It must have felt great to be a Rutgers lacrosse player Saturday. Not only did they beat the powerhouse Syracuse(7-3) on the road, they also extended their record to 9-2 on the season. Never allowing Syracuse the lead in the game, Rutgers used its first half dominance to outlast the Orange who made a comeback in the fourth to send it into overtime. Jamie Lovejoy (3g,1a), Jeffery Duca(3g,1a), Nick Schmidt(3g), and Ken Springer(2g,2a) carried the team offensively with 11 out of their team's 12 goals.
I got to the game a little late and missed the first couple goals, but the first quarter panned out with both teams notching 2 sending it into the second quarter all tied up. My first impression of the game after sitting there for a few minutes was that Syracuse had not come play. It only took Rutgers one minute into the second quarter to get their first goal from midfielder Nick Schmidt, which was his second straight. Another minute ticked by and Ken Springer (brother of SU attackman Mike Springer) netted one past Pfeifer to give the Knights a 4-2 lead. Rutgers also successfully killed a couple of penalties in the second, which was key because the Orange offense is so potent and loves to feed off extra man opportunities. Syracuse managed to fight back to tie the game up at 4 apiece with 3:35 remaining, but then allowed Rutgers to regain the lead with two quick goals coming only a minute apart before the half ended. At this point, leading 6-4, a pumped Rutgers team really seemed to believe in themselves. Iím not sure what was said in the Syracuse locker room during halftime, but it was pretty evident that they needed to stop turning the ball over. There were a number of times in the first half where Mike Powell made some nice passes to cutting players right on the doorstep and the ball was simply dropped. Credit the Rutgers defense though because they did play tough.
Syracuse opened up the scoring in the second half when freshman Brian Crockett put one past a screened Greg Havalchak. It looked as though that halftime may have given Syracuse a chance to regroup and get things going right, but Rutgers again was able to score the next two goals. With the largest lead of the game at three goals you could see the Knights beginning to use a slow down approach to eat away as much clock as possible. Both teams were able to get 2 more before the final quarter to put the score at 10-7 and sustain the three goal Rutgers lead.
In the fourth, Syracuse was able to cut their three-goal deficit down to zero after goals from Springer, Banks, and Park. Rutgers was able to net one more pushing their lead to 11-10, but Mike Springer tied it up on a great feed from Mike Powell with less than a minute remaining. Riding the momentum of their comeback it seemed as though overtime wouldnít be in favor for the Scarlet Knights until the last play of the quarter. With 2 seconds left on the clock defenseman Sol Bliss took the ball and tried to send it towards the Rutgers goal and inadvertently hit a Rutgers attackman. Seconds later the flags were thrown. Syracuse coach John Desko was livid and rightfully so, but it was a judgment call by the referee and thatís just the way it goes sometimes. As the overtime began, the extra man unit of Rutgers was able to get settled and run a play discussed during the timeout. As it unfolded Jeff Duca found himself right in front of the cage with the ball and a clear shot on goal. He took it and it was over. Rutgers 12 Syracuse 11.
I think most people will chalk this one up to Syracuse not having their heads in the game, but I feel that this Rutgers team is for real. They may have lost to Army in their previous game, but if they can play the way they did on Saturday come tournament time, they will surely be a force to be reckoned with.
This was Syracuseís third home loss of the season, all of which have been decided by a single goal. Three away games remain for Cuse and theyíll most likely have to win out if they want to be a shoe in for the tournament in May.
Rutgers hosts Penn State next Saturday and Syracuse travels to Hofstra on Thursday.
Sorry if the story seems a bit jumbled...Iíve been pretty busy lately.
Syracuse vs. Rutgers