NCAA Lacrosse Preview: No. 16 Rutgers (Men)

PHOTO BY ANDY LEWIS


US Lacrosse Magazine released the Nike/US Lacrosse Division I Men’s Preseason Top 20 on Dec. 17. Team-by-team previews will be unveiled on uslaxmagazine.com through the end of the month and will also appear as part of the magazine’s NCAA preview edition in February.

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No. 16 Rutgers

2019 Record: 7-8 (2-3, Big Ten)
Coach: Brian Brecht (9th year)
Assistants: Eric Seremet, Dan Cocchi, Jimmy Ryan
All-Time Record: 621-518-4
NCAA Appearances: 9
Final Fours: 0
Championships: 0

2020 Schedule

Date

Opponent

Feb. 1 Quinnipiac
Feb. 8 St. John's
Feb. 15 @ Army
Feb. 22 @ Loyola
Feb. 29 Stony Brook
March 7 @ Princeton
March 14 Syracuse
March 17 @ Lafayette
March 21 @ Hofstra
March 28 Ohio State
April 4 Johns Hopkins
April 11 @ Michigan
April 18 @ Maryland
April 25 Penn State

Save the Date
March 28

The Scarlet Knights and Buckeyes have traded victories since the start of Big Ten lacrosse in 2015, with Rutgers dealing Ohio State a 14-6 loss last year to open conference play. This has a chance to once again be a bellwether game, and for Rutgers, claiming a victory at home to open the league slate could prove vital.

Rutgers Looking to Past for Future Success

Brian Brecht is reaching into the recent past to try to give a jolt to his Rutgers lacrosse team.

The Scarlet Knights found themselves in the NCAA tournament conversation in 2016, 2017 and 2018, emerging as a factor in the Big Ten as well after struggling for more than a decade. And especially in the case of 2016 and 2017, much of the success stemmed from being different.

Rutgers wasn’t afraid to push the pace or be unconventional with its lineups, something that faded a bit as it adjusted to different personnel the last couple seasons — particularly last year, when the Scarlet Knights dipped to 7-8.

“We need to get back to a little more of our identity that gave us some success in 2016, 2017 and 2018,” Brecht said.

Some offseason reflection on Brecht’s part offered reminders of who Rutgers’ best players in the middle of the field were when it was consistently more dangerous. It was options like Christian Mazzone, Christian Scarpello, Chad Toliver, Mark Christiano and Zackary Franckowiak.

Of that group, only Franckowiak is still on the roster. But they all have a vital common trait.

“They played a lot from end to end,” Brecht said. “That’s what we have gotten away from.”

It makes Franckowiak, in particular, a breakout candidate as a junior. He had five goals and four assists for the Scarlet Knights in 2016 as a freshman, then spent two years on a Mormon mission in Russia. He returned to Piscataway last season and played a prominent role in the defensive midfield.

His maturity and versatility should serve Rutgers this season, but for Brecht’s plan to work effectively, it’s going to require his offensive midfielders to become more adept at the defensive end as well.

It could mean more work for the likes of junior Tommy Coyne, who began his career on attack before splitting time between the attack and midfield last year. The same is true of sophomore David Sprock, who scored 10 goals while starting for much of the season on the first midfield last season.

It might prove an opportunity for senior Owen Mead (career-high 13 goals in 2019) to take another step forward, and possibly a path for juniors Brennan Kamish and Michael Sanguinetti to make a greater contributions.

“We need to get our best athletes and best players on the field as much as possible and maybe not designate offensive midfielders and defensive midfielders,” Brecht said. “It’s going to be how much punch can some of those guys that played primarily on defense deliver, like Franckowiak — which we feel like he can. And it’s how much can the guys like Sprock and Coyne and Camish and Mead sink their teeth into the defensive side of the ball.”






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Projected Starters

A – Adam Charalambides – R-Jr. – 47 G, 14 A
A – Kieran Mullins – Sr. – 23 G, 37 A
A – Ryan Gallagher – Jr. – 24 G, 20 A
M – Tommy Coyne – Jr. – 16 G, 8 A
M – David Sprock – So. – 10 G, 3 A
M – Owen Mead – Sr. – 13 G, 7 A
FO – Moriah Yousefi – So. – .720 FO%, 154 GB (at Harford Community College)
LSM – Ethan Rall – So. – 18 GB, 12 CT
SSDM – Zack Franckowiak – Jr. – 22 GB, 3 CT
D – Garrett Bullett – Jr. – 34 GB, 11 CT
D – Jack Thompson – Sr. – 14 GB, 5 CT
D – Jordan Pakzad – Jr. – 7 GB, 1 CT
G – Stephen Russo – Jr. – 10.26 GAA, .497 SV% (at Cleveland State)

Tewaaraton Watch
Adam Charalambides, A, R-Jr.

Finally healthy after missing the 2017 and 2018 seasons with injuries, the Canadian scored 47 goals (including a Big Ten-best 18 in conference play) in his return last spring. Charalambides takes a 23-game scoring streak into his third on-field season with the Scarlet Knights. Assuming he remains healthy, he’ll be one of the nation’s top attackmen.

X Factor
Moriah Yousefi, FO, Soph.

Brecht readily acknowledges, “Facing off hasn’t been a strength the last couple of years.” So while Rutgers did lose its two most tested players at the X, it was also on the hunt for upgrades all along. Yousefi arrives from Harford (Md.) Community College, and he enjoyed a strong fall. Look for sophomore Michael Ott (who is coming off an ACL tear) and senior Palmer Lloyd to also be in the mix.

National Rankings

Category

Rank

Value

Offense 38th 11.33 GPG
Defense 42nd 11.60 GAA
Faceoffs 55th 42.7%
Ground Balls 38th 31.0/game
Caused TO 43rd 7.27/game
Shooting 28th 29.4%
Man-Up 51st 30.6%
Man-Down 32nd 66.7%

37

Rutgers set a record for victories over a four-year span last season with 37 when it beat Michigan in its regular-season home finale. The Scarlet Knights’ latest senior class can match that total with an 11-win season in 2020.

Enemy Lines

“That’s a team that’s big and physical. They’re a team where, I don’t know if you can match their athleticism. You have to be able to win the 50-50s to give yourself a chance.”

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