With Garrett Michaeli joining its back line, the Rutgers defense remains elite
Michaeli named Big Ten Defender of Week after 1st start
Garrett Michaeli made his first career start at defense on Feb. 3 against Robert Morris in the season opener for the Rutgers men’s lacrosse team.
Two days later he was named Big Ten Defensive Player of the Week.
The junior defender from Draper, Utah was recruited as a close defender for the Scarlet Knights, meaning he was expected to play in the last line of defense. But due to injuries in the midfield and the depth that Rutgers had on its back line, Michaeli was moved to long-stick midfield (LSM) last season.
He played alongside classmate Kyle Pless and was part of a rope unit that pushed the transition game, turning defense into offense. In that role, he was able to cause 14 turnovers, scoop up 20 ground balls and score twice.
Michaeli said this week that playing a position where he was moving up the field more often helps him understand the midfielders better in his new role.
“The flow of the offense, seeing the up top perspective from middies to now moving down low, I kinda see how the middies like to work,” he said of what he picked up last season. “With transition it helps us if I have to run the LSM and Pless or (Garrett) Bullett stays down. It helps with (us) being interchangeable. It’s actually been a good compliment to being close.”
Michaeli admitted that when he found out he was going to be playing in the midfield last year he was a little skeptical, since he had been a close defender as a recruit and that was what he expected to do.
But after learning those new skills, Michaeli was able to take advantage of his versatile skillset. Head coach Brian Brecht loves to have players like Michaeli, the aforementioned Pless or fellow defender senior Alex Bronzo at his disposal, ones who can play multiple positions and help the team out in different ways.
“Ultimately, we want to put the guys in position to play to their best abilities,” Brecht said. “… We have a lot of versatility with our personnel. Garrett Michaeli is just another player that defensively, has a lot of versatility. We can put him on the wings on faceoffs, we can have him running in transition, (or) we can put him down low.”
While senior captain Michael Rexrode has been the steady force on the Knights defense ever since he stepped foot on campus, Michaeli and Bronzo are two players that have the versatility that Brecht loves, making a diverse, experienced and elite defensive unit.
When asked about Michaeli’s transition back to defense, Bronzo had nothing but praise, noting that he gives them some added skills from his time as an LSM.
“He’s got that presence, he’s really long. He’s really good at picking off balls,” Bronzo said of Michaeli. “He has a knowledge of the defense from playing LSM last year, so it’s not that hard of a transition for him to come back down. He’s a big presence.”
That defensive unit — along with senior goalie Max Edelmann — has its toughest task yet in No. 13 Army on Saturday. The Black Knights are averaging 16 goals per game through their first two contests and the long-running rivalry between the two teams has always featured tightly contested games.
But with the experience of the defense — three seniors and a junior in Michaeli — Rutgers will be up to the task.
As for Michaeli, he just looks to keep things rolling in his “new” position.
“When they made the change this year, I was kind of excited just to get back to the position I was recruited as,” he said. “It kind of felt for natural to me, and I’ve been pretty successful so far.”