While the fate of Big Ten spring sports hasn’t been decided, the Rutgers men’s lacrosse team has continued to add to its roster in the hopes of being a threat for whenever the season starts.
The 2021 recruiting class has 18 members, six of whom are transfers. Within that group, there are two sets of brothers, including twins. The delegation of veterans has a combined 17 seasons of experience at the Division I level.
Headlining the group is graduate student midfielder Connor Kirst. In four years at Villanova, he saw minutes in 52 games and racked up 126 points, including 84 goals with 8 counting as game winners.
The former captain’s award list includes being an Inside Lacrosse First Team All-American this past season, as well as BIG EAST Midfielder of the Year in 2019. His brother Colin Kirst also joins the Scarlet Knights as a graduate student goalkeeper after recording one start in 11 games at Lehigh, where he compiled a .434 save percentage. The Kirst brothers went to different high schools across New Jersey and now have the opportunity to suit up together on the Banks.
Rutgers lacrosse runs in the Kirst family, as their father Kyle Kirst was a goalkeeper from 1988-90 and was later inducted into the New Jersey Lacrosse Hall of Fame.
Joining Colin Kirst at midfield are transfer juniors Andrew and Justin Kim. The twins have followed each other throughout their careers, first to Don Bosco Prep, then to Syracuse and now to the Knights. While playing for the Orange, they didn’t have much of an impact in the limited number of games they played. While the Rutgers midfield is still fairly young, there will still be space for the Kims to fill in with the departure of a few seniors last season.
Also transferring to the Knights are sophomore faceoff specialist Jonathan Dugenio and graduate student long-stick midfielder Brian Ward. Last season with St. John’s, Dugenio was relied on to do most of the work when it came to faceoffs, winning 113 out of 205. His winning percentage of 55.1 percent was good for second best in the country and best among his freshman peers.
Ward is an NCAA champion. While playing for Yale, he and the rest of the Bulldogs took down the rest of the Ivy League on their way to the top. Over his four years at Yale, Ward saw time in 28 games and notched 15 ground balls.
The transfers will give Rutgers depth at many positions when the season rolls around.
Between the transfers and true freshmen recruits, there are only three attackmen: true freshmen Jack Aimone, David Burr and Nick Teresky. The scorers spent the majority of their high school careers on varsity. Burr posted 135 points, 77 of which came in 2019. Teresky was named a captain his senior season and was crowned a two-time Newsday Top 100 Lacrosse Player. He led his team in points his sophomore and junior seasons, with 46 and 65, respectively.
The four true freshmen midfielders joining the Knights are Shane Knobloch, Mason Rickens, Brian Russo and defenseman and long-stick midfielder Dante Fuller. Russo was a captain for two seasons in high school, where he tallied 121 goals and 33 assists and scooped up 195 ground balls. His efforts on the field were rewarded with All-Conference First Team, All-Junior Second Team and All-State Third Team honors in 2019.
Joining Rutgers on defense is Fuller and true freshmen defensemen Mason Everly and Kyle Tietjen. Tietjen claimed team MVP accolades in 2019 and was selected to the all-state NJ Sophomore/Freshman First Team in 2018. For three seasons he was also a part of the Top 50 Boys Lacrosse players list in New Jersey.
Among the true freshmen of 2021 recruits, there are two goalkeepers: Liam Gray and Robert Zevazvadijan. Breaking numerous records at Saint Joseph Regional, Zevazvadijan earned himself the title of captain. He owns the school records for most wins and saves, as well as save percentage for a single season and career.
Owning the faceoff circle in high school was true freshman Connor Baratta. In 2019, he won 81 percent of his faceoffs while making the 2019 Epoch IL Committed Academy All-Tournament Team. In the two previous years, he had upwards of a 70 percent winning percentage.
For now, this group will have to wait for the official word on when its season begins.
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