After three straight wins over ranked opponents, undefeated No. 5 Rutgers lacrosse can be on cruise control Friday night against winless NJIT.
Rutgers (8-0) learned the hard way to take no team lightly, but the final result was a grind-it-out 10-6 win. Beating NJIT sets Rutgers on its best start as a program in 62 years.
“If you would have told me when the season started that, halfway through the season, we'd be 8-0 coming out of spring break, I would have taken it in an instant,” said head coach Brian Brecht. “We've had some challenges. We've risen to the challenges in front of us. We've handled, for the most part, the adversity and obstacles in front of us. It's not always perfect. It certainly wasn't perfect and ideal last night but we are 8-0.”
Rutgers has two other top-five programs coming soon in Big Ten play, but after a lesson learned Friday against NJIT, Brecht's players will not look past next week's road trip to Delaware.
“After the performance last night, I like to think that we'll be very motivated and prepared and ready to go against Delaware next week,” Brecht said. “I'm not concerned with that right now. I'm more concerned with the way we played last night and the way we handled last night. After the success of beating Princeton, which is a huge win for our program and our alumni, if we want to be a great program, we're going to have to handle the quick turnarounds. We're going to have to handle the teams that we're playing whether they're ranked or not.”
To hit 8-0, Rutgers used hat tricks from freshman Kieran Mullins and sophomore Casey Rose. Max Edelmann made eight saves in goal, improving to 11-0 as a Rutgers starter.
“There's not a lot of surprises if you look at the day-to-day production and growth and development of our younger players,” Brecht said. “We're a team where, I don't know if we're going to lean on one or two guys every game. We're a team that is just that. We're going to have success due to the success of everyone doing their job collectively. I think our assistant coaches don't do a good job, they do a great job preparing ourselves each week. When we follow the game plan and we do our jobs and play together, we're a very good team.”
Brecht on Upcoming Games...
“We're starting an opportunity now with the second half of the season. They're all weekend games where we have a full week to prepare, to be healthy, to get our minds and bodies right to take on the challenges. To say we're not in a good place would be disingenuous.”
On Strong Group of Leaders...
“I would never say I'm disappointed in the leadership. One of the reasons we've been able to come so much adversity and injury is because of the great leadership with the captains and the KLA Group (Knights Leadership Alliance) we put together in the fall, we established leadership and mentors for our young guys. The team was going to be very different from last year. … There's times that we let our guards down a little bit and we might have let our guard down a little bit on Thursday and Friday and it showed a little bit Friday night. I'm hoping that this is a resilient, motivated, mature group that will take a few days to decompress everything and come back ready to go on Monday for a full week of preparation against Delaware.”