On a chilly day at sun-splashed U-M Lacrosse Stadium in Ann Arbor, the Scarlet Knights controlled the match for nearly three quarters before the Wolverines stormed back and tied the game up 11-apiece in the fourth. Ronan Jacoby would score the Knights’s final and 13th goal with 3:44 left in the game and a tired, over-worked Rutgers defense and goalie Colin Kirst would hold off a final, furious onslaught of shots by Michigan to come out the victors.
With the victory, Rutgers tied their all-time program record for wins in a season with 11. The Knights are now 11-2 overall and 3-1 in the Big Ten conference and have locked up a first round bye in the conference championship, regardless of what happens against Penn Sate next Saturday in the final regular season finale. Michigan drops to 7-6 and 0-4 in conference.
The NCAA lacrosse selection committee released their first 2022 list of top then teams Saturday and the Knights sit at #6 - safely in the field and projected to host a round 1 home game.
1st Half Action
Michigan drew first blood on a goal by red hot midfielder and former running back Justin Brown, at 9:53, to take a 1-0 lead. At the 6:18 mark, Brian Cameron would put the Knights in the scoring column. The Knights added three more goals by Shane Knobloch, Jake Aimone and then Cameron again with one tick left in the 1st quarter to push their lead to 4-1.
In the 2nd quarter, goals by Ryan Gallagher and Aimone increased the lead to 6-1 and it looked as if this game may get out of hand quick. The teams would counter with two goals each and head to halftime with the Knights firmly in control, 8-3.
2nd Half Action
Mitch Bartolo would give the Knights a commanding 9-3 lead two minutes in. The Wolverines would then score three consecutive goals within a period of three minutes to trim the Knights’s lead to 9-6. Unsurprisingly, Michigan was able to get back into the match so quickly by winning face-off after face-off and Rutgers’s stout defense was clearly starting to tire.
As Rutgers had done most of the season, they would answer with goals by Bartolo and Jacoby to push the lead back out to what would seem like a very comfortable 11-6 tally heading in the final quarter.
In what turned out to be a tums-filled fourth quarter of heartburn, the Wolverines would score five consecutive goals in four and half minutes to knot the score back up 11-all. Not surprisingly, Michigan won five consecutive face-offs to completely swing the momentum in their favor.
With 8:50 left in the match, Knobloch put the Knights back on top 12-11. Like he has all season, Mr. Clutch game through once again in a pressure-packed situation. Don’t put away those Tums just yet though. Michigan tied the game back up at 12 on a goal by Jake Bonomi with 6:46 remaining.
Michigan then won the face-off again but a save by Kirst prevented the Wolverines from grabbing the lead. Kirst would make two additional saves before Jacoby sent one in past Michigan net-minder Shane Carr to give the Knights a 13-12 advantage. With the Knights D packed in, the Wolverines would take five more shots over the final three minutes before the clock expired.
Final Score: Rutgers 13, Michigan 12.
Energy isn’t an issue for this team. Offense isn’t an issue. Defense isn’t an issue. Goal-keeping, clearing, transition lacrosse. None are issues. This team has one glaring issue and it’s at the face-off circle. A week after getting dismantled by Maryland 22-8 in the circle, the Knights follow that up losing 21 of 30, with Michigan scooping up a whopping 19 more ground balls.
Jonathan Dugenio won 9 of 27 and Michael Ott went 0 for 3. At this point, fans have to wonder what can be done to mitigate the shortcomings of this unit with only one regular season game remaining. Is this Saturday’s final home game against Penn State an opportunity to start freshman Luke Romanek and bring Dugenio in off the bench and see if a change of pace helps? I will be curious to see how coach Brecht and his staff address this week.
Watching the game on TV at the state of the art U-M Lacrosse stadium makes me hope that the Rutgers lacrosse teams have a dedicated field in the near future. The game plays so much better on television in friendly confines as compared to a large, cavernous football stadium that is 90% empty. There’s something to be said for the environments of a Hopkins and a Princeton as compared to lacrosse at Shi Stadium.
The Knights host senior day festivities Saturday, April 23rd, at 4pm vs. Penn State to close out the regular season. The game will be televised on the Big Ten Network. A win versus the Lions nearly seals up an NCAA tourney berth and a first round game at home.