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Men’s playoffs: Rankel (Downingtown West), Morton (Hill School) lead Robert Morris into NEC finals

Friday, 3rd May 2013

Categories Boy's/Men's, College, Posted 5/3/13
From Press Release

True freshman midfielder Eric Rankel (Downingtown West) broke a variety of records with his six-goal performance as he led the Robert Morris University men’s lacrosse team to a thrilling 15-14 victory over Quinnipiac in the Northeast Conference (NEC) Tournament Semifinals Thursday afternoon at a sunny Bulldog Stadium.

The win was the first-ever postseason victory in the young history of the RMU men’s lacrosse program and advances the Colonials into the NEC Championship Saturday, where they will face top seed Bryant with a berth in the NCAA Tournament on the line.

The game came down to literally the final seconds as redshirt senior Charles Ruppert stopped multiple shots within the final five seconds to prevent overtime and seal the win for the Colonials. The score was tied, 14-14, heading into the final minute, but redshirt senior attackman Dave Morton (Hill School) corralled a rebound directly out of the air and then fired the ball into the net from the doorstep to score what proved to be the winning tally.

Rankel’s six goals represented a NEC Tournament record, a RMU freshmen record and a RMU postseason record for a single game. His half dozen scores are a team season high as he becomes just the seventh distinct Colonial to score at least six times in one game. The performance marked his 11th multi-point game, sixth multi-goal game and fourth hat trick of his rookie season. His six goals, which came on just eight shots, allowed him to extend his RMU freshmen records for goals and points in a season to 27 and 39, respectively.

Morton finished with three goals and three assists and defenseman Joe Scenna (Perkiomen Valley) had two groundballs. Tyler Rankel (Downingtown West), who plays long pole and also takes face-offs, had four groundballs.

That ending would not have been possible without another stunning Colonial comeback as Robert Morris trailed by six goals at one point. Thursday’s contest marked the third straight game in which RMU trailed by at least five goals and rallied to take the lead.

Robert Morris had statistical advantages in shots, shots on goal, man-up percentage, caused turnovers and also committed fewer turnovers than the Bobcats. RMU has now outshot its opponents in its last nine games overall and each of its past 12 games against NEC foes. The Colonials have also now made more turnovers than their opponent just once in their past 21 contests.

RMU’s 15 caused turnovers Thursday marked one of the top 10 single-game efforts in Colonial history, as well as the fourth time this season it has hit that figure in a game, and also helped the 2013 squad break the team school record for caused turnovers (154) in a season. Robert Morris’ five man-up goals were one away from tying the single-game school record in that category and also allowed the Colonials to tie the single-season program record for man-up goals (24).

While Morton had the final strike of the day, it was far from his only mark on the scoresheet as he tallied a hat trick and a trio of assists to notch six points, tying the team season high. With that outing, he became the eighth Colonial in program history to surpass 100 points in a career and also moved into a tie for sixth in career assists. Morton posted his 23rd multi-point game, his 18th multi-goal game, including his eighth this season, and his 11th career hat trick on the day. His point total Thursday marked the fifth time in his career in which he contributed at least six points in a game.

In a start that was eerily similar to the first meeting between the Colonials and Bobcats this season, Quinnipiac jumped ahead early, scoring the game’s first four goals, and led 4-1 after the first quarter–the same score after the opening period as in the teams’ first matchup.

Quinnipiac kept pouring it on early in the second stanza as it scored three more times to take a 7-1 lead after fewer than 19 minutes of action.

That’s when the Colonials began to battle back.

RMU would net the final three goals of the first half to get back into the game and cut the halftime deficit to a manageable 7-4 score.

The Colonials did not let intermission interrupt their run as they would then reel off the first four goals of the second half, in just 5:13, to take an 8-7 lead, pulling ahead fewer than 17 minutes after they trailed 7-1.

Quinnipiac would then finally get back into the scoring column and proceeded to put up three of the final four goals in the third quarter to take a 10-9 lead heading into the final quarter.

Rankel took matters into his own hands as the fourth quarter began as he posted a natural hat trick that pushed the Colonials back on top. After true freshman Luke Laszkiewicz added another tally for RMU, the Bobcats put forth their final push and would eventually tie the game with about 90 seconds left.

On RMU’s next possession, its first shot was saved by the Bobcat goalie, but the rebound popped out in front and Morton made a great reaction play to grab it, fake the goalie and then fire his shot into the cage.

Quinnipiac had a couple of chances to tie it with the clock about to expire, but Ruppert stood tall for the Colonials both times to send RMU into the championship game.

RMU will now have a day off before partaking in arguably the biggest game in program history Saturday, playing the Bulldogs for the second time in a month, with the winner claiming the league’s first automatic bid into the NCAA Tournament.

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