Rutgers shocks No. 10 Ohio State for first Big Ten win in season finale
It only takes one spark to ignite a fire.
Four times this season, the Rutgers men’s lacrosse team hosted a top-10 team at High Point Solutions Stadium — and four times, the Scarlet Knights fell short.
When then-No. 2 Virginia came to town on Feb. 21, it gave the Knights a taste of the undeniable strength of their 2015 schedule.
Despite a strong first half, the result ended up in a 14-5 rout in favor of the Cavaliers.
Weeks later, then-No. 9 Army traveled down from West Point to edge Rutgers, 9-7. The trend continued on St. Patrick’s Day when the Knights slipped in a 12-11 defeat to then-No. 10 Princeton before losing a heartbreaker at home to No. 3 Maryland on a goal scored with 13 seconds to play, breaking an 8-8 tie with the Terps.
For Senior Day, Rutgers was faced with another top-10 foe in No. 10 Ohio State but the Knights did not come up with a victory in a tight game.
Instead, Rutgers bludgeoned the Buckeyes (11-4, 3-2), 17-10, to capture the first Big Ten win in program history and the first victory over a top-10 opponent since 2003 (then-No. 3 UMass).
“I think it was a huge day for our program as a whole,” said head coach Brian Brecht. “Having nine seniors to honor and thank for their four years of service, wearing that Rutgers uniform and to get a Big Ten win, to get a top-10 win over a playoff team — you know we’ve been close so many times throughout the season — but to have the seniors get a win to finish off their days and their careers is something I’m proud of, and hopefully something they’ll remember for the rest of their life.”
The two teams were tied at 4-4 after the first quarter, a familiar sign for Rutgers fans when playing a top-10 opponent.
Rutgers (5-10, 1-4) took an early lead in the second period when sophomore midfielder Jeff George found junior attacker Ryan Hollingsworth for a goal to give the Knights a 5-4 lead.
With 6:29 to play in the first half, an extra spark came.
Senior midfielder Brian Goss beat Buckeyes goaltender Tom Carey for the first of his three goals on the afternoon. Thirty-eight seconds later, sophomore attacker Christian Trasolini scored off of a feed from junior attacker Scott Bieda, who followed with his second tally under two minutes later to make it 8-4.
The Knights exploded for seven unanswered goals in the second quarter to take an 11-4 lead into halftime and they rode that momentum to victory.
“I think it was just a culmination of everything," Goss said. "We came to play today. There was nothing to hold back — this was it and we knew that going into it. We came out firing and it was a great way to end my four years here with a 17-10 win. It was great.”
Goss completed his career on the banks playing 60 consecutive games, which spans every game since the Arlington Heights, Illinois, native arrived on campus in 2012, starting in all but the first two.
“It was a great way to go out, the whole team played so great,” Goss said. "Obviously I wish we could have done this a little earlier in the season, but no regrets, just a great way to end the season and a great way to get that first Big Ten win.”
Rutgers defense was able to contain one of the most potent offenses in the country, holding Ohio State to 10 goals — two of which came after the outcome of the game had been decided.
“We scouted them well, we went over all their plays,” said junior defender Nick Capparelli. “We figured out all the little things they have going on and we locked down their knowns and did everything we had to.”
Senior faceoff specialist Joe Nardella was proud of his team’s performance in his last game on the banks.
“Putting everything else that’s happened during the season aside, this is nothing but a fairytale ending,” Nardella said. “I couldn’t be prouder of my guys. Everyone came to play today, everyone bought in and played for each other and that’s all you could really ask for on Senior Day.”
Nardella shined at the faceoff ‘X,' as he has all season and over the course of his four-year career, winning 68 percent (19-of-28) of his draws in the game. He even did so on 9-of-15 against the ninth-ranked player in the country in faceoff percentage, Christopher May.
Scott Bieda’s two-goal, four-assist performance was indicative of the 2015 campaign he has staged in spectacular fashion. Bieda will end the season as the team leader in goals (30), assists (28) and points (58) — all of which are career highs.
But Bieda will never self-promote. Instead, he highlights the accomplishments of his teammates and notes how the Knights were able to send their seniors out on top.
“I hoped that the whole season would have went different,” Bieda said. "But I’m just glad we went out for the seniors (with a win). We could’ve easily gave up, but having the seniors go out like this with a big win like this — I couldn’t be happier for these guys.”
Rutgers' performance as a group leaves an optimistic feeling for the lacrosse program, altering the perception of the team’s play in 2015.
After chipping away for three months, the wall finally came down on Senior Day.
“For me (this win) is No. 1 in my career,” Nardella said. “Top-10 win, first Big Ten win — we proved today that we can not only play with these top teams but we can beat them too.”
For updates on the Rutgers men's lacrosse team follow @KevinPXavier and @TargumSports on Twitter.