AKRON, OH - The 18th-ranked Rutgers men’s soccer team (11-7-4) saw its season come to a close with a 3-2, hard-fought loss to 21st-ranked Akron (15-4-2) in the Second Round of the NCAA Men’s Soccer Championship on Wednesday night, Nov. 26, in front of 1,467 fans at Lee Jackson Field.
Akron jumped out to a 1-0 lead in the 17th minute with Alex Odwell, serving a ball, from deep in the corner, to the near post where Ross McKenzie headed it past a diving Lubos Ancin (Burlington, NJ) in goal for the opening score.
The Zips opened up a two-goal lead four minutes later, capitalizing on a free kick with just over 28 minutes remaining in the half. McKenzie punted the kick into a crowd inside the box, finding Cameron Knowles, who headed into the upper left corner of the net.
Akron took the two-goal advantage into the halftime break, but Rutgers stormed out of the break with two early goals in a span of 2:44 by senior Josh Gros (Mechanicsburg, PA) to knot the match at 2-2 less than 10 minutes into the second period.
Rutgers capitalized on a free kick with senior Todd Moser (Fanwood, NJ) fooling the defense by passing it to his right to junior Anthony Schiavino (North Hunterdon, NJ) instead of booting a shot into the box. Schiavino alertly crossed the ball to Gros, who received the high pass with his leg, firing the shot past Akron goalkeeper Justin Christafaris, denying the keeper his 14th shutout of the season.
With momentum moving the Scarlet Knights’ way, Gros tied the game up with his second multi-goal game of the season. The senior forward was the beneficiary of solid ball movement by the Scarlet Knights. With numbers on its side, Rutgers moved through the Zips’ defense, with Gros punching in the tying score from 15 yards out.
With the score tied, both teams pressed hard for the game-deciding score, sending a number of shots on goal.
In the 70th minute, Akron’s Kirk Harwat received a pass from teammate Will Kletzien, scoring from short range to give the Zips a 3-2 advantage and the game-winning goal.
Ancin made six saves in goal for Rutgers, while his counterpart, Christafaris recorded three. Akron outshot the Scarlet Knights, 15-12.
“I thought it was a great NCAA Tournament match,” said Rutgers head coach Bob Reasso. “We fell behind on some sloppy marking in the first half, but the guys showed a lot of courage and pride to fight back against a goalkeeper who has given up just 10 goals all year. We fought hard for a third goal, but unfortunately gave up a third. I am proud of our kids. Josh Gros showed why he is the best attacking player in the BIG EAST with two very big goals for us. I am sad to see our four seniors – Josh Gros, Todd Moser, Scott Conway and Don Gray -- leave the program. They are all great kids.
For Gros, one of the nation’s leading scorers and BIG EAST Offensive Player of the Year, it was the 13th game this season he has scored a goal. He ended the season with 16 goals and 37 points to finish 10th on the Rutgers single season record book for points and goals.
Rutgers ends its season 11-7-4, giving Reasso, the 23-year Scarlet Knight mentor, his 21st season with at least 10 victories. Under Reasso, the Scarlet Knights have made 12 NCAA Tournament appearances, reaching the second round eight time