No. 13 Rutgers visits Princeton to battle for Meistrell Cup
For the 96th time in history, the Rutgers men’s lacrosse team will take the field against Princeton, as the two teams will battle it out for the Meistrell Cup, named after Harland “Tots” Meistrell, who re-started the lacrosse programs at each school in the 1920s.
Last year’s contest was an important one for the Scarlet Knights, as their 16-11 triumph marked their first win in the series since 2005.
“The guys in the locker room are learning about the rivalry each year as we grow as a program," said head coach Brian Brecht. "I do think I’m reminded every day, every week, every year about how much this means to our alumni."
Senior captain and midfielder Christian Mazzone scored in last year's 16-11 win, to go along with two ground balls and two caused turnovers.
He spoke about how important last year's win was for Rutgers after so many years of falling short.
“We always played them close, but we never really got over that hump until last year," Mazzone said. "There was so much emotion going into that game last year, we played so hard and we finally brought the (Meistrell) Cup back. I think we’re gonna bring that same emotion (Saturday) cause once you get the cup, you don’t want to relinquish it.”
In order to secure its second straight win away from home, the Knights must avoid falling behind early, Mazzone said.
In their road opener against then-No. 13 Army, Rutgers fell behind 5-1 in the first half. Despite battling back to tie the game three separate times, they could never pull ahead and went on to lose by a score of 9-7.
Last week against Brown, the Knights went down early again, this time 4-1 in the first quarter. Brecht called a timeout after the fourth Bears goal and eventually the team calmed down and took complete control of the game and wound up winning 10-8.
"We can’t let the other team throw that first punch, especially on the road," Mazzone said.
Princeton boasts a stout offense, one that is averaging 12 goals per game and just put up 15 in a midweek win over NJIT.
The Tigers are led by attacker Michael Sowers, who already has 23 points through just four games on 8 goals and 15 assists.
But Brecht has repeated throughout the season that as long as Rutgers is composed and takes care of themselves, there is no challenge they can't overcome.
Against Brown, the effort from the Knights poles (both on close defense and in the midfield) was key in causing numerous turnovers in the clearing game.
It's something the team takes pride in and continues to implement in order to control the game.
"We’re a good defensive team, we’re a very athletic team, we ride hard, we make it hard on the other team to get to their strengths," Brecht said.
All of those aspects make up the style of play known as "Rutgers Lacrosse," a program driven on effort and wreaking havoc on opponents.
“We started playing back to our old Rutgers style (against Brown)," Mazzone said. "... Animals on ground balls, running all over the field, you can just sense it. I think we finally got that, and I think we’re gonna be able to keep that going for the rest of the year, especially going into Princeton this week."
Brecht noted that talent-wise, the Tigers will be the team's toughest opponent so far, and playing them on the road doesn't make things any easier.
But guys like long-stick midfielder Kyle Pless know that regardless of where the game is played, if the Knights stick to their game and stay under control, they will keep the coveted Meistrell Cup on the Banks for another year.
“It’s definitely a big rivalry. It’s always fun playing against another in-state school," Pless said. "It’ll definitely be a battle, and they’re a great team. But if we keep preparing the way that we can, I think we’ll be ready to take them down."