Returners provide experience
For a team that finished 2-13 last season, including a 12-game losing streak to end the year, the Rutgers men’s lacrosse team remains exceedingly optimistic.
Despite the record, the Scarlet Knights lost eight games by two goals or less, with most of those goals coming in the final minute of play or in overtime.
Two one-goal losses came against the No. 1 and No. 2 ranked teams in the nation in Syracuse and Notre Dame.
The Knights feel the losses are not a true indication of their ability.
“Since day one, written in the lockers, it says, ‘winning season, Big East tournament, NCAA tournament,’” said junior faceoff specialist Joe Nardella. “So we want to have a winning record, change those one-goal losses into one goal wins and get to that Big East tournament. Win those two games, get to the NCAA’s and then, hey, anything can happen.”
The Knights return 97 percent of their offensive production from last season, losing only one starter.
Senior attacker Scott Klimchak highlights some of the key returning players for Rutgers. The Clark, N.J., native led the team in points (39) and goals (32).
Seniors Nick DePaolera and Anthony Terranova, along with junior Brian Goss and sophomore Scott Bieda, are also important to the Knights’ attack.
With many returning players, along with some talented incoming freshmen, team cohesion could prove invaluable.
“We’ve been working on communication both offensively and defensively. I feel like that will really help us come together team chemistry-wise,” Klimchak said. “We’re really taking the younger guys under our wing. Some of those guys are going to have to contribute this year, and I feel like they will help us out.”
The loss of starter Ed Bartleson is the only change to an otherwise identical defense for the Knights. Head coach Brian Brecht is expecting incoming freshman defender Chris Groel to make an immediate impact.
Sophomore and reigning Big East Goalkeeper of the Year Kris Alleyne is another key returner to the squad.
Following a rookie campaign where he ranked sixth in the country with a .596 save percentage, Alleyne returns as the undisputed No. 1 choice in net after an open competition for the job last preseason.
With another year of experience and familiar faces in defense, the New City, N.Y., native seems poised for another big year.
“I can lead a lot better than I could last year,” Alleyne said. “I feel more comfortable being able to speak up and I’m ready to take on a bigger role as a member of the team.”
While the lineup will not change much, the Knights’ home stadium will.
For the first time in team history, Rutgers is scheduled to play in High Point Solutions Stadium for all of its regular season home games. The change in facilities was made in order to enhance fan experience during home games and help in recruiting.
Another change will be the Knights conference schedule.
Long time rivals Syracuse and Notre Dame have left for the ACC but that will not affect the Big East’s reputation as a strong conference.
The addition of Marquette to the schedule is a downgrade in competition, but Denver, another addition, is an elite college program.
The Knights were voted to finish tied for fifth in the conference’s preseason poll. A difficult non-conference schedule, including the defending champion Duke Blue Devils, could also be troubling.
But rather than fear big teams, Brecht embraces the challenge.
“The competition within the league is certainly very high,” Brecht said. “Our schedules are very ambitious … but we want to play the best and I think having a competitive schedule, whether it’s the conference or the non-league games, is helpful for us.”