Graduating senior midfielder Brian Ruggiero isn’t the biggest player Tufts lacrosse has seen come through its ranks the past few seasons. He doesn’t score all the goals, he doesn’t get all the assists and he rarely makes a headline. But Ruggiero is a seasoned vet who remembers well the Jumbos’ 2010 National Championship run and knows from experience that it takes a whole lot more than sheer talent to win a national title.
“Brian always knows when it’s the right time to joke around with the guys,” graduating senior co-captain attackman Andrew Fiamengo said. “But when we’re in the weight room, he’s making sure we’re getting our work done; when we’re in the library, making sure we’re getting our classwork done. Simply one of the best leaders we have.”
Off the field, there is no doubt Ruggiero has been key in molding this year’s group of 50 players into a team. On the field, however, Ruggiero has found his niche as a key contributor to Tufts lacrosse.
After starting every game for the Jumbos, Ruggiero leads the team with 194 faceoff wins, and has a team-high 79 groundballs – each of those numbers are good for second in the NESCAC. Not bad for a guy who did not see consistent playing time until this season.
“I’m not the most talented player, and I think I know that,” Ruggiero admitted. “There have been times in my four years here where I wasn’t getting much time on the field, so I respect what a privilege it is to be between those lines. I make sure to go out there every day, work my absolute hardest and leave it all out on the field.”
Growing up, Ruggiero was a multi-sport athlete, but didn’t start playing lacrosse until the eighth grade. He quickly developed into a faceoff specialist and was eventually recruited to Tufts to help fulfill that role. Forced to fill big shoes after legendary faceoff specialist Nick Rhoads (E ’12) graduated last year, Ruggiero entered the season as the team’s primary faceoff option. The graduating senior did not disappoint.
“Every game, Brian is crucial for us, but I’ll always look back to our Stevenson game earlier this year,” Fiamengo said. “He was unbelievable, and was an integral part of us winning that game.”
In that game, played in Baltimore against then-No. 2 Stevenson University, Ruggiero won 11 of 17 faceoffs, including five of six in the fourth quarter, against the fifth-best faceoff team in all of Div. III lacrosse. The performance helped lift Tufts to its second win of the season, edging out the Mustangs in a narrow 7-6 decision.
Ruggiero repeated his outstanding efforts at X in the NESCAC championship game against Wesleyan this May, again securing 11 of 17 faceoffs en route to Tufts’ fourth consecutive NESCAC title.
“From my experience this year, you have to have a short memory when playing lacrosse, especially in the faceoff X,” Ruggiero said. “Any given day, someone can have your number, and the best way to remedy that is to focus on what you can control, and just win the next one.”
In the middle of another championship run, and still focused on winning the next faceoff, the next ground ball and the next game, Ruggiero stepped back to reflect on what has been an amazing four years.
“The biggest part of my experience as a member of Tufts lacrosse has been with Coach [Mike] Daly” Ruggiero said. “He’s relentless in preaching winning, and never allowing complacency. Even after some of the wins we have, those are some of the hardest days in the film room, because you just can’t be complacent, in lacrosse and in life. Never be complacent with what you do, and always try to be the best.”
Ruggiero is graduating today with a degree in biology-psychology and will take his motivation for success to Harvard Dental School in the fall.