After winning two exciting games against Ohio State and Delaware, men’s lacrosse is returning to championship weekend for the first time since 2013. However, the team is matched up against itsits strongest opponent thus far — No. 6 seed Rutgers. The stars and siblings will be on display for this high leverage matchup.
Rutgers (15-3, 4-1 Big Ten) is in the midst of one of its most successful seasons in program history. Its 15 wins on the year is a program best, solidly surpassing its previous record of 11. Most importantly, for a team that has spent years trying to find long-term success, this year is the program’s first appearance in the final four.
The Scarlet Knights’ success has been recent, and much of it can be attributed to head coach Brian Brecht. Brecht took the helm in 2011, when the team had enjoyed only three winning seasons in the past 11 years. Though the turnaround was not immediate, Brecht has been at the center of the culture shift within the program.
After a few winning seasons in the mid 2010s, the team had a breakout in 2021, making the NCAA tournament and topping Lehigh to make the quarterfinals. Now, Brecht has the Scarlet Knights one step closer, with an opportunity to play in the program’s first ever national championship.
The Red will have to contend with a team that has strengths on offense and defense. On the back end, the Scarlet Knights have been exceptional, leading the nation with 13.22 turnovers per game and a 91.3 clearing percentage. The team’s defensive dominance is led by All-American Ethan Rall, who has 31 turnovers this season, and goalkeeper Colin Kirst, older brother of star Cornell attacker CJ Kirst.
Rutgers also has weapons on the offensive end. Despite having to retool much of his offense, Brecht has found success with Ross Scott and Mitch Bartolo, who have combined for 92 goals on the season. The Scarlet Knights have five players with 30 or more goals, which poses a major threat to the Red’s defense.
For the Red, possessions will be key. Junior faceoff specialist Angelo Petrakis had his best game of the year against Delaware, going 15 for 19 at the faceoff x. If he can continue this pace and put the ball in the hands of Kirst and fifth year attacker John Piatelli on a consistent basis, the Red will be set up for success.
On the defensive end, teamwork and communication will be crucial to shutting down the balanced Rutgers attack. Senior defender Gavin Adler will provide the anchor for the back end, as he has all year, but unlike against Ohio State, where he was able to focus entirely on Jack Myers, the threats are all across the Scarlet Knights’ offense. Everyone will need to be sharp on their assignments for a full 60 minutes for the Red to leave with a win.
The final four is being held in East Hartford, Connecticut, with the Red kicking it off against Rutgers on Saturday at noon. The game will be nationally televised on ESPN2.