No. 19 Rutgers falls to conference foe No. 20 Johns Hopkins

There’s an old saying in sports: It’s not how you start, it’s how you finish.

Unless you start by conceding six unanswered goals on the road against a ranked opponent.

That was the story at Homewood Field on Saturday afternoon, as the Rutgers men's lacrosse team fell to No. 20 Johns Hopkins 15-13 in its second game of conference play. 

The first period could not have gone any worse for the No. 19 Scarlet Knights (6-5, 1-1), as they conceded 3 goals within the opening 5 minutes of play. Rutgers struggled to generate quality offense in the first, with most of its possessions ending in low-quality shots or sloppy turnovers. 

Junior attack Kieran Mullins managed to get a goal with 2:31 to play in the opening period, but it was disallowed on a crease violation call.

“We just weren’t focused mentally, we turned the ball over early and didn’t get the shots that we need to hit,” Mullins said. “We gotta come ready to play right out of the whistle, we can’t afford to spot them 5 goals.”

The second period didn’t start off much better, with the Blue Jays (6-4, 2-0) scoring another three goals. Sophomore midfielder Michael Sanguinetti finally got the Knights on the board with 8 minutes left in the half. 

Rutgers would get 2 more goals to cut Johns Hopkins' lead to 6-3, but the momentum would be cut short by 2 Blue Jay goals in the final 15 seconds of the half.

The Knights played with much more intensity and composure after halftime, getting two goals within the first 4 minutes of the third. While Rutgers finished with 4 goals in the third period, it failed to cut into the deficit as the team couldn’t get a stop on Johns Hopkins.

The Knights' offense would start firing on all cylinders in the fourth period, going on a 5-2 scoring run in the opening 5 minutes to cut the Blue Jays' lead to 12-14. Johns Hopkins would get clutch goals down the stretch from Joey Epstein and Kyle Marr, which was just enough to maintain the lead in the final minutes.

For Rutgers, its slow start was defined by an inability to win and maintain possession of the ball. The Knights went 9 of 30 from the face-off spot, while trailing the Blue Jays in the ground ball matchup 33 to 20. 

Johns Hopkins controlled the ball for long stretches, which had the effect of both limiting Rutgers' offensive possessions and wearing down the defense. 

For the Blue Jays, the MVP of the game had to be Epstein. The freshman attacker finished with 5 goals and three assists, acting as Johns Hopkins' leading scorer and facilitator offensively. 

Epstein came into this season ranked as the best freshman in the nation, according to Inside Lacrosse, and earned 28 goals on the season so far.

This loss is a major blow to the Knights, who were coming off a major upset against then-No. 4 Ohio State last weekend. 

Now at 1-1 in conference play, Rutgers will have to play up to its competition again when it faces No. 3 Maryland at home on Sunday.

“We came into Big Ten play looking like we had something to prove,” said head coach Brian Brecht. “Now we have to go out and prove ourselves again.”

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

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