That No. 1 ranking seems like an eternity ago. As does the 8-0 start to the season.
A Sunday night game, maybe the best college game of the season, still ended up as a loss for the men's lacrosse team. And a season that started on fire has cooled and is now looking at the possibility - maybe very distant - of not making the NCAA tournament.
Sitting at 9-3 (1-2 B1G), the 8-0 start is in the rear view mirror, and the challenge is to finish the conference season strong and do some damage in the Big Ten tourney.
The Sunday night game drew a large (3,458) and enthusiastic crowd to HPSS as No. 3 Maryland came to Piscataway. The triple overtime 13-12 loss was stunning. But getting to OT was just as exciting. The Scarlet Knights got a goal from Jeff George with 39 seconds left in regulation to extend the game. And it showed the fight of the Scarlet.
"I'm proud of how this team fought all night with great effort," head coach Brian Brecht said. "We had a tremendous week of preparation and it was a battle against one of the top teams in the country. It was a good game, a one goal game, but we had just a few too many turnovers and mistakes in the end." The Knights had 18 turnovers to the Terps' 10.
Connor Murphy led Rutgers with three goals, while George and Casey Rose each scored twice. Jules Heningburg had a team-high four points (one goal, three assists). Christian Mazzone, Christian Scarpello, Garrett Michael and Mark Christiano each had a goal apiece. Max Edelmann made 15 saves on the night, include two crucial stops in extra time.
The Knights have just two games left, beginning with another Sunday night contest, this time on the road at No. 5 Penn State (10-2, 1-2 B1G).
Life on the bubble
The NCAA bracket has 18 teams. There are ten automatic qualifiers for conference champions and another four that are seeded. Then there are the “play in” games.
Currently, Rutgers is ranked 14th by Inside Lacrosse (13 in the Coaches Poll). Its RPI is 13. But the team dropped three spots after losing in triple OT to the No. 3 team in the country. Life ain’t always fair.
Win one of their next two and Rutgers looks pretty good. Win at least one more in the Big Ten Tournament and it solidifies the likelihood of the first NCAA bid since 2004. Stumble a whole lot down the stretch and the Selection Committee starts to look elsewhere.