No. 15 Rutgers prepares to visit high-octane Brown

The Rutgers men's lacrosse team is set to kick off a crucial three-game road stretch on Saturday when the team heads to Providence, Rhode Island to take on Brown.

The No. 15 Scarlet Knights (3-1) are coming off a 12-7 win over Fairfield, where senior goalie Max Edelmann and the offense were clutch down the stretch putting away the Stags.

After being ranked No. 18 to start the season, the Bears (1-1) had a poor start, losing in overtime to an unranked Quinnipiac team.

They bounced back a week ago, blowing out Stony Brook by a score of 18-11. In that game, faceoff specialist Ted Ottens went 18-of-24 (75 percent) from the 'X' and added two assists to keep Brown in control.

That is immediately a matchup to look for, as senior faceoff specialist Joe Francisco is back to full strength for Rutgers and went 11-of-18 (61.1 percent) against Fairfield. Head coach Brian Brecht would not commit to Francisco as the lone starter, as he has used senior Alex Schoen extensively this season. 

"(Francisco) is right in the mix, and he was our starter last year," Brecht said. "Schoen and him took all the reps two years ago. I like the two-headed monster and the 1-2 punch that we have with both of them right now fully healthy."

The Knights will also have their hands full with a top-five scoring offense that is averaging 14.5 goals per game. But if there's one constant on this Rutgers team, it is the play of Edelmann and the defense.

Three of the Knights' four starters on defense are seniors and have seen just about everything. Brecht is fully confident in his back line, as it is a top-10 scoring defense in the country and is tied for tops in the Big Ten with 7.75 goals allowed per game.

"Brown is a high-octane, pedal down, go, go go (offense)," Brecht said. "... I don't wanna say they're reckless, but they're certainly high-risk, high-reward. Our defense is gonna have to be mature, sound, make good decisions (and) get stops."

Senior captain Michael Rexrode, a four-year starter on defense, said that when Edelmann gets into a groove in the cage, he and the back line are more loose and play better together.

Jules Heningburg, another senior captain and attacker, said the same thing about the faceoff 'X,' noting that holding possessions gives the team better flow and leads to better possessions.

"When your goalie's making saves and when you're winning faceoffs, those are two specialty areas that really motivate not only the guys on the field but it also excites the bench as well," Brecht said of Edelmann and the play at the 'X.'

The Bears' defense is not quite at the same level, giving up 11.5 goals per game against two unranked teams. Heningburg is tied for third in the country with his 21 total points on the season and is playing his best lacrosse in his final season on the Banks.

Sophomore Kieran Mullins is a year wiser and the two of them have acted as mentors to true freshman Tommy Coyne, who has been thrown into the fire as the third starter up top. 

The three of them all have different games and the more they play together, the better they will be. As for now, Heningburg said as long as they can limit unforced errors, Rutgers should be able to take care of business on Saturday.

"I think just kinda taking better shots," Heningburg said on what the team needs to improve upon. "Not forcing the ball inside as much. Just understanding that possession time matters against these teams. I think that we're gonna dial it in this week."

For updates on the Rutgers men's lacrosse team, follow @GriffinWhitmer and @TargumSports on Twitter.

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