No. 9 Rutgers will honor 14 seniors as it hosts No. 18 Michigan on Sunday
On Sunday afternoon, the Rutgers men’s lacrosse team plays host to No. 18 Michigan in its second Big Ten game of the season. The No. 9 Scarlet Knights (7-3, 0-1) will look to rebound from a 13-12 loss to then-No. 6 Johns Hopkins on Sunday night.
Prior to the game, Rutgers will also honor its group of 14 seniors that are the first group in program history to play four seasons as members of the Big Ten Conference.
“They’re the big reason why we’re a top-10 program,” said head coach Brian Brecht. “... This senior class has been great the last three years of allowing us to be (a) top-10 program and compete at the level we’re playing at.”
Max Edelmann, Michael Rexrode, Alex Bronzo, Steve Hillenbrand, Chad Toliver, Christian Mazzone, Christian Trasolini, Alex Schoen, Joe Francisco, Connor Vercruysse, Liam King, Jules Heningburg, Austin Divitcos and Christian Scarpello have all spent the last four years on the Banks.
Of those 14 seniors, 13 have played this season, with Edelmann, Rexrode and Bronzo making up ¾ of the starting defense and Hillenbrand being the top guy for the team’s man-down unit.
Toliver, Divitcos and Scarpello all see time on the rope unit at short-stick defensive midfield, while Mazzone and Trasolini have been regular starters during their careers, with Mazzone being the team’s second-leading goal scorer.
Schoen and Francisco have alternated at the faceoff X, with both of them playing their best lacrosse as of late. Schoen was 11-of-20 in an upset win over Syracuse two weeks ago, while Francisco is coming off a 15-of-26 performance against Johns Hopkins.
Heningburg is the quarterback of the offense, leading the team with 29 goals and 22 assists.
The Wolverines, whose lacrosse program started in 2012, are just 1-15 all-time in the Big Ten. That one win, though, came against the Knights in the conference’s inaugural 2015 season.
Despite the conference record, Michigan comes into this game ranked No. 18 in the country and boasts a marquee win on the road against then-No. 4 Notre Dame.
Under first-year head coach Kevin Conroy, the Wolverines have proven they are no longer content with being conference bottom feeders.
Brent Noseworthy is one of the most prolific goal scorers in the country and leads the Big Ten with 33 goals and 3.3 goals per game.
“He’s a great goal scorer,” Brecht said. “Certainly gonna to have know where he is at all times, understand his strengths off ball and limit the opportunities he has to shoot and finish around the cage.”
After last week’s heartbreaking 13-12 loss to Johns Hopkins, Brecht said he is not worried about an emotional letdown by his squad.
He said the leadership of the captains will be key, and has continued to compliment the group on their ability to keep the team level-headed and motivated.
“(I’m) not worried at all. We have a great senior class. We have four excellent captains for us this year who have done an excellent job on and off the field.”
Sophomore attacker Kieran Mullins echoed that sentiment, noting that when you have a top-10 schedule in the country, there is no time to think about past losses.
Mullins was vocal about that after Rutgers lost in overtime to unranked Princeton earlier in the season, and he responded with a 2-goal, three-assist performance in a ranked road win over Lehigh the team’s next time out.
"You have to just deal with it, watch the film, see our mistakes and just move on," he said. "You have to. The Big Ten has a lot of good teams — you’re playing back-to-back top-20 teams — so you have to prepare and get ready for them."
Brecht has always preached about the team taking care of itself, and Sunday gives the Knights another chance to pick up a ranked conference victory and keep a promising season rolling.
“They’re certainly gonna be excited to play us, just like we’re gonna be extremely excited to play them,” Brecht said. “We gotta have a good week of practice but we also have to play well for the 60 minutes on game day.”