The Rutgers men’s lacrosse team closed out its regular season with its fourth straight win, beating Michigan 13-12 in Ann Arbor this afternoon.
After quickly falling behind 2-0 in the opening minutes of the first quarter, the Scarlet Knights (8-2, 8-2) got the offense going with a pair of goals from senior midfielder Michael Sanguinetti. Those would be the only 2 goals of the quarter for Rutgers, and the Wolverines (2-8, 2-8) ended the opening quarter up 3-2.
The Knights took the lead early in the second quarter, with graduate student attacker Connor Kirst getting 2 goals in a span of just 8 seconds to give Rutgers its first lead of the game. The Knights would go on to build an 8-5 lead before Michigan answered back with 2 goals in the final 3 minutes of the opening half.
“When ... there’s a turnover, (our defense) gets the ball, they run down the field and they push the pace,” Connor Kirst said after the game. “That opened up a lot of stuff for our offense today — just the ability to go both ways, it's tough to stop.”
Rutgers started the third quarter on a 3-1 run, with Connor Kirst opening up the scoring and fifth-year senior attacker Kieran Mullins getting 2 unanswered goals, each earning hat tricks in the process and getting the Knights’ lead back to 3 goals. The Wolverines answered back with 2 straight scores from Jacob Jackson and Avery Myers, but they couldn’t get an equalizer despite having a 2-minute man-up opportunity.
Early in the fourth, Connor Kirst got it back to a 2-goal game with his fourth score of the afternoon. Myers quickly responded with his third goal of the game, and Michigan's Bryce Clay followed suit to finally even up the game with 9 minutes to play. Connor Kirst scored with 5 and a half minutes left, scoring off a rebound of his own miss to give Rutgers a 13-12 lead — a goal that ended up being the game-winner.
Connor Kirst finished as the Knights’ leading scorer with 5 goals. Mullins also had a hat trick in the win, scoring on all 3 of his shots. Sanguinetti finished with 2 goals, and junior midfielder David Sprock, senior midfielder Brennan Kamish and junior midfielder Andrew Kim netted 1 goal each.
Defensively, Rutgers was led in large part by graduate student goalkeeper Colin Kirst. Despite the Knights being outshot 31-23 in shots on goal, Colin Kirst kept Rutgers in the game, finishing with 19 saves, including a couple of key stops in the final minutes as the Wolverines searched for another equalizer.
“I think (Colin Kirst) is one of the best goalkeepers in the country, certainly in the Big Ten,” said head men's lacrosse coach Brian Brecht. “He’s a great communicator, he makes a lot of plays outside the goal, so he’s just another coach on the field.”
With the win, the Knights have swept 4 out of their 5 Big Ten opponents, with their only two losses coming at the hands of No. 1 Maryland. Rutgers will finish the season with its best conference record in program history and its fewest losses since 1982.
“I think just enjoying the presence of everyone, laughing stuff off, just having a good time and enjoying every day and every second together is the biggest thing,” Colin Kirst said. “I think that translates onto the field, just having fun and just playing the game that we love.”
The Knights now have 10 days to prepare for their Big Ten semifinal matchup against the highest-ranked remaining seed on May 6. A win would be the first conference tournament win for the program since 2016.
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