July 21, 2018 | ° F

Knights open homestand against Hens

 There is always an added excitement and urgency to perform in a team's home opener and the Rutgers men's soccer team is no exception.

But a pair of games this weekend within the confines of Yurcak Field can also serve as a powerful forgetting tool for the Scarlet Knights (0-1).

"We hope to show, in front of our fans, that the last game was a fluke," said senior captain Yannick Salmon, whose team fell, 3-0, in its season opener at Lehigh. "We are usually a good home team, so we have to make sure we get a win every time."

The Knights welcome Colonial Athletic Association foe Delaware (1-1) first under the lights Friday night before facing intra-state opponent St. Peter's (1-1) on Sunday afternoon.

These are two winnable games that can jumpstart this season and make memories from the rough night in Bethlehem, Pa., a thing of the past.

"You're 0-0 at home and you certainly want to get off on the right foot in front of the home crowd," said head coach Dan Donigan. "If we can get two wins this weekend that would be fantastic — then we are at 2-1 and riding a two-game win streak. It would be beautiful. But any coach and any player will tell you, you've got to take one game at a time."

After this weekend, the Knights remain at home for three more games on a homestand that lasts until Sept. 24.

Rutgers has to get its licks in during these five games, with the team not playing more than one game at a time in Piscataway for the rest of the season.

"We are very optimistic going into these five home games," said senior captain and defender Paulie Calafiore. "We know the opportunity we have in front of us and we just want to hit the ground running and leave nothing behind."

As a whole, the Knights are 5-2-3 in home openers since 2000, the most memorable being an 8-0 victory over West Virginia at the turn of the millennium. Rutgers defeated Delaware in its home opener in 2008 by a 2-1 score.

For seniors such as Salmon and Calafiore, there is an understanding of the impression left on the fan base after a solid performance at home for the first time.

"Every home opener brings a level of excitement," Calafiore said. "On the road, if things go bad, it takes a little bit more to pull yourself out of a slump. But at home, you're fighting not only for yourself, but the name on the jersey and right there in the stands. Everybody wants to play hard for their home fans."

First on the docket is Delaware, which was picked this season to finish 10th in the Colonial Athletic Association. The Blue Hens kicked off their 2010 campaign with a win against Western New York school Canisius by a 3-1 score.

However, Delaware fell in its second game of the year, 1-0, to Bradley, which is undefeated on the year.

After Friday's tussle with the Blue Hens, the Knights welcome St. Peter's on Sunday to Piscataway. Liad Amir leads the Peacocks with two goals in as many games after a 2-1 loss to Bradley and a 2-0 win over Hofstra.

The homestand continues with contests against Long Island, Hartford and ends against Marquette — Rutgers' first Big East matchup of the year.

This home stretch won't be deemed a success if the Knights do not show a vast improvement from last week's game this Friday against Delaware — the only opponent on Donigan's mind for the time being.

"They are tough and more than capable," he said. "They are coming in here against a Big East team and want to knock us off. We've got to expect a very tough game and that is what we are going to be ready for."


For immediate coverage of Friday's game, visit the Targum Sports Blog at targumsports.blogspot.com.

A.J. Jankowski

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