Rutgers aims to hoist cup over rival
The last time the Rutgers men’s lacrosse team ended a two-game losing skid this year, it went on a four-game winning streak — the longest streak under head coach Brian Brecht.
The Scarlet Knights (7-4, 2-2) defeated then-No. 20 Army, Monmouth, Richmond and Big East rival Providence during that period.
With a matchup at No. 19 in-state rival Princeton tomorrow night, a repeat of that winning streak may be hard to replicate.
But Brecht says his senior class-led team, which defeated St. John’s for the very first time in four tries on Wednesday, is up for the challenge.
“When you’re heading into the month of April, they’re all big games now,” Brecht said. “And we have some big games under our belt. … So I think [the St. John’s win] just helps fuel the excitement and the focus for practice, and obviously turning around and focusing on the next opponent.”
Just like against St. John’s, Rutgers’ senior class is 0-3 against Princeton (4-4, 1-2), being held to single-digit goals in each of the past two matchups.
The Tigers lacrosse program is 59-29-3 all-time against the Knights.
While the matchup has no conference implications, the Harland Meistrell Cup makes it one of the biggest games on each team’s calendar.
The Harland Meistrell Cup is named after former Erasmus Hall High School attendee Harland Meistrell.
Princeton played in its first lacrosse game in 1881, facing Rutgers for the first time six years later. Rutgers’ lacrosse program was dropped in 1889, with the Tigers folding theirs in 1893.
In 1920, Meistrell attended Rutgers to play varsity football where he also resurrected the Knights’ lacrosse program.
A year later, Meistrell did the same for Princeton’s lacrosse program and now represents both schools in the U.S. Lacrosse Hall of Fame.
Since that 1921 season, the teams have met every year except during the 1944 and 1945 seasons during World War II, with the winner of the game receiving the cup since 1958.
If Rutgers wins tomorrow at Princeton, it would be the first time the Knights’ senior class hoisted the cup.
Though the Tigers have had Rutgers’ number for many years — Princeton won 25 of the last 26 meetings — senior attacker Scott Klimchak has confidence his team can beat anyone it faces as long as it sticks to its game plan.
“[Coaches message] has been to just keep our team morale high and stay intense and not really worry about the past,” Klimchak said. “We’re just going to focus on ourselves and worry about what we can control and I think that we should be fine.”
Sophomore goalkeeper Jake Anderson could make his second consecutive start of the season against the Tigers depending on if sophomore goalkeeper Kris Alleyne can recover from an injury.
While Alleyne is a key piece to the Knights’ defense, leading the conference with a .544 save percentage, Anderson impressed in his first-career start, making seven saves to secure a crucial victory.
Whether or not Alleyne can play, Anderson said that he will prepare like he is starting and is confident he can get the job done.
Against St. John’s, Rutgers’ best moments in the game occurred when the team was able to be quick in transition and not allow the Red Storm to set its defense.
Junior faceoff specialist Joe Nardella played a large part in those critical runs, winning 58 percent of his faceoffs, which sometimes forced St. John’s to defend for three or four straight possessions.
Against the Tigers, the game could come down to one final possession, something the Inside Lacrosse Midseason All-American is confident he can win.
“We’ve just kind of been getting on each other holding each other accountable,” Nardella said. “We’re really making effort plays, talking a lot, communicating a lot and just helping everybody out by being positive.”
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