Knights confident heading into Marquette matchup
The Rutgers men's soccer team won three straight matches and are unbeaten at home thus far.
So when Marquette travels to Piscataway tonight for a Big East showdown, the Golden Eagles better not forget to pack their "A" game.
Pepper in the fact that it is the fifth straight game at Yurcak Field for the Scarlet Knights, and Marquette might need the Midas touch to compete.
The Knights might not have played their best soccer early on, but the results do not lie.
"We've had our ups and downs, we've been a little inconsistent," said head coach Dan Donigan, whose team sits at 3-1-1 overall. "We are just trying to instill a winning mentality where we are expecting to win and making sure we give ourselves every chance to be successful."
The Knights have received their coach's message loud and clear.
"It's big time. We definitely need to win this game and I believe that we should win this game," said junior forward Sam Archer. "Marquette is a Big East team and a bigger challenge, but we're Rutgers. We are better than Marquette, so we should beat them."
Rutgers enters tonight's matchup fresh off of a weekend that saw it take down Hartford and Long Island by scores of 2-1 and 2-0, respectively.
The Knights kicked off their homestand a week prior with a come-from-behind tie against Delaware and a hard-fought victory against St. Peter's on a sloppy pitch.
Things have not gone nearly as well for Marquette.
The Golden Eagles (1-3-2) stumble into Piscataway with no road wins on their record and fresh off a 1-1 tie with Michigan. Their only win came against Florida Gulf Coast.
Granted, the level of competition Marquette faced was high with games against ranked Michigan State, California-Santa Clara and Milwaukee, but this is a team that only owns three goals through six games.
Nevertheless, Donigan sees a tough Big East test coming for his team.
"I don't look at their record as any indication of the type of team they are. I've seen two game tapes on them and they are a very talented, very hard-working, fast team," he said. "They are a Big East team, so you expect the best out of them. Hopefully our guys come out and are ready to go."
The Knights, on the other hand, scored eight goals through five games. For a team that only managed 21 tallies all of last season, the scoring output needs to continue into Big East play.
"It's going to be a huge game for us, going up against our first Big East opponent," said junior forward Ibrahim Kamara, one of five Knights to register a goal this season. "They are not a bad team, we just got to keep doing what our coaches are telling us to do and we should be good."
On the defensive side of the ball, the Knights defense settled down since giving up three goals in a season-opening loss to Lehigh and two goals in the tie with Delaware. Since the draw with the Blue Hens, Rutgers allowed only one goal in three games.
Goalkeeper Adam Klink leads the Big East in save percentage at 0.909, and is second in goals against average at 0.32.
The defensive corps also got healthier this past week, with senior outside back Chris Edwards ready to go against Marquette after missing Sunday's matchup with a hamstring injury he suffered against Long Island.
"He'll be available, but realistically, he probably won't be at 100 percent," Donigan said. "If we need him, he'll be able to go."
If need be, Fairleigh Dickinson transfer Dragan Naumoski will see time in Edwards' stead. Naumoski registered the assist on Sunday's game winning overtime goal from junior Bryant Knibbs.
The offensive firepower is much more of a factor in Rutgers' game than in years past and Donigan wants that to continue.
"We always try to impose our game on opponents especially in a home match," he said. "The more positives you get than the more you can run with. So it's very important for us [to win today], but at the same time, we aren't going to put our whole season on this game. We are going to take it one game at a time. It's our first Big East game. It's the last of five home games for us, so there are plenty of reasons to want to go out and win. We want three points."