The perfect stage was set by mother nature for an outstanding lacrosse game and Rutgers/PennState did not disappoint. The ECAC rivals battled to the bitter end at Yurcak Field(the field relegated for the D2 finals the past two years) in Piscataway, New Jersey. There wasn't a cloud in the sky and the 65-70 degree weather was light as could be. Penn State dominated the play all day, but struggled to get the ball on net at times leaving the door open for Rutgers to hang in. With time dwindling down senior Penn State goalie Chris Garrity would be the one to shut the door making three huge plays down the stretch. Penn State Coach Glenn Thiel said that when Garrity plays like that his team always has a chance to win. With Penn State dominating many facets of the game the most impressive stat was their 41 shots to Rutgers 25. Rutgers goalie Greg Havalchak played well, but Penn State's inability to hit the net led Thiel to say"I just wish we were more efficient."
So where does that leave the ECAC automatic qualifier and Rutger's chances of wedging their foot into that glass slipper. Everyone in the ECAC has at least one loss. Rutgers can still claim the title with two remaining games against Georgetown and UMass. If they win both games they would get the AQ by giving Georgetown and UMass two losses while only having the one loss against Penn State. If they split with a win and a loss will it be enough for an at large bid coupled with some other notable victories, namely Syracuse? Anyway, that will play itself out in time. One thing for sure is Rutgers still has their destiny in their hands.
Penn State took the first possession and set the tone for the day. They got off five or six shots from just about everywhere on the field. They took on the run shots, inside shots, and outside shots with nothing hitting the cage. Havalchak was sweating bullets without registering a save. Rutgers finally cleared and came up immediately with a golden opportunity. Rutgers Jamie Lovejoy curled around the cage from behind to his right and got his hands free for a point blank shot high. Garrity snagged it and sent his team on the breakout. The teams went back and forth until 7:36 remained in the first quarter. Freshman middie Elliot Jones attacked from the top of the box to Havalchak's right. He pulled a quick stutter step that was enough to freeze the defender. He got in the middle and ripped a 3/4 arm shot that scored high along the right pipe for the Penn State lead, 1-0. Shortly after Marshall Feldman made it 2-0. It was an innocent looking play as he ran down the left side of the field. With angle dwindling and a man on him he shot a low shot that Havalchak is probably replaying in his mind right now.
State won the next face and Rob Booth did his best impression of Feldman only coming down the opposite wing. Havalchak made the save look easy. Rutgers failed to clear and Will Jones got a similar shot in transition. Havalchak made a sick left elbow save that deflected the ball behind the net. This was the beginning of an incredible run for Penn State that yielded few results. Rutgers possessed the ball four times and could not clear, but Penn State was unable to capatalize. Finally with time running out in the quarter Rutgers cleared. After 20 seconds or so they took a shot and Penn State cleared again. The middies were worked overtime in the first quarter and it may have been the difference down the stretch. Rutgers stymied Penn State again only to fail at clearing. This time it cost them. With 22 seconds to go in the first Luke Oglesby fed Derek Howells from behind the cage to Havalchak's right. It was a wide open look on the crease for an easy quick stick that surely stemmed from Rutgers defensive fatique,3-0.
After being outshot 18-2 in the first quarter a 3-0 deficit was as much as the Scarlet Knights could of hoped for.
Rutgers came out swinging in the second quarter. Longpole Joseph Duncan got the ball off the face and swept to his right for one of those deceptive longpole shots, but Garrity made a kick save. Rutgers got the loose ball and Leif Bloomquist made a brilliant feed to an open cutter but they just didn't connect. Later, Rutgers Canadian Delby Powless was one on one with Garrity. He faked low and shot high. Garrity stayed with it for the save of the game. The play went back and forth with one notably long possession by Penn State, but the scoreboard stayed the same until 4:21 was left in the half. It was a sweet play that worked just as they must have planned it. Middie Tim White took the ball way outside the box before driving from th middle of the field. His flank middie to the left cut underneath just inside the restraining line while White made his move down the left side. As the slides came Powless popped out to the low righty crank spot where he received the feed and cranked uncontested for the goal, 3-1. After dominating so many facets of the game Penn State had to settle for a two goal lead going into halftime.
Rutgers struck early in the second half. Thirty eight seconds in they made it 3-2. Rutgers middie Nick Schmidt handled the ball near the penalty box and was successfully being harrassed by a Penn State midfielder. The ball was stolen, but Schmidt quickly checked the ball to the ground again and when he came up with it he had a step on his man. He ran down the right side of the field and passed across the crease. The ball bounced off a stick and then off the ground into Jeff Duca's stick. Duca stepped into a shot that beat Garrity low to the right, 3-2. Penn State answerd a few minutes later. Marshall Felman juked Anthony Sicoli (picture to the right, the one with the defensemen horizontal to the ground) from the top of the box to Havalchak's right. He drove down to his left and shot an overhand shot with perfect placement off hip along the right pipe, 4-2. Bloomquist answered for Rutgers with 7:52 to go in the third. He curled from X to his right and established post up position five yards above goal line extended on Penn State d-man Matt Zappia. He pulled the turn around jumpshot going to his left and bouncing it along the far pipe, 4-3.
The next few plays were a coaches nightmare. First, Will Jones was being hounded by Anthony Sicioli between the midfield and restraining lines. He stepped back and twirled his stick for no apparent reason sending the ball out of his stick. Schmidt alertly picked up the loose ball and cleared. Moments later senior co-captain for Rutgers Ken Springer passed the ball from the top of the box and had it deflected. His other two middies were low and although he saw the Penn State middie with possession he slid up field to play him anyway. The ball went over his head and thus ensued a 5 on 3 fast break for Penn State. Those were two cardinal sins that give coaches heart attacks within thirty seconds. They worked the ball to the doorstep where Havalchak made a brilliant save, but the rebound kicked out about 7 yards out beyond the crease. Out of nowhere longstick RJ Charles dove and swung his stick at the ball lying on the ground and got enough of it to push it in the net, 5-3. This is not commentary on Charles's athletic ability, but he might try that one hundred more times and not score again. It was an extraordinary combination of so many different skills.
Due to Penn State's aggressive ride Rutgers was forced to take a timeout. The open field defensive pressure was so dominant that after crossing the midfield they couldn't get it into the box. The timeout set up three drives to the net on a prolonged Scarlet Knight attack. The featurd combatants were RU's John Flanagan and PSU's Marc Young. Flanagan tried to take Young to the cage three times from the left wing position, but Young thwarted him every time. On the third time however, Flanagan took two cross checks that sent him to the box for two minutes(also featured in a picture). The one good chance Rutgers got was a lefty blast from Duca, but Garrity easily made the stick side save. Penn State cleared and ran out the duration of the penalties. PSU got another late quarter goal with only 13 seconds to go in the third. Nate Whitaker wasn't in a great spot standing five yards above goal line extended 12 yards out to Havalchak'c left. He put everything he had into the shot and nailed the short side upper right corner,6-3. That certainly wasn't the end of the quarter though. With one second to go Garrity made Powless O for two on one on ones by stoning his low shot on the break. In transition PSU took a penalty so Rutgers started the fourth quarter man up with possession.
Ken Springer, Mike's younger brother, is no slouch when it comes to bringing the heat and he showed it on the man up burying one by the hot Garrity high from just inside the box, 6-4. Duca made it a one goal game working against shortstick defender Brian Mabry. He simply got a step on his defender and swept down the left side. His low shot on the run was enough to beat Garrity, 6-5.
The next goal came on a wild turn of events which could have gone either way. Penn State was on the offensive. Rutgers middie Dan Achatz knocked down a pass and got the ball quickly to Havalchack. Havalchack threw a money pass over the top to a streaking longpole in Andrew Conforti, but Conforti had it lip off his stick and into enemy control. PSU moved it to Will Cutler outside the box. Cutler took a kamikaze drive towards the net with tired legs and managed to elude a few defenders and rip a lefty shot on the run that wound up being the game winner, 7-5. Penn State continued their tenacious ride when Nate Whitaker twice in one clearing attempt went over the head of Tom O'Toole to dislodge the ball ultimately retaining possession for PSU. Later with Rutgers on offense, Springer drew a weak cross check call to set up Rutgers last goal. They ran a clockwise wheel if you were facing the goalie. Springer wound up feeding Duca from the high righty crank Spot. Duca came across the top and launched a lefty precision guided missile that hit it's target, the top left corner, 7-6. Rutgers won the face and took a timeout, their last, with 5:13 to go. Little did head coach Jim Stagnitta know that the rest of the game was PSU's goalie Garrity time. Garrity picked off a pass from the wing to X and cleared. On the next RU possession the ball went down in the corner and Garrity went out about twenty yards to scoop it and clear again. PSU immediately called the play "Honda" when they got into their offense. I think it was a stall offense, but I thought stalling wass't a problem with Honda's. With 1:36 left PSU called time out.
Joseph Duncan was the long pole for Rutgers on Marshall Feldman for the in bound. Everyone locked on and Duncan did an incredible job of getting the ball out of Marshall's stick without fouling him. Then he drew the push from behind so that Rutgers could clear. Rutgers got a shot right down the middle after the clear, but Garrity was unyielding. Rutgers had one final attempt, but with no time out left with fifteen seconds to go Duca had the ball. He was running around trying to give the ball to somebody who had legs left as he was clearly exhausted. He couldn't find anyone and time ran out.
|Jeff Duca||(3, 0)|
|Timothy White||(0, 2)|
|Ken Springer||(1, 1)|
|Nick Schmidt||(0, 1)|
|Delby Powless||(1, 0)|
|Leif Blomquist||(1, 0)|
|Greg Havalchak||14 (0.667)|