The No. 16 Rutgers women’s lacrosse team (6-7) won its third consecutive meeting against No. 23 Ohio State this season with 19-13 victory on Thursday in the opening round of the Big Ten Tournament. Making the program’s first appearance since 2016, the Scarlet Knights won just its second conference tournament game since joining the Big Ten. It was the first postseason win of second year head coach Melissa Lehman’s career and a program record sixth win over a ranked foe this season.
It was a back and forth start to the game as there were four lead changes and four ties in the first half as both teams went into the locker room tied at 8-8.
Rutgers came out strong after the break and took control of the game with a 7-3 scoring run. After the Buckeyes scored twice to cut the lead to 15-13, the Scarlet Knights closed out the contest with four unanswered goals to clinch the victory.
Earlier in the day, Rutgers had four players earn all-conference honors, including Cassidy Spilis and Meghan Ball names First Team All-Big Ten selections. Both delivered in a big way once again on Thursday, as Spilis had a team high four goals while Ball led the defense and won a game high ten draw controls.
There were plenty of other standout performances in the win, as Hannah Hollingsworth had three goals and three assists for a team high six points. In addition, Jenna Byrne had three goals and two assists while Marin Hartshorn also had a hat trick. Taralyn Naslonski, who earned Second Team All-Big Ten honors, finished with two goals and two assists.
Although Rutgers held a 34-32 edge in shots, OSU held a 28-24 advantage with shots on goal. The defense came through as goalkeeper Sophia Cardello made 15 saves. Another key contributor was Dana Pena, who was a Second Team All-Big Ten selection.
“I’m just so proud of this team,” Lehman said. It was another team effort with so many players chipping in on both sides of the field. It got close there at the end, but we just gritted it out by winning the draw and holding possession down the stretch. It is hard to beat a team three times in one season, but we believed in ourselves to get the job done. Now the focus is on Northwestern.”
“[Cardello] was there when we needed her the most,” Lehman said. “She had several point-blank saves. It was a close game throughout and when we needed stops, she came up huge for us.”
The Scarlet Knights were projected to make the NCAA Tournament before Thursday’s win by US Lacrosse Magazine. Rutgers has now won three consecutive games and will face Big Ten regular season champion Northwestern in the semifinals on Friday night at 5 p.m. ET on the Big Ten Network. They lost twice by a combined score of 43-17 to the undefeated Wildcats, who are ranked no. 2 nationally. RU has never made the Big Ten Championship game but with the way this team is playing, it would be foolish to count them out.