No. 13 Rutgers seeks first Big Ten win at Michigan
Currently on a two-game losing streak and set to play in its fourth consecutive road game, the Rutgers men’s lacrosse team needs a change in luck.
That opportunity comes on Saturday, as the No. 13 Scarlet Knights (8-2, 0-1) will visit the historic “Big House” for a Big Ten contest against Michigan (8-2, 0-1).
After falling to No. 11 Johns Hopkins last Friday by a score of 12-6, Rutgers has dropped to a middle-of-the-pack team after being ranked No. 1 just two weeks ago. The team’s biggest issue against the Jays was its lack of possession and being able to keep pace.
The Knights cleared 15-of-21 chances, which is not a good mark, as they usually clear around 90 percent. Despite the cold and rainy conditions, head coach Brian Brecht said that had nothing to do with it and that his group needs to do more to improve that mark.
“It had to do with us probably making poor decisions,” he said. “Not really breathing and seeing all the options we had and not playing with as much confidence as we need to play (with).”
The defense has also had two straight uncharacteristic performances, giving up 13 goals to Delaware in addition to the 12 against Hopkins despite only giving up around 7 per game before the two-game skid.
Junior captain and starting defender Michael Rexrode has been the team’s best defender this season and said the team needs to remain reliant on the gameplan and not deviate from how it prepares every week.
“We just gotta go back to the basics, back to the fundamentals and really focus on what we do,” he said. “When we’re playing within our system, we’re really good. We’ll hold teams to very few goals. We definitely got away from that the past few weeks.”
Despite being in just its sixth season as a Division I lacrosse program, Michigan has found itself ranked as recently as last week, but a loss to No. 8 Maryland dropped them out, although it is the top vote-getting team in the nation.
The Wolverines are led by sophomore attacker Brent Noseworthy, who has 31 goals in 10 games, putting him eighth in the country in goals per game.
“He’s a talented player for sure. He’s definitely got a lot of things going for him,” Rexrode said. “He’s a great finisher inside so that’s definitely something to be aware of.”
Rexrode has been the go-to guy for Rutgers when it comes to locking up the opponent’s best player and will see plenty of Noseworthy on Saturday.
Sophomore Tommy Heidt mans the goal for Michigan and has done a very good job of that this season. He is letting in just 8.52 goals per game and is saving 57.4 percent of shots on goal.
Brecht admits that his team has not been shooting the ball well and will need to improve on its execution going forward.
“When we have the shots, whether it’s in transition or whether it’s in our settled sets, (we need) to be able to execute it. We probably haven’t done a good job shooting as a whole," Brecht said.
And although the Wolverines aren’t officially ranked, they were for two weeks and were the final cog in having all six Big Ten teams ranked. With an unofficial ranking of No. 21 in the nation, they are just as dangerous as anyone, especially at home.
Brecht understands the magnitude of each conference game and hopes that the difficult non-conference schedule he put together — six of the team’s 10 games have been against teams that were ranked at one point in the season — will help the Knights in conference play.
“I think the Big Ten is the most competitive lacrosse conference in the nation,” Brecht said. “I think every game in the Big Ten you gotta be focused, prepared and you gotta execute on gameday with the 60 minutes you’re given. I hope that the ranked teams that we played early on out of conference have prepared us for the league games.”
The last time that Rutgers played an unranked team on the road, it lost to Delaware and subsequently its No. 1 ranking.
Junior Christian Scarpello said that the team needs to re-focus on the basics and make sure the team is all on the same page.
“(We need to) just treat it as a business trip,” he said. “Just make sure everybody knows that it’s the most important game of our season coming up and make sure we’re all on the same page.”