twitter.