Coyne, Gallagher show promise as true freshmen for Rutgers
For a team that features 14 seniors, almost all of whom are significant contributors, there isn't too much playing time available on the Rutgers men's lacrosse team for youngsters.
But true freshmen Tommy Coyne and Ryan Gallagher have both worked their ways into the starting lineup and have both proven to be valuable additions to the No. 8 Scarlet Knights.
Coyne, an early enrollee, should still be back home in Illinois finishing up his senior year of high school at Naperville Central. Instead, he is a starting attacker on a top-10 team and ranks fourth with 20 points.
He arrived to Rutgers on Jan. 7th, so didn't participate in fall practice with the team and had less than a month with the team before the season opener on Feb. 3 against Robert Morris.
Coyne didn't start that game against the Colonials, but would join Jules Heningburg and Kieran Mullins in the starting lineup the next game for the following 9 contests.
"I was a little nervous coming in but I think all the seniors and upperclassmen really helped me transition into the college game and it's been great ever since," he said.
Coyne found out in May of 2017 that he would have the opportunity to enroll early and this past winter moved in with fellow early enrollee Joe Peterson.
While he knew he would have to give up his final semester of high school, he knew where his goals as a lacrosse player and college student stood and made the decision to join the Scarlet Knights.
"(I'm) so blessed to play here under coach Brecht and play Division I lacrosse," Coyne said. "Obviously it was weird leaving all my friends and not graduating with them or going to prom or all that stuff that high school seniors get to do."
The original plan was for Coyne to redshirt this season, but when Adam Charalambides went down with a torn ACL in the preseason, Brecht had no choice but to throw Coyne into the fire.
It took a few games, but he began to figure things out, netting his first career hat trick in his first road game against a ranked Army team.
And with Coyne already making a large impact as a guy who has been on campus for just three months, it's hard not to be excited about his future on the Banks.
As for Gallagher, he stands at just 5 foot 7, but has learned to use that size to his advantage and is has played up to every big moment of his young career. He scored the game-winning goal on the road against Brown and has an active streak of four consecutive games with a goal.
He said that growing up as the shortest kid in any sport he played, he has learned to use his height to his advantage.
"It's been this way my whole my life. Every sport I've ever played, I've always been the smallest guy there," Gallagher said. "Instead of pouting about it and whining and complaining about it, I use it to my advantage."
At first, it didn't seem like Gallagher would be getting a lot of playing time this season. Christian Trasolini had missed all of 2017 but was back for his final year in a Rutgers uniform and was a starter in the midfield with Christian Mazzone and Casey Rose.
But in the team's sixth game of the season against Princeton, it was Gallagher who got the starting nod over Trasolini and he has held that position every game since.
Gallagher added that Trasolini has been nothing but a great leader and mentor for him. Trasolini has 96 points in his Rutgers career and is still a very strong player that has been through it all as a Scarlet Knight.
"He's been awesome, he's been incredible," Gallagher said of Trasolini. "He teaches me stuff every day, whether it be shooting from the outside or just where to be off-ball and looks when I'm coming out of my dodges. He's been awesome. He's a great mentor for me. Being a fifth-year senior, he's got a ton of experience and obviously a ton of goals and assists in his career, so he's been like a big brother to me."
With all of the other midfielders on the team having been at Rutgers for at least four years, Gallagher is an outlier in terms of experience. But one wouldn't know that by watching him play, as he has proven that he is well-deserving of a starting spot on a top-10 team.
"Just working hard every day," Gallagher attributed to his strong freshman year. "I trust the guys that have been leading me. Christian Mazzone, Casey Rose, Christian Trasolini -- they've all been super-great leaders for me. I just put my head down and do my work. I think that's all we're about here."
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