No. 10 Rutgers takes down No. 11 Penn State by score of 11-8
The score was 9-8, with the Rutgers men's lacrosse team clinging on against No. 11 Penn State in a massive Big Ten matchup. The Nittany Lions had won every second-half faceoff and were in the middle of a 3-0 run to get back into the game.
With 10:43 left in the game, junior long-stick midfielder Kyle Pless was called for a slash and a red-hot Penn State offense was set to be a man up for a minute. But like so many times, fifth-year senior goalkeeper Max Edelmann came to the rescue, stuffing John Nostrant and halting the momentum.
But the Nittany Lions would get the ball back again and Nick Spillane took aim at the net. Edelmann made yet another save.
On the other end, sophomore attacker Kieran Mullins ripped in a goal to put the No. 10 Scarlet Knights up 10-8 and put Rutgers in a commanding position to win the game.
Fifth-year senior midfielder and captain Christian Mazzone added another one on an empty net, and the Knights came away with an 11-8 win over Penn State.
"Once I made that save and I knew we got the ball over midline, I knew that’s where we were going to pick up some pace," Edelmann said. "I knew we could secure the game at that point. It really was about confidence, and getting those saves late in the game gave me a lot of confidence as well as my defense. When I’m not making saves, they’re making stops for me so it’s all a team effort."
With Edelmann holding down one end of the field and Mullins rejuvenating an offense that was stagnant for much of the fourth quarter, it was a clutch performance by Rutgers that led to the Friendship Cup returning to New Jersey after a year away.
The tone was set early by opposing goalkeeper Colby Kneese, who made an outstanding save just minutes into the game to stuff Mazzone and help get his team out to a 2-0 lead.
Edelmann matched that, though, coming up with 11 saves to Kneese's nine, many of which were timely and clutch for his team.
After the game, he noted that seeing Kneese make that incredible save made him want to take his game to another level as well.
"I (got) excited. He’s an incredible goalie. He’s young so he’s going to have a great future ahead of him," Edelmann said. "... Seeing that save in the beginning of the game kind of got me fired up, made me want to compete that much more. Going against good goalies, it’s a lot of fun."
And on that key possession where Mullins scored, the referees turned the shot clock on, forcing the Knights to create something or give up possession.
Mullins set himself up on the wing, true freshman Ryan Gallagher fed him the ball and the lefty ripped it in to put an end to any Nittany Lion hope of a comeback
"I saw my shot was open so I hit it," Mullins said of his goal. "It was huge for us. I knew right there we put a dagger in them."
While Mullins had the highlight play of the night for the offense, a big reason Rutgers came out on top was because of its defense.
Senior defender and captain Michael Rexrode completely neutralized Penn State's Spillane, who came into the game as the team's leading scorer with 44 points. Sunday night, he had 0 goals, zero assists and one turnover.
"Michael Rexrode is an All-American captain for us," said head coach Brian Brecht. "He’s on the Tewaaraton Watch List for a reason."
Both the close defense and rope unit were spectacular all night for the Knights, with senior midfielder Chad Toliver delivering a transition goal and senior midfielder and captain Austin Divitcos dishing out an assist in transition as well.
Senior midfielder Christian Scarpello scooped up three ground balls and Pless caused two turnovers while being a huge presence in the middle of the field along with junior long-stick midfielder Garrett Michaeli.
Mazzone, who does everything for Rutgers, was once again spectacular for Brecht. He scored a hat trick, including a goal with 2:08 left in the game that truly iced the game.
"We were pumped to get this one. It could possibly be our last (game) here so we wanted to give our fans a good show, and with Penn State, it’s always a dog fight," he said. "We knew it was going to be a great game, great atmosphere and just happy we came out on top."