Rutgers outlasts Michigan for second Big Ten win
On April 2, the Rutgers men's lacrosse team etched its name into the program history book by way of a 16-9 win over No. 9 Johns Hopkins, its first over the Blue Jays since 1990 and the highest ranked opponent the Scarlet Knights had taken down since 2003.
In the Knights' following game just over a week later, they used another win over a Big Ten foe to make a little bit of history yet again.
No. 18 Rutgers (9-2, 2-0) scored the only 5 goals of the fourth quarter to outlast a feisty Michigan (3-7, 0-2) team 13-6 on Sunday afternoon at High Point Solutions Stadium.
The win secured the Knights their second Big Ten win of 2016, which tops their conference win total of just one from its inaugural season last year through two games.
"It wasn't as sharp throughout the 60 minutes, but we certainly finished in the fourth quarter in a game where we weren't able to get going," said head coach Brian Brecht.
On a day Rutgers' offensive attack wasn't firing on all cylinders, senior Kris Alleyne proved to be large for the Knights in net once again.
Fresh off a 14-save performance against Johns Hopkins' top-10 scoring attack, Alleyne continued his dazzling senior season in stopping 13 of the Wolverines' 19 shots on goal, scooping two ground balls and causing a turnover. His strong play on Sunday pushed his save percentage to 57.1 percent and his goals against average down to 8.17
"We had a lot of transition, a lot of breaks because of the stellar play and the laser focus of Kris Alleyne," Brecht said. "Kris Alleyne was sharp two weeks in a row, it's the best lacrosse I've seen him play. He certainly gave us an opportunity to have a 1 to 2-goal lead throughout the game and was a big reason why we broke it open in the fourth quarter because of his outlets and the ability to run in transition."
Sophomore attacker Jules Heningburg led the way offensively for the Knights with a goal in each quarter en route to career-high 5-goal performance.
Senior attacker Scott Bieda finished right behind him with 2 goals and a team-high 4 assists.
Although Michigan came to Piscataway with wins in just a third of its games this season, the Wolverines' record was hardly indicative of their performance this season.
Just last week, Michigan hung with No. 5 Maryland before surrendering the game-winning goal to the Terrapins in the final minute of the game.
The visitors showed off their capabilities early on in holding Rutgers to 2 goals in the first quarter, from redshirt freshman Adam Charalambides and Heningburg, and scoring two of their own to keep the score locked after 15 minutes of play.
The Knights seemed to be beginning to pull away early in the subsequent quarter as goals from sophomore midfielder Chad Tolliver and junior midfielder Jeff George extend their lead to 4-2, but Michigan's Patrick Tracy scored his first goal of the season 31 seconds after George's score to bring it back to a 1-goal game.
Heningburg scored the next 2 goals of the game, the first with seven minutes remaining in the first half and the second just under five minutes into the second half, to give Rutgers its largest lead of the game at three. But the Wolverines continued to keep their deficit in close reach with the only 2 goals in the next seven minutes of action to draw it back to 6-5 with 3:39 remaining in the quarter.
Through nearly three quarters, the high-octane attack of the Knights had only mustered 6 goals, and they remained in the lead mostly due to Kris Alleyne's stout performance in net.
But just as the threat of an upset loss began to loom larger, Rutgers' captain ignited the rest of the offense.
Just over 30 seconds after Ian King scored to make it a one-goal game, Scott Bieda scored the next 2 goals in the span of 32 seconds, first from the top left of the attack circle and then unassisted in front of the net, to stretch the lead back out to 8-5.
Chase Young would score for Michigan with under 10 seconds left to make it 8-6, but, led by Scott Bieda, the Knights trampled the Wolverines in the final 15 minutes.
Rutgers shutout and outshot Michigan 14-5 in the fourth quarter and Bieda set up 3 of its 5 goals, with two coming from Heningburg and one each from senior attacker Ryan Hollingsworth, freshman midfielder Mark Christiano and junior midfielder Christian Trasolini.
"I just find the right spots," Heningburg said on his 5-goal performance. "My teammates help set me up so I give the credit to them."
Through wins in its first two Big Ten games, the Knights have avenged close losses to Johns Hopkins and Michigan from last year as they have continued to remain atop the conference standings.
A showdown with top-5 Maryland — another team they lost to late last season — on Friday night in College Park, Maryland, has been on the horizon for Rutgers since it blew by Johns Hopkins, but Rutgers wanted to make sure they took of business against the Wolverines Sunday before moving onto arguably its biggest game of the season.
"It was a huge win, especially from last year, it was a game I've been looking forward to all year. Last year, I think we were not prepared, we had a bad week of practice and we thought we could roll the balls out and take down Michigan," Bieda said. "That wasn't the mentality this week. We know Michigan's a great team, even though their record might not prove it ... So I think it was huge having that mentality all week during practice and coming out and making it show today."