No. 11 Rutgers falls to No. 3 Maryland, 13-12, in triple-overtime thriller
It was a perfect night for a lacrosse game and a program-defining win.
For the Rutgers men's lacrosse team, it had that in reach, but saw it slip away in the third overtime of a thriller against then-No. 3 Maryland.
The then-No. 11 Scarlet Knights (9-3, 1-2) took the hottest team in the country shot for shot, but a sudden death goal by Connor Kelly with 55 seconds left in the third overtime gave the Terrapins (9-2, 3-0) a 13-12 victory over Rutgers.
And in a game featuring two high-powered offenses, it was the goalies that stood out the most. Maryland goalie Dan Morris had a rough start to the game, giving up 4 goals on four shots from the Knights and didn't make a save in the first quarter. He followed that up with 12 saves in regulation as well as four more over the three overtimes including a stuff of senior attacker Connor Murphy from close range.
But anyone who saw this game would agree that it doesn't make it to three overtimes, let alone one, if it weren't for the play of junior goalie Max Edelmann.
"Max was unreal," junior defender Michael Rexrode said. "He really stood on his head there for a little bit. He bailed us out. We wouldn't have been in that game without him. He's a stud in the net for sure."
He started the game strong, making five saves in the first quarter alone. He then made four more in the fourth quarter and two more in the overtime periods, including a save on a point-blank shot from Terp Matt Rambo, one of the best players in the country.
Edelmann and the veteran defense shut out Maryland for a near-22 minutes stand going from the fourth quarter until the final goal.
"I can't thank him enough for making all those stops," senior midfielder Jeff George said of Edelmann's performance. "It was definitely not (the defense and Edelmann) that lost that game."
When the team turns on the film of this one, it will likely see a number of errors and mishaps that overshadow the strong play of the defense in crunch time.
In total, Rutgers had 18 turnovers to Maryland's just 10. Of those 18, the Terps forced just four of them, giving the Knights 14 unforced turnovers. In the second half alone, they turned it over eight times.
An area that hindered the team against Johns Hopkins two weeks ago, clearing the ball, seemed to be fixed against Michigan. But Rutgers struggled once again, going just 14-19 and never looking completely in control.
"The defense and Max gave us great opportunities to win the game," head coach Brian Brecht said. "Our effort was great. Our execution was not very good. Too many turnovers, failed clears."
With 8 minutes left in the third quarter, senior defender Chris Groel scooped up a ground ball and spun through two Terps players to bring the ball across midfield. As he flicked it to junior midfielder Christian Scarpello, it was mishandled and Connor Kelly finished it off at the other end to put Maryland up 10-7. That capped a 6-1 run for the Terps and they were riding all the momentum in the world.
The aforementioned effort by Brecht was then put on full display. Three minutes later, sophomore long stick midfielder Garrett Michaeli picked a pass clean out of the air and pushed it down the field, scoring to end the Maryland run and giving the Knights a massive emotional boost.
The team used that energy to put in 2 more and tie the game at 10. But after the Terps scored 2 straight to give themselves a 12-10 lead with 11:03 left in the game, the energy seemed gone for a moment.
But the fight of the team was still evident, with Murphy finding a rebound and putting it in with just under six minutes.
George proved to be the hero for that point for Rutgers, fighting through traffic and putting it past Morris to tie the game with 39 seconds.
But as they say, the rest is history, and the Knights are looking at a 1-2 record in the Big Ten and a tie for fourth place — only four teams make the Big Ten Tournament — with rival Penn State.
As it just happens to be, Rutgers travels to Happy Valley this Sunday for another Big Ten Network primetime matchup in a make-or-break contest for both teams.
No matter how well they prepare during the week, all that matters on game day is performing and getting the win.
"I thought the captains did a good job with the focus all week," Brecht said. "But when it comes down to game day you gotta execute."