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No. 9 Rutgers falls at home to No. 6 Johns Hopkins in thriller

Sunday night at High Point Solutions Stadium was a chance for the Rutgers men's lacrosse team to deliver a big moment at home in front of more than 3,000 fans.

At one point, it looked like the No. 9 Scarlet Knights (7-3, 0-1) were on their way to coming through on the biggest stage. 

With 11:43 left in the third quarter, true freshman midfielder Ryan Gallagher scored a goal well beyond his years to give Rutgers a 7-4 lead over No. 6 Johns Hopkins.

The Knights' defense was locked in and giving the Blue Jays nothing. The visitors hadn't scored in more than 15 minutes and had a shot clock on.

But right at the buzzer, Cole Williams fired in a shot after a scramble to make it a 7-5 game. On the field, it looked like a close play, but upon further review, it became painfully obvious that it was a shot-clock violation, and Johns Hopkins should not have been awarded the goal.

But there is no video review in lacrosse, and the goal stood.

That play completely changed the trajectory of the game, as that sparked an 8-3 run by the Jays that gave them a 12-10 lead in the fourth quarter.

Rutgers would not go away, though, as junior long-stick defender Garrett Michaeli came away with the ball on a faceoff scramble and scored to stop the bleeding. Less than 5 minutes later, true freshman attacker Tommy Coyne fired in a goal to tie the game at 12. 

Senior Joe Francisco won the faceoff and the Knights had the ball with the chance to take the lead, but could not convert. Hopkins took the ball up the field and held possession. 

The referees called for the shot clock with 44 seconds left in the game, meaning the Jays had to get a shot on goal in the next 30 seconds. 

In the most dramatic and heart-breaking way possible, as the shot clock horn went off, Kyle Marr scored for Hopkins with 14 seconds left for the game-winner. Unlike the first buzzer beater, this one looked good, and 14 seconds later Rutgers suffered just its second home loss in its last 21 games, falling by a score of 13-12.

After the game, head coach Brian Brecht was visibly upset with the first call, as it was the difference in a 1-goal game.

"The first (goal) was clearly after the shot clock went off. The second (goal) they had at the end there was right at the shot clock. (It's) tough to make that call in a bang-bang situation. (In) 2018, we (have) modern technology. Why there’s not a horn, a buzzer, a sound that helps the officials on the field," he said. "So they gotta watch the play, they gotta watch behind the play, they gotta pay attention to the clock. It stinks."

With the loss, the Knights drop to 7-3 on the season and have no breaks, with Big Ten play now in full swing.

Senior attacker and captain Jules Heningburg did everything he possibly could to help his team, scoring 4 goals and adding an assist.

"That’s a good team. I think they fight really hard, they’re doing a lot of good stuff in the middle of the field, and we got a couple of those wins on faceoffs where we didn’t end up getting the ball," Heningburg said of what the difference in the game was. "Get one or two of those back, it changes the game a little bit."

Rutgers played well on Sunday, and for most of the game, looked like the better team. But the Jays undeniably made more plays down the stretch to earn the hard-fought win.

Sophomore attacker Kieran Mullins, who added 1 goal and three assists, echoed Heningburg's sentiments, and said that the Knights were just one or two plays away from what would've been a huge win for the program.

"They made a couple of more plays at the end of the game, we just needed a couple more to solidify our win, but that’s why you play," Mullins said. "It’s a tough loss, but you have to learn from it and move on."

Francisco played up to the moment, winning 57.6 percent of his faceoffs, despite going up against a player in Hunter Moreland that came into the game, winning 65.8 percent of his opportunities at the X.

As someone who has faced a healthy amount of questions and doubts about a faceoff group that had been under 50 percent this season, Brecht said that he was proud of the way Francisco played and that he clearly did his part.

"He certainly did his job to the best of his ability. I thought he was very good for us," Brecht said. "I sit and listen to the media ask me about facing off and what am I gonna do. That’s all you guys wanna talk about. (It) didn’t come down to faceoffs, did it? Go figure."

But at the end of the day, it was a gut-wrenching game that Rutgers came out on the wrong side of. 

With a much-improved Michigan team visiting Piscataway next Sunday, the Knights have to move on quickly from a loss that will definitely hurt.

"I thought they played hard all night long. We certainly prepared well, and I thought our coaching staff did a great job getting our guys ready to play a top-10 game," Brecht said. "... It’s a 60-minute game. It’s a game of runs. I thought maybe we couldn’t capitalize on a little bit of a run we started ourselves to pull away. You gotta play every minute of the 60-minute game."

For updates on the Rutgers men's lacrosse team, follow @GriffinWhitmer and @TargumSports on Twitter.

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