PISCATAWAY, N.J. – Breaking a tie game with a second-half penalty provided one jolt of adrenalin, and sliding a beautiful pass 17 minutes later to set up the eventual game-winning goal gave another.
However, it is nothing like the emotions Rutgers senior midfielder Nate Bourdeau will feel in a few days when he leads a resurgent Scarlet Knights program against his former school in the second round of the NCAA Tournament.
Rutgers, making its first NCAA appearance in five years, got there with a three-goal second half en route to a 4-2 defeat of Colgate on Thursday at a chilly Yurcak Field.
Bourdeau finished with a goal, an assist, and a big smile at the thought of facing Boston College, where he played as a freshman, as the Scarlet Knights (10-6-3) reached the second round for the first time since 2003.
“I’m not going to lie, I was looking at (Boston College) when the bracket came out,” Bourdeau said. “I know some of the guys there, and I knew it was possible.”
Bourdeau said he left Boston College after his freshman year because of questions about his academic standing, but they were rectified when he arrived at Rutgers. He is finishing his third and final season with the Scarlet Knights, and made what is likely his last home game memorable.
His penalty at the 63 minute, 50-second mark was tucked nicely into the bottom right corner, past the out-stretched arm of Colgate goalkeeper Grant Reed to give Rutgers a 2-1 lead.
“I didn’t want to think about it too much,” Bourdeau said. “The guys on the other team were saying a little bit to try and get me nervous, but in those situations you just have to block everything out and do what you do in practice.”
Bourdeau’s nifty footwork then was the starting point for Juan Pablo Correa’s game-clincher in the 82nd minute. Bourdeau beat a Colgate defender and brought the ball into the box, then slid the ball to Correa at the left side.
Correa, one of the sensational freshmen second-year coach Dan Donigan brought in with his first recruiting class, tucked a shot into to right corner to give Rutgers a 3-1 lead.
“Our seniors have been here four years, and we’ve had three bad seasons,” said senior Bryan Knibbs, who put Rutgers ahead 1-0 on a knuckling shot from just outside the 18-yard box in the 23rd minute. “To win a game like that means a lot to us, to keep going forward and continue our careers. Getting chance to go deeper into the tournament is really special for us.”
An own goal by Colgate in the 85th minute made it 4-1 before Matt Schuber scored with 27 seconds remaining to pull the Red Raiders (11-5-6) within 4-2.
The win continues a tremendous tournament under Donigan, who is rebuilding the once-strong Scarlet Knights. After a 4-11-1 introductory season, Rutgers gained an at-large NCAA berth by losing just once in the last eight games.
“I think it says a lot about the players that have been in the program,” Donigan said. “We’ve put them through an awful lot, in and out of season, in the weight room, socially, academically …you name it. I can’t say enough about the players.
“I can’t say enough about what (the seniors) have brought to the table in my time here. I told them when I came here I wanted them to be a part of taking this program back to national prominence. No, we’re not there yet, but we’re certainly on our way.”