No. 9 Rutgers embarrasses No. 18 Michigan on Senior Day
You couldn't script a better Senior Day for the Rutgers men's lacrosse team.
The senior-led defense dominated from start to finish.
Goalkeeper Max Edelmann had 14 saves.
Attacker and captain Jules Heningburg had 1 goal and five assists.
Faceoff specialist Joe Francisco was 12-of-19 on faceoffs.
Midfielder Christian Mazzone had another multi-goal performance and had five ground balls.
Junior attacker Connor Vercruysse had 4 goals and an assist in just his second start of the season.
It was truly a team effort.
The No. 9 Scarlet Knights (8-3, 1-1) set the tempo early against No. 18 Michigan (7-4, 0-2), holding the Wolverines scoreless for the first 34 minutes of the game.
Edelmann could not be phased in the net, saving all 10 shots on goal in the first half, while the offense found its rhythm in the second quarter, scoring 6 goals in the final 7:31 to take an 8-0 lead into the locker room.
"I felt good coming into the stadium today," Edelmann said. "I felt like we had our defensive plan set and allowed the shots that I felt comfortable with. Doing those things early on really helped me out and got me in a groove, and we started rolling into the second half."
Rutgers didn't let up in the third quarter, scoring 4 more goals before Michigan finally put one in. But by that time, the score was 12-1 and despite there being approximately 26 minutes left of the game to be played, it was all but over.
For the second straight season, sophomore attacker Kieran Mullins scored 8 goals against the Wolverines. While he claims he has nothing personal against the program, his 16 goals in two games beg to differ.
"I don’t know. I just play well against them. It was a great experience," he said. "It was a great team win for us — a great conference win. (I) hope we can keep it rolling next week against Maryland."
This also marked the third straight season that the Knights have defeated their conference foes from Ann Arbor.
Head coach Brian Brecht joked after the game that he challenged Mullins to top last year's 8 goals, and was disappointed that he didn't.
"I told him he needed 9 goals, he needed to do one better so he let me down in that regard, but he’s been great for us," Brecht said. "Talk about a strong competitor and a great teammate and someone who can really allow us to get to this level."
And while Mullins's 8 goals are nothing to scoff at, the most surprising performance of the day came from Vercruysse.
After starting the first game of the season, Vercruysse made way for true freshman attacker Tommy Coyne for the next nine.
But on Sunday, with Coyne feeling under the weather, Vercruysse had his number called — and he delivered.
"After I was told I was going to be starting, I just trusted the process," he said. "I got to give credit to all my teammates. I can’t do what I do unless they’re all playing with me, so credit to them."
He had a career-high 4 goals and added in an assist for good measure.
Brecht added that the performance was a testament to Vercruysse's work ethic during the week.
"I think it tells you how he practices, how he goes about his business. He’s a senior that when his number was called, he responded," Brecht said. "Injuries happen and people get sick, that’s part of the game and when you have a good team and you practice the way he does and we do, you have some depth to go to guys who can step up and have monster games for us."
Maybe the only obstacle for Rutgers on Sunday was dealing with Michigan's pesky style of play.
The Wolverines were incredibly physical and were clearly trying to rattle the Knights early on.
Michigan had an opportunity to go a man-up down just 1-0 in the first quarter, but spoiled it in favor of being overly-physical. The second senior defender Michael Rexrode would have picked up a loose ball, the game would have stopped and the Wolverines would've had a 30-second man-up situation.
Instead, with the ball on the carpet, Decker Curran committed an unnecessary roughness penalty, giving Rutgers the ball and a man-up opportunity. That took away a scoring chance for Michigan and was one of many reasons why the ranked team failed to score a goal for the first 34 minutes of the game.
The Knights were the composed team on Sunday and the final score of 16-8 reflected that.
"I certainly noticed (the physicality) and with the Senior Day and the alumni here, we did talk about controlling our emotions, and (I) give them a lot of credit," Brecht said. "Proud of them of not only executing the game plan but keeping such a special day and all the people here — keeping the emotions in check to get a big win for our seniors and our program moving forward. (sic)"