No. 18 Rutgers hits road for 2nd consecutive week
The Rutgers men's lacrosse team will have a chance to accomplish something special this Saturday, as it travels down to Baltimore to take on No. 20 Johns Hopkins in its second Big Ten game of the season.
The No. 18 Scarlet Knights (6-4, 1-0) are coming off a dominant upset performance against No. 7 Ohio State on the road, and are looking to build off of that momentum as they face the next long line of difficult Big Ten opponents.
For a team that struggled with top opponents in non-conference play, last weekend's win over the Buckeyes (7-1, 0-1) was a huge confidence booster.
“(The Ohio State game) was probably our first complete game,” said head coach Brian Brecht. “I thought we played really well for all 60 minutes offensively, defensively, man-down, man-up and we had to in order to defeat a really good team.”
Rutgers’ defensive unit is coming off a clinic in which it limited an elite Ohio State offense to only 6 goals. The Knights have made forcing turnovers and winning ground balls their trademark this season, and showed last weekend that they can hang with the best in college lacrosse.
Leading the way for Rutgers defensively is senior defenseman Kyle Pless, who currently is first on the team with 26 ground balls and 18 caused turnovers this season.
The Knights will have to contend with a Blue Jays (5-4, 1-0) front line led by Joey Epstein, a dynamic freshman who has 23 goals and 10 assists through nine games this season. It'll also face a proven veteran in senior Kyle Marr, who has 19 goals and eight assists on the season.
In addition to a dominant backline, Rutgers also has the clear advantage in goal, with fifth-year senior goalkeeper Max Edelmann currently leading the nation with 16.3 saves per game. That veteran presence will be critical as the Knights continue through conference play.
“(We just have to) worry about our game-plan, (and) knowing their players, knowing their shooters and understanding the type of game that they like to play,” Edelmann said.
On the attacking side of the ball, Rutgers has a frontline that is loaded with talent and firing on all cylinders.
Teewarton Award finalists attack men junior Kieran Mullins and sophomore Adam Charalambides combined for 7 goals and four assists in the win over the Buckeyes.
Charalambides is currently second in the Big Ten with 30 goals, while Mullins has been the primary facilitator for the Knights with 24 assists through 10 games.
Johns Hopkins will have difficulty containing the Rutgers offense, as sophomore starter Ryan Darby has shown growing pains in goal, currently posting a 12.16 goals against average and a save percentage of only 49.5 percent.
Exploiting this experience gap will be key to a Knights victory at Homewood Field.
Rutgers has a brutal schedule that doesn’t let up — after this game, they will face two top-three opponents in Penn State and Maryland in the next three weeks. Especially considering the fact that they are coming off a major upset, it is critical that the Knights don't lose focus on the task at hand against the Blue Jays.
It’s homecoming day for Johns Hopkins, and it'll be looking to play spoiler and silence the hype that has surrounded this Rutgers team.
“It’s going to be a tough game in a hostile atmosphere,” Brecht said. “If the Ohio State game isn’t behind us already, it needs to be.”
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