While most of the Scarlet faithful had their eyes on the Big Ten Super Saturday doubleheader at Madison Square Garden, the Rutgers men’s lacrosse team opened up its season with an emphatic 20-9 win over Quinnipiac.
The Scarlet Knights (1-0) made their mark at home with a dynamic and balanced offense, as 13 different players got on the board in a game that was never really in doubt.
Senior attacker Kieran Mullins led the way for Rutgers, finishing with 7 points (2 goals, 5 assists).
"We were moving the ball fast, dodging and getting everybody a look,” said sophomore midfielder David Sprock. “We had a bunch of new goal scorers today, which was awesome to see."
The attack was red-hot fresh out of the gate, starting the game on a 6-1 run in the opening 10 minutes. At the half, the Knights scored 14 goals — their most since joining the Big Ten in 2014.
"I thought coming out the preseason this week's practice had a lot of energy," said head coach Brian Brecht. ”We were flying around the field, which was great to see.”
It was also a solid outing for junior goalkeeper Stephen Russo, who made his debut between the pipes for Rutgers. The Cleveland State transfer had 12 saves in 56 minutes of action before graduate student goalkeeper Kevin Carbone relieved him in the final 5 minutes.
The Knights controlled the game in every aspect, finishing with a 58-32 shot differential. They also had a 41-31 ground ball advantage and won 20 of their 33 faceoffs. While the Bobcats (0-1) aren’t exactly a world-beater compared to the rest of Rutgers’ schedule, it was an encouraging sign from the Knights considering their struggles at times last year, especially from the X.
While sophomore faceoff specialist Moriah Yousefi came into the year as the projected starter at his position, the bulk of the faceoffs actually were taken by senior midfielder Palmer Lloyd, who finished 16 of 26 on the afternoon.
Rutgers did a good job of forcing offense in transition off turnovers, which Brecht said was one of the key areas of improvement that the team needed to make for this season. The Knights forced 25 turnovers against Quinnipiac, which could signify major progress for Brecht’s team.
“The defense did a good job of getting stops and we did a good job with our tempo and pushing transition,” Brecht said after the game.
Another storyline to take away from this game was the promising performance of some of the younger players on the team. One standout player was true freshman attacker Ross Scott, who scored two goals in his collegiate debut. Scott is expected to be one of the key true freshmen for Rutgers this year, coming to the Banks as a two-time US Lacrosse All-American out of West Linn, Oregon.
With the team off to a hot start offensively and showing some promising signs on defense, Knights lacrosse fans have a reason to be excited about the 2020 season. Rutgers gets right into the thick of a tough schedule later in the month, facing off against two ranked opponents on the road in No. 15 Army and No. 14 Loyola.
Before that tough stretch begins, the Knights have another opportunity to take care of business against St. John's at SHI Stadium on Saturday. While Rutgers can’t possibly expect to sustain this level of offense — it hasn’t scored more than 20 goals since dropping 21 on NJIT in 2015 — the ingredients to a dangerous Big Ten offense are there, with plenty of returning talent on the roster from last year.
Add in a new-look goaltending and faceoff unit, and we could have an interesting lacrosse season on our hands here.
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