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No. 6 Rutgers defeats Michigan 13-12 for series sweep

The Kirst brothers came through for the Scarlet Knights once again.

Rutgers Athletics

The No. 6 Rutgers men’s lacrosse team closed out the regular season with a 13-12 victory over Michigan to complete its fourth series sweep of Big Ten opponents this spring.

After falling behind 3-1 to start the game, the Scarlet Knights responded with a 4-0 scoring run to regain control. They held a 8-5 goal with under three minutes remaining in the first half before Michigan scored twice to cut the lead to one heading into the break. Rutgers held second half leads of 11-8 and 12-10 before the Wolverines tied it at 12-12 with 9:10 left in the game.

Connor Kirst scored the game winning goal with 5:37 to play and the RU defense held on to secure the victory. He finished the game with a team high five goals and added an assist.

Goalkeeper Colin Kirst made 19 saves for the second time this season, tying a career high in net. He made six saves in the final period of the game.

“I think Colin is one of the best goalkeepers in the country and certainly in the Big Ten,” Brecht said. “He’s a great communicator, he’s another coach on the field, stopping the ball, clearing the ball. We were very successful in transition because of him helping us outlet the ball. He was the MVP for us today.”

The Kirst brothers have been instrumental in Rutgers finishing in second place in the Big Ten with an 8-2 record in league play.

“I thought our defense played great. Garrett Bullett, Jaryd Jean-Felix and Bobby Russo really held it down from start to finish in all aspects,” said Connor Kirst. “Michigan has a great attack, their offense is pretty lethal, we were expecting their best effort and they gave it today. That defense was great down the stretch and we need to just keep it going like that. This league is a gauntlet, anyone can beat anyone on any given day. It was a lot of fun out there just buzzing around, it was good. We’ve been enjoying every opportunity that we’ve had together. Every day isn’t guaranteed, so we’ve just been taking advantage of every day and every second together, and that translates onto the field,”

In a bit of a role reversal, Kieran Mullins scored three goals on just three shots while Adam Charalambides had a team high three assists despite being held scoreless. Michael Sanguinetti added two goals while David Sprock, Brennan Kamish and Andrew Kim each scored once.

Michigan held a commanding 49-37 shot advantage, won 18 of 29 face-offs as well as held a 39-29 advantage in ground balls. Rutgers did force seven turnovers including a team high three from Jaryd Jean-Felix.

“Regardless of what the records are, the Big Ten is still the Big Ten, it’s a top-two conference in men’s lacrosse and a road game in the Big Ten is always going to be tough,” head coach Brian Brecht said. “That was a great team win for us. We had a lot of different guys step up, which helps us build our depth. The defense did a great job, led by Colin Kirst in the goal, 19 saves in the Big Ten is huge, he was outstanding all day long. That defensive group played a lot and a great job. We had to have a high probability of success on all the offensive opportunities we had. Connor Kirst shot the ball really well, Kieran Mullins had a nice game, Michael Sanguinetti stepped up with two goals. We got better today and that will help us going forward.”

Rutgers earned the No. 2 seed in the Big Ten Tournament and a first round bye. Penn State is hosting the Big Ten Tournament. The Scarlet Knights will play in the semifinals against the winner of No. 3 seed Penn State and No. 6 seed Johns Hopkins on Thursday, May 6 at 7:30 p.m. airing live on the Big Ten Network. RU swept both opponents this season. A win in the Big Ten semifinals would make them a lock to earn the program’s first NCAA Tournament bid in 17 years and provide an opportunity to secure the first Big Ten title for any Rutgers team since joining the conference in 2014.