(Photo Courtesy of Rutgers Athletics)
The 2021 season was a historic one for the Rutgers Scarlet Knights. Not only did they end the program’s 16-year NCAA Tournament drought, but won a game in the tournament to advance to the NCAA Quarterfinals for the first time since 1990.
While the years of sweat, blood, and tears from veteran players such as Adam Charalambides, Kieran Mullins, and those that came before them helped build Rutgers lacrosse to the point it has risen to under the direction of Coach Brian Brecht, the Scarlet Knights’ 2021 success can be, at least in part, contributed to Rutgers’ aggressiveness in the transfer market last summer.
Attackman Connor Kirst tallied 53 points off 37 goals and 16 assists as Rutgers’ second-leading scorer last season while his brother, Colin, anchored the Scarlet Knights’ defense with 179 saves and a 57% save percentage. The pair of brothers arrived as grad transfers from Villanova and Lehigh. Additionally, the Scarlet Knights’ primary faceoff man, Jonathan Dugenio, found his way to Rutgers from St. John’s via the transfer portal.
After being one of the winners of the transfer portal last season, and having success with transfers in prior years as well, Rutgers is once again turning to the portal and grabbing grad transfers to help bolster their roster in 2022.
Over the past week, Rutgers has landed former Penn midfielder Mitch Bartolo, former Salisbury (DIII) defenseman Brad Apgar, and goalie Toby Burgdorf from Providence. The trio joins former Wesleyan (DIII) attackman Ronan Jacoby who announced earlier in the spring that he would be joining the Scarlet Knights as a grad transfer in 2022.
Bartolo comes to Rutgers after a solid but bumpy career at Penn. After a season-ending leg injury cut his freshman season short, Bartolo came back in 2019 and put together the best season of his career, which was also the only full season he had with the Quakers. The Norwalk, Conn., native put up 24 points off 17 goals and seven assists during that 2019 season that saw Penn make an NCAA Quarterfinals run. He had a career-high four-point (3G/1A) outing to help lead Penn in their overtime loss against Yale in that quarterfinal contest.
The 6-foot-6, 225-pound midfielder appeared in all three of the Quakers’ 2020 contests before the season was shut down, scoring two goals and dishing out one assist. In 2021, the Ivy League did not play but Penn did get one game in against Cabrini (DIII). Bartolo had an assist, caused a turnover, and scooped up a ground ball in the blowout, 23-9, victory.
With Bartolo joining Jacoby, who led not only his team but the entire NESCAC in scoring during a five-game 2021 season with 27 points off 22 goals and five assists and is a three-time All-NESCAC selection, the Scarlet Knights gain a significant boost needed to soften the blow of losing their top three scorers in Adam Charalambides, Connor Kirst and Kieran Mullins. The trio accounted for 57% of the Scarlet Knights’ offensive production this past season with a combined for 165 of Rutgers’ 289 points coming from those three alone.
Apgar comes to Rutgers after a four-year career at Salisbury in which he started every game of his final three seasons and was twice named an All-American (2019, 2021). The Milford, N.J., native was second in caused turnovers with 26 and fifth in ground balls with 39 for while helping to lead the Seagulls to an NCAA title game appearance.
Burgdorf spent the final two seasons of his career with Providence as the Friars’ stater in between the pipes and asserted himself as one of the most reliable goalies in the Big East and across the DI landscape. After an 81-save (.628% save percentage) performance during the shortened 2020 season, the Westfield, N.J., native made 163 saves with a .509% save percentage while helping lead Providence to the Big East Tournament. He racked second-team All-Big East honors.
The addition of Apgar adds even more talent and depth to a close defense unit that saw drastic improvement last season and will return not only All-Big Ten LSM Ethan Rall and first-year starting defenseman Bobby Russo. Burgdorf will, at least, compete for the starting job in goal and gives the Scarlet Knights the opportunity to have a grad transfer be the guy in between the pipes for the second straight season.
With the four grad transfers that Coach Brian Brecht and his staff hav picked up thus far combined with the amount of returning contributors on both ends, as well as possibly impact freshmen, Rutgers has themselves a squad that could very well be sitting in a very good position again next season.