Rutgers aims for back to back trips to B1G title game & third straight NCAA Tourney bid
The stakes are clear for No. 23 Rutgers women’s lacrosse (8-8) on Thursday night against No. 10 Maryland (13-5). Win and RU will advance to the Big Ten title game for a second straight year while also unofficially clinching a third straight NCAA Tournament appearance. Both would be unprecedented accomplishments for the program. Lose and the season would be over as the Scarlet Knights would be ineligible for the NCAA Tournament with a losing record. The Big Ten Semifinal matchup against the Terps is at 8:30 p.m. in Columbus, Ohio and will air live on the Big Ten Network (BTN).
Entering the 2023 season with increased expectations, Rutgers began 3-0 before suffering losses in seven of its next eight games. Five of those defeats came against teams currently ranked including No. 1 Northwestern, who will face No. 16 Michigan in the other Big Ten semifinal on Thursday. However, head coach Melissa Lehman’s team never quit and responded by earning its best win of the season against then No. 6 Stony Brook. RU won 12-7 and it helped turn the season around. The Scarlet Knights have now won four of its last five games.
The streak was capped on Saturday with a thrilling, come from behind 15-14 victory over Johns Hopkins in the Big Ten Quarterfinals. They trailed 5-2 in the first period and 9-6 in the second period. However, Rutgers continued to battle. The Scarlet Knights went on a 5-0 run over a 18 minute period to take control of the game. Johns Hopkins tried to complete another five goal comeback like the first meeting. RU was leading 15-10 with just over seven minutes to play on Saturday. To JHU’s credit, the Blue Jays scored four straight goals but Rutgers held on.
The winner of tonight’s semifinal will face the winner of No. 1 seed Northwestern vs. No. 4 seed Michigan, who play the first game of the night in Columbus. The Big Ten Championship is on Saturday. Maryland leads the all-time series with Rutgers, 24-1. The previous meeting this season, RU suffered a 16-8 loss to the Terps. They’ll look to repeat a magical semifinal performance after stunning then No. 4 Northwestern last season to earn the program’s first ever B1G title game appearance. Rutgers lost in the championship to Maryland 18-8.
The Scarlet Knights are currently ranked No. 22 in the latest RPI with wins over three top 20 opponents in No. 6 Stony Brook, No. 16 Johns Hopkins and No. 19 Jacksonville.
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