Sophomore rounds out offensive game over offseason
With a team currently stacked with underclassmen, Brian Brecht won't have to make too many adjustments to his lineups come next season.
But when the Rutgers men's lacrosse team's head coach is constructing his attack unit in advance of the 2017 season, he won't be able to pencil in a name that has been a staple of the Scarlet Knights' offense for the past four years.
Senior attacker Scott Bieda has been a do-it-all kind of player for the Knights ever since he stepped on the field for the first time at Rutgers in 2011. The Woodbridge, New Jersey, native appeared in every game and earned 10 starts in his true freshman season and flashed early signs of being a dual offensive threat at the collegiate level with 14 goals and 13 assists.
With more playing time in his sophomore campaign, Bieda jumped to 18 goals and 24 assists before earning a spot on the First Team All-Big Ten by way of a 30-goal, 28-assist performance last season.
The Knights' captain has continued his stellar play on the offensive end in his final year on the Banks, pouring in 22 goals and assisting on a career-high 29 scores, sitting atop the Big Ten in points per game.
Bieda continues to play an integral role for Rutgers as its regular season comes to a close and the conference tournament looms in the near future. But when the Knights' season does end and Bieda moves on to the Major League Lacrosse, they will have roughly eight months to figure out how they plan to replace the program's No. 7 all-time point scorer.
But for a program that has catapulted into the national rankings this season for the first time under Brecht's tutelage, and plans on remaining and moving up in the national lacrosse ranks, Rutgers is going to have to deal with replacing substantial senior production each new season.
Luckily for the Knights, they have two budding stars on the attack unit, in sophomore attacker Jules Heningburg and redshirt freshman Adam Charalambides, alongside Bieda and a pool of developing younger players they hope can combine carry the success of their top-10 scoring attack from this year into next season when Bieda isn't on the field.
"As a program that we wanna become, as far as an elite program in the Big Ten and nationally, we're gonna graduate elite seniors every year," Brecht said. "Scott's been an elite player for us for the last four years. It's gonna be hard to replace those points, but I do think the experience Jules has with another year under his belt, the experience that Charalambides is gonna have ... If Adam can take the same steps Jules took from freshman to sophomore year and Jules can continue to uptick his game…"
Charalambides has garnered much of the attention on the attack with his explosion onto the lacrosse scene, leading the Big Ten in goals scored with 31 and claiming Big Ten Freshman of the Week in 7 of the first 9 weeks of the season.
But Heningburg has been right with Charalambides every step of the way, currently tying him for conference lead in goals scored, and the sophomore's success hasn't necessarily come out of nowhere either.
As a true freshman, Heningburg was a starter on the attack in all 15 games for the Knights last year, finishing third in goals scored with 21 and adding 8 assists.
The Seton Hall Prep product has elevated his goal-scoring this year in finding the back of the net 31 times through 12 games. But an increase in scoring hasn't been the only statistical category that Heningburg has made an uptick in from last year.
With two games still remaining on the schedule, Heningburg has already nearly doubled his assist total from his freshman season, setting up his teammates for 15 goals.
"(Jules has) done a extremely good job of developing his game on his own in the offseason," Brecht said. "The experience he had last year as a freshman, he was kind of thrown into the fire. It was a baptism under fire with the experience he got as a freshman and he was really hungry in the summertime and the offseason. He's worked extremely hard to develop two hands. ... He's finding his teammates and he's becoming a complete attackman."
What makes the Maplewood, New Jersey, native lethal around the net is his ability to use both of his hands. So when Heningburg has an opening to make a pass or fire a shot at the net, he can deliver the ball efficiently regardless of what shoulder his stick is on.
Becoming more comfortable with being able to utilize both hands has been evident in his play this season. Last year, Heningburg had just one multi-assist game, compared to four this season, including a four-assist effort in a win over then-No. 9 Johns Hopkins. He has also had seven games of at least 3 goals, highlighted by a career-high 5-goal performance in Rutgers win over Michigan.
He has also been awarded two Big Ten Offensive Player of the Week honors, showing his strong sophomore performance hasn't come by luck.
"In the offseason, I just wanted to become the best player I could for the team and just kind of work on my weaknesses," Heningburg said. "I think doing that has helped me a lot just playing with the guys we have in our system and just improving on my weaknesses."
In his second season on the Banks, Heningburg has rounded into a dual-threat attacker, just like Bieda. The sophomore even said he looks to Bieda for confidence and follows his style of play.
Scott Bieda has been the glue of the Knights attack unit, but as Heningburg continues to improve his all-around game, he should be able to fill in and continue the integral role that Bieda played for the next two seasons.
"He's always aware and alert of plays," Heningburg said of Bieda. "Not set up plays in six-on-six, but just kind of openings in the field and he's always got his hands ready to feed. So I just kind of look to that and taking that style of play and using it."