On a warm spring night in College Park, Maryland, the No. 2 seed Rutgers Scarlet Knights faced off against the No. 3 Seed Ohio State Buckeyes in the men’s Big Ten college lacrosse tournament with the winner getting another crack at the No. 1 Maryland Terrapins Saturday night at 8pm on the Big Ten Network.
The Knights improve to 13-2 while the Buckeyes drop to 10-5. The win all but seals a second consecutive NCAA tournament berth for the Knights while the Buckeyes sit firmly on the bubble and will have to sweat out selection Sunday.
1st Quarter Action
After falling behind 1-0, Rutgers countered with consecutive goals from Ross Scott and Ronan Jacoby. Jacoby’s goal was a mid-range laser that was a harbinger of things to come on a night where everything short range seemed to be sucked up by Buckeye keeper Skylar Wahlund.
Ohio State would go on to score four consecutive goals in the 1st quarter before Scott netted his second of the match with 45 ticks left. The teams would head into the 2nd quarter with the Buckeyes holding a 5-3 advantage. Rutgers had plenty of scoring opportunities, leading in shots 14-12 and Dugenio held his ground on face-offis, winning 5 of 9.
2nd Quarter Action
In a low-scoring quarter that saw only three goals, Rutgers finally got on the board with 1:17 remaining, to pull within 2 goals, on a rocket by Brian Cameron. By scoring with little over a minute left, Rutgers continued a 2022 streak that has seen them score in every quarter of every match. The Buckeyes would quickly answer though and double their lead 7-4 as the teams headed to their respective locker rooms at halftime.
Rutgers would hold a slim lead in shots, 15-14 and face-off wins, 7-6.
3rd Quarter Action
The teams traded goals as Ohio State maintained what appeared to be a comfortable 8-5 lead. Rutgers would finally step on the gas and cut into the Buckeye lead. Mitch Bartolo, who would go on to have a monster second half, scored at the 6:36 mark. Scott added another goal at 4:32. Then Bartolo capped the 3rd quarter scoring with another long range rocket in at 2:38 and the game was suddenly tied up 8-apiece with all the momentum squarely with Rutgers.
4th Quarter Action
Bartolo would score again at the 11:49 mark, giving Rutgers their first lead since they led 2-1 early in the 1st quarter. 21 seconds later, Shane Knobloch got into the scoring column, adding goal No. 10 for the Knights. A little over a minute later, the Bartolo show continued as he scored again, the Knights’s sixth consecutive goal giving them an 11-8 lead.
The Buckeyes would add another goal to pull to within two and had a chance to cut the lead to one when Colin Kirst came up clutch once again.
The teams would trade one more goal each, with Rutgers dominating possession during the remaining six minutes in the match to close the game out and advance to the Big Ten Championship for the first time since 2016. The hard-fought victory is Rutgers’s seventh consecutive over Ohio State and their fourth win over a ranked team this season.
Mitch Bartolo had a monster game and led RU with 4 goals. Ross Scott and Ronan Jacoby each had a hat trick. The Knights celebrate a program-record 13th victory and all but clinch an NCAA tournament berth, which should be a formality this Sunday evening at 8 p.m. when the field is announced. It’s been a heckuva season for the Scarlet Knights and while they were down tonight and it looked like the game might get away from them, the team, as they have done all year, kept their composure and made adjustments to notch win No. 13.
Credit once again to the staff and players for maintaining focus and finding ways to win. The announcers noted that Rutgers’s offensive staff found a weakness with Ohio State goalie Wahlund being vulnerable to shots over his right shoulder and the players were able to execute.
“I’m so happy and proud of our guys to get this win and have a chance to play in the Big Ten championship game,” Brian Brecht said. “Our guys kept grinding and chipping away. We showed up to work on Monday and had a great week of practice, travelled well down to Maryland. The more we focus on what we’re good at, the more success we’re going to have, and we’ve been playing pretty good lacrosse this year.”
“We knew that if we could come back out in the second half and move the ball well and trust in our offensive guys, we would have success,” Mitch Bartolo explained. “We always have six dangerous guys on the field. We have a lot of trust in that group. It comes down to selflessness for all the players out there, just play it as they come.”
The Big Ten Championship, Saturday, May 7th at 8 p.m on the Big Ten Network vs. No. 1 Maryland.
Maryland handily defeated Rutgers 17-9 in the regular season matchup in College Park, one of only two losses for the Knights this season. It will be interesting to see what adjustments the staff makes this time around versus the vaunted Terrapins offense. It goes without saying that Jonathan Dugenio, who held his own on face-offs, winning 13 of 26, needs to have a strong showing against Big Ten specialist of the year Luke Wierman.