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No. 20 Rutgers outplayed by No. 1 Penn State in conference semifinals

The Rutgers men's lacrosse team saw its season end in disaster last night, losing to No. 1 Penn State in an 18-6 blowout at HighPoint.com Stadium.

The No. 20 Scarlet Knights (7-8, 2-4) came into their rematch with the Nittany Lions (13-1, 6-0) feeling confident that they would be able to compete with the best team in the country, having lost to Penn State on a Jack Kelly winner five days ago.

In the first, Rutgers conceded an early 2 goals from Mac O’Keefe and TJ Malone, but responded back with scores from sophomores attack Adam Charalambides and midfielder Ryan Gallagher. The Lions ended the half up 3-2 when Jack Kelly got an unassisted man-up goal.

Penn State would take control of the game in the second, going on a 5-0 scoring run and dominating both sides of the ball. The Knights had their shots on the other end, but couldn’t penetrate the lockdown the Lions defense and went into the locker room down 

The struggles only got worse for Rutgers after halftime and Penn State opened up the third on a 7-1 scoring run. Grant Ament had a goal and three assists to lead the Lions to a 12 goal lead. 

The loss eliminates the Knights from the postseason, marking the 15th consecutive season without an NCAA Tournament bid. This season will also go down as the first season since 2015 in which Rutgers finished with a losing record.

“All good programs are going to lose seniors to graduation — that’s the process of collegiate athletics,” said head coach Brian Brecht. “We lost a great senior class last year, and we responded to that by building a tough schedule and we were competing in the postseason.”

With this defeat, the Knights will now face the prospect of graduating a senior class that won more games than any other in program history. Fifth-year senior goalie Max Edelmann and senior defenders Kyle Pless and Garrett Michaeli are just some of the key contributors that will not return to the Banks next season. 

Despite not making the NCAA Tournament, they have left their mark on the season.

“I cannot say enough about my overall experience (at Rutgers),” Edelmann said. “From the guidance of Coach Brecht to the networking opportunities that I’ve had, the whole experience that has been truly life-changing.”

Now Rutgers will look to the offseason, and the task for Brecht will be to fill the holes left by the graduations this season and develop a 2019 freshman class that is ranked 36th in the country by Inside Lacrosse. It’s a challenge that could make or break the trajectory of this program.

And it’s a challenge that they’ll have to undertake with the shadow of an elusive NCAA Tournament berth still on their backs.

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

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