Rutgers carries perfect record into battle against Wagner
Through the first three weeks of the season, the Scarlet Knights have not performed to the billing of a basement dweller.
In fact, their play has actually been quite the opposite of that.
The Knights have raced out to a 3-0 start — their best since the 2011 season when they began 4-0 — and their hot start has garnered attention from the rest of the country.
Following its 13-11-road win over Army on Feb. 20, Rutgers received votes in the Inside Lacrosse and United States Intercollegiate Lacrosse Association Coaches (USILA) Poll.
After its most recent win, the Knights cracked the top-20 for the first time under head coach Brian Brecht and for the first time as a program since March of 2011. The USILA poll slotted them at No. 16 in the nation.
The win that catapulted Rutgers into the national rankings was a grind-out 12-6 home victory over Fairfield (0-3) on Saturday, a game in which it never trailed and dominated in total shots and groundballs.
In a matchup where the Knights were facing an active defense in front of a tough net minder, Rutgers was even stouter in defense of its own net.
The home team killed off 3 of its 4 penalties and only allowed a total of 16 shots to reach the net. Of those 16 shots the combination of sophomore Max Edelmann and senior Kris Alleyne — who replaced Edelmann in the fourth quarter after he sustained an injury — faced, 10 were saved.
The Knights gave up just three goals in each half, marking the least amount of scores they’ve surrendered in a game since the 2013 season.
“Our defense was awesome,” said redshirt freshman attacker Adam Charalambides after the win. “Max Edelmann killed it today and you gotta love Kris (Alleyne) coming in for the fourth quarter, senior stepping up like that. And the defense absolutely locked down and killed it.”
With an unscathed record through three games and a national ranking attached to its name, No. 16 Rutgers will now face one of its tougher challenges of the early season.
On a quick turnaround coming off of just two days rest, the Knights will begin a four-game road trip with a Tuesday matinee matchup with Wagner (1-2).
Rutgers’ battle with the Seahawks in Staten Island, New York, will be the first time this year that it has played a game after less than a week of time from its prior game.
Wagner, on the other hand, hasn’t played a game since Feb. 23 against Monmouth, which the Seahawks led by two midway through before getting outscored 6-0 in the second half of a 8-4 loss.
With Wagner having its legs under them following a week break between games, the young Knights will be tested to see how they are able to move on from a win and shift their focus to their next opponent over the span of just a few days.
“I’m expecting (Wagner) to be well rested and prepared they haven’t played in a week,” Brecht said. "With the experience we’ve had so far with this young team, we can keep on maturing and taking steps forward. This is a great opportunity ... to see how mature this young team can be to take a step forward with two games in seven days.”
When these two teams met last year at High Point Solutions Stadium, it was also Rutgers’ first mid-week game of the season, as they played on two-days rest.
The Seahawks and Knights were locked at nine entering the final quarter, but Rutgers tallied four of the five goals in the fourth to come out on top 13-10.
Five different Knights scored in that game, including hat tricks from then-freshman midfielder Chad Toliver, then-sophomore attacker Christian Trasolini and Brian Goss, who has since graduated.
A year later and that balanced, high-powered offense still remains on the Banks, only this season it has more experience under its belt, a new weapon in Charalambides and has been even more lethal.
Rutgers had eight different players score in its first two games, followed by seven different goal scorers in its win over Fairfield.
Against an Army defense that finished in the top-10 last year, and has given up an average of 6.33 goals in its other three games, the Knights found the back of the net 13 times in their win.
Powered by starting attackers senior Scott Bieda, sophomore Jules Heningburg and Charalambides — a trio that has combined for 28 goals and 15 assists — Rutgers not only boast one of the top scoring attacks in the Big Ten to this point in the season, but in the entire nation as well.
For a Wagner squad that has only managed to produce a total of 11 goals in its previous two games, it could be tough for the Seahawks to keep up with the blistering Knights.
“We believe in each other and we know where we’re gonna be at all times basically, and we have a good flow,” Heningburg said on Rutgers’ strong offensive attack. “So it’s kind of just finding opportunities and converting them and we know they’re gonna be there.”