No. 8 Rutgers can't complete upset bid against No. 1 Maryland
The Rutgers men's lacrosse had every opportunity to upset the No. 1 team in the country on Sunday afternoon, but couldn't seal the deal against Maryland on a rainy, dreary day in College Park.
Through one quarter, it didn't look like Rutgers would even have a shot, as junior longstick midfielder Garrett Michaeli was called for a 1-minute unreleasable penalty after an illegal body check to the head/neck area and Jared Bernhardt scored 2 goals for the Terps on that man up opportunity.
Bubba Fairman and Connor Kelly followed suit and Maryland was up 4-0 at the end of the first quarter.
But the No. 8 Scarlet Knights would not go away, as sophomore attacker Kieran Mullins got them started with a goal less than a minute into the second quarter.
After Connor Kelly answered for the Terps, Rutgers went on a 4-0 run to end the half, spearheaded by 2 goals from senior midfielder Christian Mazzone.
Head coach Brian Brecht said that he was pleased with his team's ability to rally and come back, but when you play the top team in the nation, mistakes are amplified, and it's hard to come back from that kind of deficit.
"The second quarter was the way I would have liked to start the game," Brecht said. "It doesn't make up for the poor start to the first 15 minutes by spotting the team that's No.1 in the country at home 4 goals."
But the comeback continued in the third quarter as midfielder Casey Rose gave the Knights their first lead of the game, one that would be the start of a back and forth final 30 minutes.
Maryland scored 2 straight, the Rutgers did the same, with Rose giving the Knights a 9-8 lead in the fourth.
But the Terps saved their best for late in the game, going on a 3-goal run over 1:20 to take an 11-9 lead with 3:21 left in the game.
Senior Joe Francisco won the ensuing faceoff for Rutgers, but threw it away and that appeared to seal the deal, until Maryland did the same and true freshman Tommy Coyne scored on a fast break with 2:44 left.
Rutgers would get possession back again on the ensuing faceoff and would find Mazzone right in front of the net, but the ball hit the carpet and the Terps would take over possession and run out the clock to seal the 11-10 win.
"I think we had a shot. I think that was a good look. I didn't mind that," Brecht said of the final shot. "I thought is was great feed, a good catch. We just couldn't come up with an opportunity on the doorstep."
Connor Kelly showed why he is the best attacker in the Big Ten and maybe even the country, going off for 4 goals and 4 assists, including the decisive 11th goal for Maryland.
"Best kid on the field," Brecht said of Kelly. "...He's a talented player. He certainly made us pay. Wish we could've contained him a little bit more in a one-goal game."
For the Knights, Joe Francisco was a very strong 65.2 percent from the faceoff X, continuing his strong play against Big Ten competition, as he is over 60 percent in conference play this season.
In the first half, Rutgers had the Terps out of sync and out of their game. Coming into Sunday's game averaging a Big Ten-lowest 2.6 penalties per game, they committed 7 in the first 30 minutes, with the Knights capitalizing on one of them late int he second quarter to tie the game at 5.
But Maryland did not commit a penalty in the second half and was the more clean team down the stretch, allowing the Terps to escape an upset bid by Rutgers.
"We probably made too many mistakes," Brecht said. "We turned the ball over more than they did. Whether it was one more than they did, in a one goal game, that one turnover, that one possession, that one failed clear gives them another opportunity to win a game and doesn't allow us to win a game."