With under four minutes remaining in the game’s final quarter, Decker Curran swept across the the top of the box towards his right and dodged down the alley, firing an overhand shot past the head of Rutgers goalkeeper Max Edelman to bring the Wolverines within one goal, 10-9.
His second of the day, Curran’s goal brought hope to the Michigan men’s lacrosse team that it could tie the game up, produce a win and end a frustrating seven-game losing streak.
However, over two minutes later, Scarlet Knight attackman Adam Charalambides maneuvered past the Wolverines’ defensive unit and snuck a shot past senior goalkeeper Gunner Garner, notching his sixth goal on the day to end those hopes.
Despite the efforts of senior midfielders Curran and Brent Noseworthy, who together contributed five of the Wolverines’ nine goals, Michigan (3-9 overall, 0-4 Big Ten) fell to Rutgers (7-6, 2-2) on Saturday in an intense, back-and-forth chess match for contention in the Big Ten Tournament.
“It’s really, really hard to win Big Ten lacrosse games. Every team in our league is disciplined, organized, incredibly talented and physical,” said Michigan coach Kevin Conry. “If we don’t have that discipline and physicality ourselves, that’s when 9-9 turns to 11-9.”
Despite the ill-favored result, the Wolverines battled with the Scarlet Knights from the opening faceoff to the final whistle.
The first quarter began the same way the fourth quarter ended, with Curran and Charalambides exchanging goals in the first two minutes. By the end of the quarter, Michigan and Rutgers both stood tall, as the game remained tied, 4-4, with Noseworthy contributing a pair of goals and sophomore attackman Alex Buckanavage also contributing a goal to the Wolverines’ tally.
The first quarter foreshadowed what looked to be a high-scoring affair between two dynamic, experienced offenses.
However, in the second quarter, each side only managed to reel in a single goal.
In one of the few offensive highlights of the quarter, following a feed behind the goal from sophomore attackman Kevin Mack, Noseworthy found himself with his hands free seven yards out from the goal, cocked back his arms and rocketed a high-to-high goal past Edelman, earning his third hat trick of the season and tying the game once again, 5-5.
With his assist, Mack extended his point-streak to 12, notching a point in each game this season thus far.
“We all settled into the game,” Conry said. “Both defenses settled in and played a controlled game.”
Taking advantage of the Wolverines’ persistent faceoff and possession struggles, the Scarlet Knights picked up ground balls and gained possession on 5-of-6 faceoffs in the third quarter, allowing their offense to outscore the Wolverines 4-1 in the quarter.
“(They) did a really good job of controlling the initial draws and maintaining possession,” Conry said. “They were a little more patient with their game.”
Trailing 9-6 going into the fourth quarter, Michigan refused to give up and let the game slip away from it, as Mack and junior midfielder Avery Myers each contributed goals within the first five minutes of the quarter to cut the Scarlet Knights’ lead to 9-8.
However, two huge goals from Charalambides warded off Michigan’s desperate attempts to overcome its one-goal deficit and iced the game for his team
Nevertheless, with a season filled with tight battles and shortcomings winding down, Conry keeps in perspective the long-run vision of the program, celebrating the trials and tribulations of putting talented freshman like attackman Bryce Clay and defenseman Andrew Darby through the wringer in games like these early in their college careers.
“They were baptized in fire. We threw them in a situation … with injuries mounting up, (we said) ‘Let’s get (them) in and have them make some mistakes now, so (they) can be better for the future,’” Conry said. “It’s creating a map for their future.”