Final Four Berth 'Special' for Colin Kirst After 18-Save Performance


HEMPSTEAD, N.Y. — Colin Kirst followed in his late father Kyle’s footsteps by stepping into the cage for the Rutgers men’s lacrosse team when he transferred from Lehigh two years ago.

And the graduate student is a big reason why the Scarlet Knights are stepping into uncharted territory next weekend. Kirst made 18 saves, including seven in the fourth quarter, to lead sixth-seeded Rutgers to an 11-9 win over No 3 Penn in the NCAA quarterfinals at Hofstra’s Shuart Stadium Saturday afternoon.

Rutgers is heading into the NCAA semifinals for the first time in program history, and Kirst is a big reason why.

Kyle Kirst, who died suddenly on June 16, 2015, was a key part of Rutgers’ 1990 NCAA tournament team.

“It’s special. I think we all dreamed as a kid to go to the Final Four and play for a national championship,” Kirst said. “It hasn’t really hit yet. But I think once we get back, it’s gonna hit. It’s definitely a special feeling for sure, so very grateful. Love these guys and everyone else in the locker room and in our program.”

The Scarlet Knights held a slim lead throughout the first three quarters, but Penn made a push at the start of the fourth quarter, and the Quakers took their first lead 1:20 into the fourth on Chris Canet’s first career goal.

And on a dunk by Dylan Gerger at the crease, the run was 4-0 and the lead was two.

Rutgers needed some stops defensively, and Kirst answered the bell. He made a point-blank stop on Ben Smith and then denied Sam Handley seconds later. With 4:30 left in the fourth quarter, Kirst stopped Gerger, who had a good look coming off a question mark dodge.

“I think he responded well to the first half, made some terrific saves,” Penn coach Mike Murphy said of Kirst. “I knew his father. His father was a great goalie at Rutgers. It was painful to be on the other end of it, but I told him at the end, on the handshake line, his dad would be proud of him.”

Kirst was also instrumental in starting Rutgers’ transition game, which was huge in the win over the Quakers. The vaunted “rope unit” had three goals and four assists, and that started with Kirst’s clearing game.

“What a great leader he’s been for us down low and the backbone of the defense,” Rutgers coach Brian Brecht said.

What’s more difficult for Brecht to explain is what makes Kirst so special. In short, everything.

“He’s just got it. If you saw him off the field, the personality he has, the charisma he has, just the person he is in the locker room, on the field. He’s from a big family. He’s competed, he knows how to compete,” Brecht said. “He’s an athlete, he’s not just a lacrosse player, so pickup basketball, wiffle ball, football in the backyard, floor hockey. He competes, and he’s extremely focused. He is dialed in all the time, in practices, early in the game, late in the game. So there is no waffling with him, he is decisive, focused and sharp with his preparations.”


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