No. 19 Rutgers opens up season with easy win over St. John's
For the third consecutive season, the Rutgers men’s lacrosse team opened up the season against St. John’s and for the third consecutive season, the No. 19 Scarlet Knights (1-0) took down the Red Storm (0-1).
On a cold Saturday afternoon, the Knights came away with a convincing 16-8 win over a rebuilding St. John’s team.
Last season, Rutgers boasted a lethal attack unit of Scott Bieda, then-freshman Adam Charalambides and then-sophomore Jules Heningburg. With Bieda graduated and Charalambides out for the season with an injury, Heningburg finds himself the leader of the unit, with senior Connor Murphy and freshman Kieran Mullins starting alongside him.
As a unit, they combined for 12 points, with each member collecting four apiece. Heningburg led the charge scoring-wise, putting in 4 goals on 12 shots. Mullins and Murphy each had 2 goals and two assists.
“I think just off ball, the play was going really well,” Heningburg said. “I know me and (Connor Murphy) connected on one of those. Just keeping our heads up making the right plays, making the right reads. Always making the right plays is what gets us the best option on offense.”
In addition to Charalambides, the Knights recently lost preseason Big Ten Honoree and senior midfielder Christian Trasolini to injury. Brecht said that he is done for the season, but will redshirt and be back on the field for the Scarlet Knights next season.
Without many key pieces from last season, the preparation for this group has been different in a way. Despite the some adverse circumstances, the reigning Big Ten Coach of the Year was pleased with how they prepared and how they handled themselves on game day.
“I’m certainly proud of the way they handled themselves all week in practice but (also) the 60 minutes we had on game day,” Brecht said.
Despite the strong 12-point performance from his starting attack unit, Brecht was most pleased with units patrolling the middle of the field.
Rutgers outclassed St. John’s in ground balls, scooping up 36 to the Red Storm’s 28, but the biggest difference on the scoresheet was shots. The Knights ripped off 47 total shots while St. John’s had just 32 attempts. The midfielders were able to push the tempo and set up the attackers with numerous clear attempts on goal, which ultimately made the difference in this one.
“I really thought the strength of our offense and the production was in the middle of the field,” Brecht said. "It really allowed them to have layups close to the goal… they all had productive days.“
Heningburg capitalized on many of those opportunities with his 4 goals, as well as the combined 4 goals from his attacking teammates.
The junior attacker will be responsible for scoring even more goals this season, but complimented the play of the midfield unit as something that helps the attackers do their job better. He also noted a slight coaching adjustment that seems to be working well.
“They get stops and they come down on the offensive end,” he said. “Coach is letting them play a little more offense this year, trying to (keep them on the field) a little bit longer. And now they’re just getting their chances and converting them.”
One unique storyline on this team is the resurgence of junior goalie Max Edelmann. He started the first three games last season before getting injured and surrendering the position to then-senior Kris Alleyne.
Edelmann had 10 saves on Saturday while giving up just 8 goals. That is good for a 55.6% save percentage which satisfies the expectations of Brecht.
“(I’m) very happy (with Max Edelmann’s performance). Ten saves, double-digit saves, held the team under 10. In order to have success we gotta get double digits in saves and we gotta be north of 50 percent in the goal and I think he did a nice job," Brecht said.
Despite the strong statline, there were some goals that Edelmann wishes he could have back. Given that it has been nearly a year since he last played in a live game, some rust was expected.
Edelmann does not take all the credit for his work between the pipes, though. He says the defense was a big help for him and that their leadership will be key for the Knights this season.
“I think it was a good start. I’m really confident in our defense this year,” he said. “I think yesterday, it was a good start overall. A little rusty, a couple of goals I want back, but I think everything is starting to click.”
Rutgers will have a tougher opponent up next when they welcome Army West Point -- a team that is receiving votes in national polls -- to High Point Solutions Stadium on Saturday at 2 p.m.
Last season, the Knights reached historic heights, tying a Rutgers record for wins in a season, recording three ranked victories and making it to the finals of the Big Ten Tournament. The Knights are no longer an under-the-radar team, everyone knows who they are and what they are about, as demonstrated by their preseason ranking of 19 by Inside Lacrosse. But the team’s mindset has not changed, said Brecht.
“The expectations, the standards, and our goals all stay the same. To go out there and start the season with a big win and get one on the road, it was a great team effort.”