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National Semifinals Preview: No. 6 Rutgers vs. No. 7 Cornell

How to attend and watch, storylines, key matchups and more.

Rutgers plays Pennsylvania in the NCAA Lacrosse Semifinals | May 21st, 2022 Hempstead, NY
Rutgers Athletics

Championship Weekend Preview

When: Saturday, May 28th at Noon on ESPN2

Where: Rentschler Field, East Hartford, CT

Ticket Info Here

No. 6 seed Rutgers (15-3) matches up against No. 7 seed Cornell (13-4) this Saturday with a trip to the championship game on Memorial Day on the line. This will be the Knights’s third consecutive game against an Ivy opponent in the 2022 tourney. Rutgers previously defeated Harvard 19-9 in the first round and Penn 11-9 in the second round to advance to their first ever Final Four.

The Big Red blew out Ohio State 15-8 in the first round and edged Delaware 10-8 last Sunday in Columbus, Ohio to advance to their first Final Four since 2013. The winner will take on either Maryland or Princeton in this All-B1G/IVY Final Four.

Common Opponents

Army: Cornell 0-1 | Rutgers 1-0

Harvard: Cornell 1-0 | Rutgers 1-0

Ohio Sate: Cornell 2-0 | Rutgers 2-0

Penn State: Cornell 1-0 | Rutgers 1-0

University of Pennsylvania: Cornell 0-1 | Rutgers 1-0

Princeton: Cornell 1-0 | Rutgers 0-1

Totals: Cornell 5-2 | Rutgers 6-1

Series History

The Knights are 2-8 all time against the Big Red, with the last win coming way back in 1957.

Storylines

Kirst vs. Kirst

Rutgers goalie Colin will square off against his younger brother C.J. You may remember that Colin played against younger brother Cole in last year’s tourney game against Lehigh. C.J, the sophomore Cornell attacker, has had a dominant season with 50 goals and 22 assists.

Rutgers goalie Colin has had another strong season, punctuating it with a big-time performance last Saturday against Penn, stopping a barrage of shots to keep the Knights in striking distance before they were able to tie and eventually take the lead late in the game.

Father Kyle Kirst played played goalie for Rutgers from 1988-90. Kyle passed away suddenly at 47 years old in 2015. Division 1 lacrosse’s most famous mom, Michelle Kirst, will be in attendance rooting on both her sons.

Colin Kirst had this to say to the press this week:

“We’re seizing every moment. We’re so grateful to have this extra time together. It’s a dream come true to be playing in the Final Four and we’re working hard every day this week to keep things going.”

And Coach Brecht added his thoughts on the matchup of brothers.

“Colin has been a true professional in every sense of the word. He is laser focused, he prepares the right way, and he is diligent in the classroom and on the field. We have seen this movie before with Colin facing his brother (Cole) who was an attackman for Lehigh. Now this year, Colin is going against his brother (CJ) who is an attackman for Cornell. I think it is business as usual this week in our preparation, and certainly his preparation stays the same as well. I think it is great for the media and college lacrosse. But I think on game day, just another 60-minute game for him and for us in the program.”

An All B1G-IVY Final Four

The Ivy League dominated D1 lacrosse this season, placing a whopping six teams in the tournament. The B1G was second, with three teams. It’s fitting that Championship weekend features two from each conference. The noon game features Rutgers vs. Cornell and the 2:30 game pits Maryland against Princeton. I’m trying not to get ahead of myself but a Rutgers-Princeton championship would be fun, though an undefeated Maryland team will have something to say about that.

Star Firepower

Big Red senior attacker John Piatelli leads all of D1, averaging 3.53 goals per game, finishing with 60 goals and 15 assists. C.J. Kirst tallied 50 goals and 22 assists so Cornell has big-time scorers.

The Knights counter with junior attacker Ross Scott, who has 49 goals this season and will tie the all-time Rutgers record in a season if he scores a goal Saturday. The Knights have five players with 30+ goals, including: Mitch Bartolo (43 goals), Ronan Jacoby (36), Shane Knobloch (32) and Brian Cameron (32).

This is special for the guys in our locker room, for the seniors especially that helped change this culture. It’s really cool to be a part of this. We have a really good group in the locker room. It’s the same thing every week, we want to keep things consistent, focus on Rutgers and have a great game plan.

Midfielder Shane Knobloch

Rutgers plays Pennsylvania in the NCAA Lacrosse Semifinals | May 21st, 2022 Hempstead, NY Rutgers Athletics

Key Matchups

The Face-off

Amazingly, both teams struggle at the face-off X, with Rutgers winning 47.5% of their face-offs and Cornell 46.4% and yet here they both are, in the Final Four. If Dugenio struggles, Rutgers will likely find themselves in a similar situation to last Saturday, trying to create scoring opportunities off saves and turnovers.

Turnovers and Clears

Rutgers leads the nation in turnovers (13.22) and clearing percentage (91.3%). Cornell is 4th in the nation in limiting opponent’s clears at 77.9%.

Cornell, like Penn, struggles on offense with the clear at 83.5%. If the Knights are struggling at face-offs, they will obviously need to cause turnovers to create scoring opportunities.

Final Thoughts

As Rutgers fans, we got to experience a Final Four with the women’s soccer team last fall and now here we are again, rooting on men’s lacrosse. The narrative of Rutgers Athletics has changed and we get to bask in the sunshine that is championship weekend. Enjoy it, folks!

You can listen to our latest podcast episode with head coach Brian Brecht and All-American Ethan Rall here: