August 17, 2019 | 84° F

Knights seek vital conference victories

Photo by Lianne Ng |

Senior attackman Kevin Hover chases down a loose ball March 3 against Lafayette. Hover and the Knights offense take on a tall task tomorrow in No. 13 Syracuse at a neutral site as part of the ESPNU?Warrior Classic.

Entering his first season as head coach of the Rutgers men’s lacrosse team, Brian Brecht knew his one goal was to make the Big East Tournament.

To do that, the Scarlet Knights needed three Big East wins.

So far this season, four conference games came and went, with the Knights picking up losses in all of them except against bottom-of-the-division Providence. With only two conference games left in the season, Rutgers must win both for Brecht to achieve his goal of making to the postseason.

First up is a date tomorrow with No.13 Syracuse in the ESPNU Warrior Classic.

“We have Syracuse as part of the ESPNU Warrior Classic, and then we have Georgetown. Those are the only two league teams we have left,” Brecht said. “To be part of the Big East Tournament the top four teams go, and at the end of the year we have to be 3-3, and right now we are 1-3. Each game is a playoff game.”

Even without the added pressure of winning both games, the home stretch toward the end of the season is not easy for the Knights. The Warrior Classic against Syracuse marks the third straight game for Rutgers against a top-15 program.

The first, No.13 Villanova, resulted in yet another Knights loss in the Big East after a Rutgers comeback attempt late in the game fell short.

The Knights’ next stop — a break from conference play against rival No.15 Princeton — was anything but the rest from the Big East that Rutgers needed. The Tigers handed Rutgers its most lopsided loss of the season, 13-4. The four-goal output was the lowest of the season so far for the Knights.

After both losses, the Knights limp into the neutral site of American Legion Memorial Stadium in Charlotte, N.C., hoping to regain some kind of momentum against Syracuse.

“We had the 13th-ranked team in the country in Villanova, the 11th-ranked team in the country with Princeton and then Syracuse,” Brecht said. “We all know how talented Syracuse is and the tradition that they have. We have three top-15 teams within a seven-day period. That is a lot for any program. We are certainly going to have our hands full.”

Although the Knights have more than enough experience against top-ranked opponents this season, Brecht has realistic expectations for the squad. While the team is in the middle of a transition year, Brecht knows it is not going to dominate the top teams in the country.

Brecht and the rest of the Knights know if they are going to make it into the Big East Tournament after the last two conference games of the season, they have to earn it.

“Being in the Big East where we are right now as a program and with the teams that are on our schedule, every game is going to be a battle,” Brecht said. “Every team we play is going to be a bit of a reach. We are not going to go out there rolling out the balls or running by people. We have to work.”

By Vinnie Mancuso

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