Early practice pays off for midfielder
Senior midfielder Mike Diehl has been the most physical force this season for the Rutgers men’s lacrosse team’s offense. Standing at 6-foot-3 and weighing 225 pounds, Diehl is the most imposing presence in the Scarlet Knights midfield.
Diehl places third on the team in goals not only because of his stature, but also because his shooting skills give him an advantage in finding the back of the cage. And those shooting skills do not start when Diehl steps onto the field for his games.
They start at 6 a.m., on an empty practice field and in front of an empty goal.
“Mike has been on fire. He has been up early with [senior midfielder] Will Mangan shooting every day in the morning before class,” said head coach Brian Brecht. “It has paid off. He has been very good for us coming down the stretch.”
The benefits do not end with Diehl becoming a better shooter. As the season progressed, and as Diehl continued to enter the lacrosse office in the early morning for a bucket of balls, he found more than only Mangan joined him. Diehl’s younger teammates began to show up in the morning for their shooting, as well.
For Diehl, the early morning sessions are invaluable when it comes to game time.
“It definitely sets a good example,” Diehl said. “Ever since I’ve been going in more and more, kids have been showing up. I’ve definitely seen some improvement in everyone’s shooting.”
Diehl’s image as the imposing presence on the field and the consistent hard worker off of it suits him fine. The Flemington, N.J., native knows he is a leader on the team, and prefers to not to be too vocal about it.
“I’m more of a lead-by-example kind of guy,” Diehl said. “I don’t really do the pre-game speech or anything like that. I definitely try and just lead by example.”
His examples do not end during the early morning practices. Diehl has had a career year in his last season on the Banks. The midfielder has scored 18 goals, and earned Big East Weekly Honor Roll recognition following the Knights’ April 7 matchup with Villanova, against which Diehl recorded a career-high four goals.
Showing his physical presence, three out of Diehl’s four goals were unassisted.
“Mike Diehl has been a monster for us. He is the most physically gifted person on the field for us,” Brecht said. “He is a warrior and a monster. Athletically, he is an imposing player and hard to match up for other defenses.”
As a presence in the midfield, Diehl does not always hear the call from Brecht to score. Most recently in the Knights’ 19-6 loss to Syracuse, Diehl did not record a single point.
But despite his ineffectiveness on the scoreboard, Brecht still saw the same intimidating figure in the midfield he has all year.
“He was a monster for us at Notre Dame, he was great for us against Providence and Villanova and he was strong at Syracuse,” Brecht said. “He did not have anything on the stat sheet to show for it, but he was drawing flies and finding the guys that were open.”