No. 20 Rutgers falls to No. 1 Penn State in last regular season game

The Rutgers men's lacrosse team concluded its regular season in nail-biting fashion last Saturday, falling 14-13 against No. 1 Penn State in University Park, Pennsylvania. Although the game ended in defeat, it was another demonstration of how capable the team is of competing with the elite teams in college lacrosse.

“Even with them being the No. 1-ranked team in the country, we realize there isn't that big of a gap between all the teams in the Big Ten,” said sophomore attack Tommy Coyne.

It was a nightmare start for the No. 20 Scarlet Knights (7-7, 2-3), as the Nittany Lions (12-1, 5-0)  quickly jumped out to a 3-goal lead thanks to a pair from Cole Willard and a goal from Dylan Foulds. Rutgers was able to regroup following an early timeout, ending the first period on a 4-0 run.

Penn State responded in the second, with leading scorer Mac O’Keefe getting his first 2 goals of the game in the opening 3 minutes of the period. The Lions would score 3 of the next 5 to go into halftime with a narrow 8-6 lead.

The Knights came out swinging in the third, retaking the lead on a 4-1 run off a brace from Coyne and goals from fifth-year senior midfielder Casey Rose and sophomore attack Adam Charalambides. Penn State answered back with goals from Jack Traynor and Jack Kelly to retake the lead from Rutgers at the end of the quarter.

Coyne opened up the third period with 2 goals in 80 seconds to put the Knights back up by a goal. O’Keefe tied it up with 8:44 to go, but junior attack Kieran Mullins retook the lead a minute later. Foulds got another equalizer just under the 6-minute mark to set up a dramatic conclusion.

The final minute of play was arguably the most dramatic finish of the season for Rutgers. With the score tied at 13, Charalambides had a one-on-one opportunity on the edge of the crease, but his top-shelf shot was deflected off the helmet of goalkeeper Colby Kneese. 

This save gave the Lions a final opportunity to win the game in regulation. Grant Ament found Kelly on the edge of the crease, and Kelly beat fifth-year senior goalie Max Edelmann to give Penn State the game winner with just 40 seconds on the clock. 

Despite the loss, there were several positives to take away from this game. The main story on offense was Coyne, who finished with a career-high 6 goals and played a critical role in keeping the Knights in the game.

With this loss, Rutgers now has three more days to prepare for a first round rematch in the Big Ten Tournament semifinals. Although facing the top-ranked team in the country isn’t exactly an optimal situation, the Knights feel they have a better idea of how to handle the Lions in an elimination game.

"We're going to tighten some things up and know what we need to do on Thursday when we face them again,” Coyne said. “We know it's going to be a great atmosphere at our home field for the Big Ten Tournament, so we're excited to get another chance at them at our place."

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

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