Coach leans on seniors for vital home match against St. John’s
At the end of the Rutgers men’s lacrosse team’s first practice since its 14-13 loss to Marquette Saturday, head coach Brian Brecht pulled aside his senior players for a private discussion.
His message was simple.
To succeed in April, the seniors will have to take charge. It starts with a matchup tonight against Big East rivals St. John’s underneath the lights at High Point Solutions Stadium.
“Anyone can look in the stat book and see that the senior class is 0-3 against St. Johns,” Brecht said. “But you know what, this game on Wednesday night is all that matters. … It’s what you’ve done for me lately, so it doesn’t matter what their record is throughout their four-year career, it’s only going to be what the last one was.”
The Scarlet Knights (6-4, 1-2) enter the crucial game in a bit of a slump. The Knights have lost their last two games, both coming in Big East play.
St. John’s (6-3, 2-0), on the other hand, enters on a four-game winning streak, which includes a win against No. 16 Hofstra and convincing victories over conference rivals Georgetown and Providence.
Led by attacker Kieran McArdle — the conference leader in goals, assists and points per game — the Red Storm are on the fringes of a top 20 ranking and should be plenty motivated to earn a road win.
Rutgers also has plenty of incentive to win.
The Knights are 1-2 in conference play following their last defeat and a loss to the Red Storm could jeopardize the team’s hopes of playing in the Big East tournament.
Rutgers fell, 20-13, at St. John’s last year, so a chance at retribution also lingers on the players’ minds.
“[Facing] St. John’s the past couple years hasn’t really gone our way,” said junior faceoff specialist Joe Nardella. “They beat the crap out of us last year so we’re trying to get a little bit of payback and we need this league win. It’s huge for us and if we want to play in May, this is what it’s all about.”
Against Marquette, the Knights managed just six goals in the first three quarters before bursting for seven goals in the fourth.
Senior attacker Scott Klimchak scored a team-high four goals in the game, but has only managed to score two goals total the past two seasons against the Red Storm.
Rutgers and St. John’s ranks toward the top in the conference in goals per game, so a high-scoring game is likely.
A fast start offensively could make the difference, much like it was against the Golden Eagles.
“I think [in the fourth quarter against Marquette], we were just playing with more intensity,” Klimchak said. “We were just pushing the ball in transition a little bit more, moving the ball a lot better, and I feel like we had more of a sense of urgency to score.”
The last time the Knights had a two-game losing streak this year, they went on to beat then No. 20 Army on the road, 9-8, March 4.
But the stakes are much higher this time around. If Rutgers loses tonight, the Knights must win their two remaining conference games to ensure qualification for the conference tournament.
While the pressure is mounting on the players to perform, Brecht said the team is ready to rise to the occasion.
“I think this senior class is great, we’re going to ride them for as long as we can for the rest of this 2014 season,” Brecht said. “I don’t think we’ve played as well as we could have for whatever reason on Saturday at home, but you know what, Wednesday is another day and I know they’re going to get it done.”
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