No. 13 Rutgers drops crucial road game against No. 9 Penn State
Going into Sunday night's matchup against No. 9 Penn State, one thing was very clear for the Rutgers men's lacrosse team — win and in.
If the Scarlet Knights left State College, Pennsylvania a win over the Nittany Lions, they would clinch a spot in the Big Ten Tournament and position themselves very well for the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) Tournament.
Nonetheless, Rutgers (9-4, 1-3) put forth an uninspiring effort in a 13-7 loss to Penn State (11-2, 2-2) on Sunday night in a result that guarantees it would not make a return to the Big Ten Tournament after making the final last season.
The only chance the Knights stand at a NCAA Tournament berth would be if they score an upset victory over Ohio State on Saturday afternoon and earn an at-large bid, though the committee taking five teams from the Big Ten is not very likely.
Every lacrosse game starts with a faceoff and every goal is followed with a faceoff. There is almost a direct correlation between winning the faceoff battle and winning the game. So when Rutgers started off the game 0-for-13 on faceoffs, it did not seem like the team was in for a promising night.
Penn State freshman Gerard Arceri, who had struggled in Big Ten play, put forth a career effort at the "X" with his 16-of-20 stat line. In the beginning of the game, the Knights defense was able to keep the game close, but with each faceoff victory for Arceri piling up, it amounted to a deficit too large to come back from.
As the saying goes, you can not score goals if you do not have the ball, and Rutgers hardly had the ball or any opportunities to shoot. The team was out-shot by the Nittany Lions by a margin of 45-26 and in shots on goal by 29-14.
And on another night the Knights could not come away with a victory, the blame could be placed on anyone but junior goalie Max Edelmann. As he did against then-No. 3 Maryland last week, he stood on his head, facing a barrage of shots and somehow coming away with a save percentage of over 50 percent. His 16 saves on the night now stand as a career high.
The game also marked the second straight one in which freshman attacker Kieran Mullins was out of form. After scoring 8 goals against Michigan, he was shut out against Maryland and registered just one assist against Penn State.
Things weren't much better for junior Jules Heningburg — who is having a less-productive year following being named All-Big Ten last season — as he recorded just one point on the night with a goal at the end of the first half.
The lone bright spot in that unit was senior Connor Murphy, who although did not record a fourth-straight hat trick, had four points on 2 goals and two assists.
Junior midfielder Christian Mazzone had one of his better games in a Rutgers jersey with 1 goal, one assist, two ground balls and three caused turnovers.
Rutgers' last chance to showcase itself for the NCAA committee will be on Saturday at noon against No. 7 Ohio State.