No. 8 Rutgers wastes No. 14 Stony Brook 17-4
The Rutgers men’s lacrosse team was out for revenge on Friday night and got a whole lot more.
The No. 8 Scarlet Knights (6-0) avenged last year’s 15-9 loss to now-No. 14 Stony Brook with a 17-4 thrashing of the Seawolves (5-1).
When asked if the team had a revenge mindset after last year’s loss, junior defender Michael Rexrode summed it up about as concise as possible.
“Aw heck yea,” he said.
This year’s senior class had played Stony Brook three times going into Saturday night’s game and had lost all three. Rexrode also mentioned how last year’s loss likely kept them out of the NCAA Tournament, as it was at a similar point in the season where the Knights were undefeated but still had to prove themselves.
To say they proved themselves this time around would be an understatement, as a 16-2 lead after three quarters led to the reserves getting plenty of action, with Rutgers scoring just once in the final period to the Seawolves’ 2.
This game was yet another stout performance by the Scarlet Knight defense, as the starters shut out Stony Brook in the first and third quarters while holding the Seawolves 11 goals under their season average of 15 per game.
This was also the third straight game in which the Knights shut out their opponent in the opening quarter.
“It’s nice when your offense is scoring and your face-off guy is winning all his face-offs so we didn’t have to play a ton of defense,” said Rexrode. “Once you start making stops it just seems to kinda flow so (shutting out Stony Brook in the first quarter) was big for us.”
Speaking of face-offs, Joe Francisco started off the game as good as anyone can, going 10-for-10 from the “X,” which was a huge reason why Rutgers was able to jump out to a 6-0 lead. Francisco finished the game with a 14-for-19 mark.
After starting off the season with a 7-22 mark against St. John’s and a 6-13 mark against Army, Francisco has been well over 50% each game since.
“He was great, he was focused, he was sharp,” said head coach Brian Brecht of Francisco’s performance. “He dominated the first quarter and the first half facing off and giving us all those possessions to go up 6-0 after the first 15 minutes.”
Francisco’s performance also helped pave the way for a rebound-effort from the attacking unit. Junior Jules Heningburg, senior Connor Murphy and freshman Kieran Mullins combined for 8 goals and 15 points. The group had struggled as of late, with the midfield and defense picking up the slack.
There was no need for that on Friday as Mullins followed up his 4 goal performance against then-No. 19 Brown with 3 goals and 3 assists. According to Brecht, he has been putting in extra work on his own time developing his shot and giving himself new ways to score.
“It paid off huge for me,” Mullins said of his extra work. “I’m changing my shots up. I usually shoot low-to-low, now I’m shooting a little low-to-high. (I) get the goalie guessing a little bit so it’s really working and helping me a lot.”
One facet of the game that Brecht has trademarked in Piscataway is the was the Knights play in transition, something the team calls “#RTempo." The transition offense starts with the defense and hopefully ends of with the ball in the back of the net.
The unit that makes sure that happens is the rope unit, a group that Brecht has raved about after every single game this season, especially sophomore long stick midfielders Kyle Pless and Garrett Michaeli, who he has singled out by name many times in the short season.
“Pless and Michaeli were great on the wings and obviously the defense did a great job and I think we did a good job in transition,” Brecht said. “That rope unit continues to put a lot of pressure on our opponents.”
The schedule doesn’t get any easier for Rutgers, as the Knights will host another ranked team in No. 19 Princeton on Tuesday.
The Tigers will be the third straight ranked opponent for Rutgers, but so far, no team has been able to beat -- or even out-prepare the Knights.
Rexrode and Brecht both spoke highly of the game planning that goes into every contest and how the team is always ready on game day. That certainly came to fruition on Friday, and Rutgers will certainly use this to keep the momentum going in what has potential to be a historic season on the Banks.
“We prepare better than any team I’ve been a part of,” said Rexrode. “We come in ready to play, we trust our gameplan we trust each other. The fact that it all works out on the field is a bonus.”