No. 5 Rutgers gets third straight ranked victory of season over No. 15 Princeton
The Cup is coming home.
And for the first time since 1955, the Rutgers men's lacrosse team in 8-0.
With an undefeated week with wins against both No. 15 Princeton and at NJIT, the No. 5 Scarlet Knights have continued their undefeated start to the 2017 campaign with Big Ten play in sight.
For the first time since 2005, Rutgers was able to take down the Tigers and claim the Meistrell Cup as its own. The Knights used a combination of slick ball movement and clutch defense to take down Princeton (5-2) 16-11 on a bitter cold Wednesday night at High Point Solutions Stadium.
“This is a great win for our program, for our alumni,” said head coach Brian Brecht. “We’ve been playing this game 95 years. To have the Tots Meistrell Cup back on the Banks... Our players earned it tonight.”
The Meistrell Cup is named for Harland “Tots” Meistrell, who restarted the lacrosse programs at both Rutgers and Princeton back in 1920. The two teams have played 95 times since, though the Knights have only won it 30 times. The Tigers have been the dominant team in recent memory, having won 28 of the last 29 meeting between them going into Wednesday night.
Despite the lengthy streak, Rutgers is on track for a historic season and gave Princeton a taste of revenge.
Having a resurgence of sort for the Knights was junior attacker Jules Heningburg. He had 2 goals and 5 assists, establishing himself as an elite passer by threading the needle multiple times to freshman attacker Kieran Mullins, who had his third straight hat trick.
I think it’s always been there but I’ve just been working with coach a little bit mre,” he said. “(I’m) keeping my head up more.”
Heningburg went into this season as the only proven attacker on the team and many people expected him to be a high-volume scorer for Rutgers. Instead, he has stepped back his goal count and established himself as the main distributer for this team.
The Tewaarton Award finalist often draws double teams and instead of forcing shots, he drops passes into the middle for Mullins and other players who find themselves with point-blank scoring opportunities.
“The ball movement and the spacing we have (was great),” Brecht said. “Jules does a great job of quarterbacking and being aware of his surroundings so it’s only natural that he finds the guys.”
Heningburg has also gained himself a reputation as one of the most relentless players in the country for the effort he gives pressuring the opposing teams’ goalies and defenders when they are trying to clear the ball.
He made headlines with his spectacular goal against Penn State last year, but he is no one-hit wonder, as it is something he does every play and it helped cause multiple turnovers against Princeton and led to a fourth quarter goal for the Knights.
Mullins and senior attacker Connor Murphy get in on the action and make sure there are no easy clears for their opponents.
“I think we just take pride in the ride,” Heningburg said. “I know I came here and that was a big thing for me. Just bringing Kieran along and Murph and they just bought into the culture of riding. Coaches always encourage us to ride hard so I think that’s what we’re doing and we’re getting the ball back.”
That late goal proved to be vital, as the game got a little too close for comfort when Princeton made it a one-goal game with 11:13 left in the game thanks to Austin Sims.
But Max Edelmann, the junior in between the pipes, once again proved that he was born with the clutch gene, making four saves in the fourth quarter including a huge save on a shot by Sims that would’ve made it a 12-11 game. Instead, Heningburg fired in a shot for the transition goal that helped put the game away.
“Our defense stayed calm all night,” Edelmann said. “We let in a couple of goals and I think it was really important for us to stay calm and push in transition.”
In Rutgers’ previous game against Stony Brook, Edelmann only faced 12 shots, saving 8 of them. Against the Tigers, he faced more than twice as many, as 25 shots on goal were fired in his direction.
While more shots create more scoring opportunities for the other team, Edelmann wants to see more shots, as he is aware of how dangerous the Knights are on the fast break and is confident he can make saves and push the ball in transition.
“I love getting more shots on me,” he said. “It’s an exciting game, it’s an exciting environment. Having the shots on me, it creates a lot more opportunities in the game, pushing transition and getting goals.”
Including the victory over the Highlanders (0-8) on Friday night, Edelmann remains undefeated in his career as a starter, combining his 3-0 record from last year with his 8-0 mark this year for a perfect 11-0 career.
In that game against NJIT, it was not all smooth sailing for Rutgers, as the Highlanders hung around for much of the game, taking advantage of the fatigued Knights, who were playing their 3rd game in 7 days and second game in just three days.
Rutgers was able to overcome this, though, as sophomore Casey Rose and freshman Kieran Mullins each scored three goals to push the Knights past NJIT by a score of 10-6.
Rutgers rounds out its non-conference slate with a road contest at Delaware on Saturday, giving the Knights over a week of rest between games. After that, Rutgers opens Big Ten play at Johns Hopkins. While Delaware represents a trap game for the Knights, they very well could have a perfect 9-0 record heading into a brutal conference schedule.
“(I’m) very proud of all these guys,” said Brecht.