Rutgers hosts Michigan on heels of signature win
The Rutgers men's lacrosse team knew it had the ability to go toe-to-toe with a team like Johns Hopkins, a program that has rich history and constantly finds itself among the top-10 teams in the nation.
Not only did the Scarlet Knights hang with the No. 9 Blue Jays when the teams met in Piscataway on Saturday night, but they led and outplayed them for nearly the entire game en route to a 16-9 win.
Rutgers put together strong performances in both ends of the field to pull off the upset.
On offense, the Knights' top attacking line of redshirt freshman Adam Charalambides, sophomore Jules Heningburg and senior Scott Bieda combined for 9 goals and eight assists, with senior attacker Ryan Hollingsworth adding a career-high 3 goals of his own on man-up opportunities.
But the highlight of the game was how Rutgers played defensively, holding Johns Hopkins' top-10 scoring attack to just 3 first-half goals and only three more scores in each of the final two quarters.
The Blue Jays had the same amount of total shots as Rutgers with 47, but senior goalie Kris Alleyne stopped 14 of the 23 shots that came on net.
When the lights came on and the Knights were given a chance to prove themselves worthy of being a legitimate contender for the Big Ten Championship, they pounced on it.
"It's the biggest win in program history — there's no ifs, ands or buts about it," Alleyne said after the win over Johns Hopkins. "We're excited, but we expect wins like this. We work our butts off in the offseason for games like this. So we just gotta keep the momentum rolling forward."
Rutgers' first upset win over a team higher than a No. 10 ranking since 2003 catapulted it back into the national rankings, landing at No. 19 in this week's Inside Lacrosse Poll.
With their signature win over Johns Hopkins behind them, the Knights (8-2, 1-0) will now shift their focus to their second of five Big Ten conference games, a noon matchup against Michigan (3-6, 0-1) on Sunday at High Point Solutions Stadium.
The Wolverines currently sit in the basement of the Big Ten standings with a 3-6 overall record and the worst scoring defense in the conference at 12.2 goals against, but their performance in their first conference game indicates how dangerous of a team they can be.
Michigan battled No. 5 Maryland to a 7-7 tie after 59-plus minutes of action, but the Terrapins scored the tiebreaker with 43 seconds remaining to escape Ann Arbor with the win.
Rutgers is coming off a monumental win and has a road matchup with Maryland looming next weekend, but the Knights have to make sure they put their win over Hopkins in the rear and center in on taking care of business on Sunday.
"We talked about that all week, there was gonna be highs and lows in this game," said head coach Brian Brecht. "The Big Ten lacrosse conference is the best conference in Division I, so we're gonna have to bring our 'A-game,' we're gonna have to be focused each and every game."
Last season, Rutgers held a 5-4 advantage over Michigan at halftime in Ann Arbor, but the Wolverines used a 6-goal outburst in the third quarter to take down the Knights 10-8.
Kyle Jackson, 3 goals, and Ian King, 4 goals, did the most damage to Rutgers in last year's matchup and those two have been at the forefront of Michigan's attack this year.
Jackson leads the team in goals (23) and points (29), while King brings a much more balanced game to the table with 13 assists and 9 goals.
The Wolverines were able to claw a win from the Knights last year, but this Rutgers team is much improved.
The Knights have already surpassed their win total of five from last season and with victory over the Wolverines on Sunday, they would top their Big Ten total from 2015.
"We got great leadership with the captains, Scott Bieda and (Zack) Sikora, we got a great senior class and we got some hungry freshman that only know about winning and they work their butt off and they get better each week," Brecht said. "We're a better team than we were last year, we're better than we were when we started the season and we'd like to continue getting better as the year goes on."