Despite preseason hype, Rutgers plays with a chip on its shoulder
During last season, the Rutgers men’s lacrosse team was somewhat of an unknown commodity in the college lacrosse scene. But then, the Scarlet Knights went on to tie a program record in wins and defeat three ranked teams, including perennial powerhouse Johns Hopkins twice, finishing the season with the No. 16 spot in the country.
This season, they are no underdogs. Rutgers now sits at No. 18 in Inside Lacrosse’s rankings after starting the season at No. 19 and boast one of the best players in the conference, attacker Jules Heningburg, who last year was named first-team All-Big Ten after doubling his point total from the previous season with 39 goals and 21 assists.
This season, the Knights are still playing with a chip on their shoulders, despite the national recognition, Heningburg said.
“I don’t think our mindset’s any different. I think we’re playing with a chip on our shoulder still,” he said. “Just because it’s kind of how teams view us in general and as far as the locker room goes, losing two big players in (Christian Trasolini) and (Adam Charalambides). I think it’s kind of driving guys to really have to step up again.”
Big Ten Offensive Player of the Year, Scott Bieda graduated last year and seems to be a large enough obstacle for Rutgers to overcome this year.
But recently, sophomore attacker and reigning Big Ten Freshman of the Year Adam Charalambides and preseason All-Conference midfielder Christian Trasolini suffered injuries prior to the season opener against St. John’s and will both be out for the season.
Those injuries will be very difficult for the Knights to overcome, but head coach Brian Brecht said that as the team has improved over the years, there are other players that will help the team maintain a level of consistency.
“We’ve got some great older guys that have been through a lot for our program as we’ve gotten to this point,” he said. “We have a couple of guys that are injured that aren’t available for us this year that were a big part of this program last year.”
Brecht said he won’t let those injuries change his expectations for the team.
“The expectations, the standards and our goals all stay the same,” Brecht said.
Another missing piece of last year’s team is goalie Kris Alleyne, who graduated. Alleyne did not start last season, as it was then-sophomore Max Edelmann who started Rutgers' first three games between the pipes before getting injured.
Edelmann said that he has learned to never take anything for granted after losing his whole season last year. He too echoed the sentiment that as a team, the Knights have not changed their mindset or expectations and that the team's goals remain this same.
“I think we have a lot of goals that we need to strive for,” Edelmann said. “Of course we want to make another appearance in the Big Ten Championships. We really just gotta focus on the little things.”
And despite its preseason ranking, Rutgers was pegged to finish fourth with Ohio State. The only team picked to finish below it was Michigan.
Only the top four teams make the conference tournament at the end of the season and although the Knights made the championship game last year, coaches from the conference do not necessarily believe that Rutgers can accomplish that feat again.
Heningburg mentioned those preseason polls as something that has made the team even more motivated this season.
"(In) the Big Ten, we were ranked to finish fourth, tied for fourth after beating a couple of those team that are above us,” he said. “The (national) polls in general, some of them we’re not even ranked.”
After dominating St. John’s by a scoreline of 16-8, the Knights have some confidence heading into a matchup with Army West Point on Saturday. But according to Heningburg, there will always be added motivation this season.
“That chip’s still on our shoulders for sure,” Heningburg said.