One of the most successful seasons in program history came to an end for the Rutgers men’s lacrosse team in a 12-11 overtime loss to top-seeded North Carolina in the quarterfinals of the NCAA Tournament.
The Scarlet Knights (9-4, 8-2) opened the scoring approximately 5 minutes in with a goal from graduate student attacker Adam Charalambides. The Tar Heels (13-2, 4-2) answered back with three unanswered goals to take the lead in the second quarter before Charalambides tacked on a second. Sophomore attacker Ross Scott then scored an equalizer to make it a 3-3 game at the half.
Rutgers came out firing in the third quarter, going on a 3-1 run in a 5-minute span to take a 6-4 lead — with two of those goals coming from junior midfielder David Sprock. North Carolina answered back with a 3-0 run of its own to take a 7-6 lead before graduate student attacker Connor Kirst tied it up with a goal.
The Knights retook a 10-8 lead with less than 9 minutes to play thanks to goals from Connor Kirst and Scott, but the Tar Heels would score 3 of the last 4 to tie the game and head into overtime.
North Carolina won the ball off the draw for the first overtime, with Justin Anderson’s shot being saved by graduate student goalkeeper Colin Kirst. After Rutgers turned it over on the ensuing transition play, Connor McCarthy got the game-winner with 1:38 to go in the overtime period.
“I’m just so proud of this team and the success they had this year,” said the Knights' head men's lacrosse coach Brian Brecht after the game. “Certainly the commitment they had to make, the sacrifice and I thought our seniors were great leaders — outstanding in every sense of the word.”
Offensively, Charalambides was Rutgers' leading goalscorer, finishing with 4 goals on the afternoon. Scott and Connor Kirst each had 2 goals and 1 assist, and Sprock scored twice. Freshman midfielder Shane Knobloch found the back of the net once.
Defensively, the Knights were able to keep Atlantic Coast Conference Offensive Player of the Year Chris Gray from scoring all game, with Gray not even registering a shot in the second half. Colin Kirst followed up his 17 save outing against Lehigh with 16 saves and a save percentage of .571.
“When you have a First Team All-American in the goal with Colin (Kirst), I mean certainly he’s been outstanding,” Brecht said. “Not only on the defensive end, commanding, leading and getting our guys going, but also in the transition and pushing the tempo of early offense."
The loss concluded a season that saw the program achieve more than it had in a long time: The program made it back to the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2004, and the team's first-round win over Lehigh was the first since 1990.
"This was a special group, especially with the year we were given,” Colin Kirst said. “With all the obstacles we had to deal with, the leadership on this team was exceptional.”
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