No. 19 Rutgers prepares for challenge in No. 3 Maryland

The Rutgers men's lacrosse team is gearing up for a must-win battle on Sunday, as it welcomes No. 3 Maryland to Stadium in a game that could have postseason implications.

The No. 19 Scarlet Knights (6-5, 1-1) currently find themselves in the fourth and final spot of the Big Ten Tournament, but a loss to the Terrapins (9-2, 1-1) could send them on the outside looking in with two games to play.

Maryland boasts an elite attacking unit, with the frontline of Logan Wisnauskas, Jared Bernhardt and Anthony DiMaio combining to average 13.2 goals per game. If Rutgers is going to disrupt the Terrapins' attack and create opportunities in transition, it’ll need to cause turnovers and pick up ground balls at every opportunity. 

“When it comes down to 60 minutes on game day it comes down to what we focus on and how we as players do clearing the ball, picking up ground balls and making sure that we’re on the same page every step of the way,” said fifth-year senior goalie Max Edelmann.

Another challenge for the Knights will be winning possessions and turning those possessions into quality scoring opportunities. The face-off unit has struggled all season, currently winning only 40.4% of face-offs on the season. 

Maryland won’t make it easy for Rutgers on Sunday, as starter Austin Henningsen has won 62.3% of his face-offs this season. If the Knights can’t get into a rhythm at the "X" on Sunday, they’ll have to get aggressive in other aspects of the game.

“At the end of the day, we’re going to have to figure out a way to even out the score sheet,” said head coach Brian Brecht. “We need to make sure we’re clearing the ball to have those offensive opportunities, we need to do a better job riding the ball to prevent them from having extra opportunities, and maybe do a better job with those 50-50 ground balls.”

If it can win those 50-50 possessions, then Rutgers can get the ball to an attack that is among the most efficient in the country. As a team, the Knights have scored on 29.5% of their shots this season. That is due in large part to the goal efficiency of sophomore attacker Adam Charalambides, who is scoring on 35.5% of his shots this season.

Another x-factor for Rutgers is junior attacker Kieran Mullins, who is an elite scorer in his own right with 21 goals on the year. His main role is to be the de facto quarterback of the offense, operating behind the cage and using his vision to create high-quality shots for his teammates in the attacking zone.

The Knights are going up against arguably their toughest opponent yet. Maryland is a team that routinely pulls in some of the best recruiting classes in the country and competes for a national championship every year. 

But Rutgers has come up big in these types of games before. Two weeks ago, it knocked off then-No. 4 Ohio State 14-6 in the biggest win of the year. Pulling an upset off again won’t be a simple task, but the team is locked in and focused on getting the job done against the Terrapins.

“I think that it’s important to know who we’re going up against and to know how talented they are and what their tendencies are,” Edelmann said. “But when it comes down to game day it’s worrying about our fundamentals and our game plan and our personnel.”

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

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