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Rutgers men's lacrosse falls to No. 10 Penn State in regular season finale

The Rutgers men's lacrosse team finished the regular season with a 15-9 loss to Penn State on Senior Day. – Photo by Christian Sanchez

The Rutgers men's lacrosse team lost 15-9 to rival Penn State on Senior Day Friday night. After a back-and-forth first quarter, the Scarlet Knights (7-6, 1-4) ran out of steam as the Nittany Lions (9-3, 3-2) cruised to the 6-goal win at SHI Stadium on Busch campus.

Barn-burner first quarter

Like other games this season, the first quarter was not shy of non-stop action. TJ Malone capitalized on a Rutgers turnover to open the scoring after 36 seconds of play. Junior attacker Dante Kulas quickly responded with a score of his own, only for Luke Walstrum to put No. 10 Penn State back in front.

Senior midfielder Shane Knobloch and Kulas scored back-to-back goals to give the Knights their first lead of the match. Malone and graduate student attacker Ross Scott traded goals, but the Nittany Lions had the last laugh, as they went on a 3-0 scoring run to lead 6-4 after the first quarter.

Rutgers attempted a game-high 14 shots in the first quarter but also turned the ball over three times. Malone showed his offensive prowess early, recording a first-quarter hat trick.

Rutgers slows down in second and third quarters

The tempo of the game decreased dramatically after the first quarter. Knobloch made it a 1-goal game with more than 11 minutes to play in the second quarter, but Penn State shut the Knights out for the rest of the quarter and scored 2 more goals to lead 8-5 heading into halftime.

The Nittany Lions came out of the locker room hot, scoring 2 consecutive goals to put themselves in the driver's seat. Graduate student midfielder John Sidorski netted a goal, but it did not matter much, as Mac Costin followed up with a tally to end the third quarter. Penn State led 11-6 heading into the final 15 minutes and held Rutgers to just 2 goals in the second and third quarters.

The Knights opened the final quarter with goals from Kulas and senior midfielder James Ringer, but Matt Traynor fired back with 2 scores to seal the win for the Nittany Lions. Kulas scored the last goal of the game.

Despite outshooting Penn State 38-35, Rutgers could not generate the offensive momentum needed to earn an upset win. This was mostly due to Nittany Lions goalkeeper Jack Fracyon, who recorded an impressive 14 saves between the pipes. The Knights also committed 14 turnovers, with six coming in the third quarter.

Ironically, Kulas shined on Senior Day, scoring a season-high 4 goals. It was Kulas' most goals in a game since he scored 5 against Marist last season.

"We've always thought that he brings a skillset of being able to score and shoot the ball well," said head coach Brian Brecht. "That's probably the best performance he's given us this year and, hopefully, that continues as we make a run in the Big Ten Tournament."

With the loss to Penn State, Rutgers will be the No. 6 seed in the Big Ten Tournament. The Knights will travel to University Park, Pennsylvania, on Saturday to battle the No. 3 seeded Nittany Lions in the first round of the tournament.

"We had our opportunities tonight, just like we've had all year, but it's razor thin, and sometimes we gotta be a little sharper and not give them opportunities to exploit some things," Brecht said. "I thought we weren't as sharp as we needed to be. Energy was great, effort was great, but (we) gave a couple back on the ride and turnovers. When you play a good team, you gotta do things well all the time, not just for 40 or 45 minutes."

For more updates on the Rutgers men's lacrosse team, follow @TargumSports on X.

To view more of Matthew Mangam's work, follow @matthewmangam on X.

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