September 20, 2018 | ° F

Knights face rematch in opener

Photo by Tian Li |

Senior attacker Nick DePaolera scored a career-high five goals in the Knights’ opener last season against Manhattan. RU returns 97 percent of its offensive production from last year’s team.

The Rutgers men’s lacrosse team’s regular season campaign starts identical to how last year began, playing host to Manhattan.

The Scarlet Knights were set to start the season in their new home at High Point Solutions Stadium, but because of weather conditions will face off at the RU Turf Field at the stadium complex.

Despite the last minute change, the Knights remain upbeat about playing the rest of their home games at High Point Solutions Stadium.

The change in facility was made in order to enhance the fans experience and help in recruiting, but the switch in scenery will also provide the team a fresh new start following last year’s 2-13 campaign.

“We’re real excited about [playing at High Point Solutions Stadium],” said senior attacker Scott Klimchak. “It’s a big venue and everyone’s real excited to get in there and play the first game in there … and it creates a nice home field advantage in a big stadium like that and it’s a great atmosphere to play in.”

The Knights easily defeated Manhattan last year, holding the Jaspers to just one goal during the first half in a 15-6 victory.

Senior attacker Nick DePaolera led the way with a career-high five goals in the matchup. Senior midfielder Steve DiGiovanni and sophomore attacker Nick Kilkowski also contributed multi-goal games.

The Knights return every single player who registered a point against the Jaspers last year.

Despite the relative ease to which Rutgers won last season, head coach Brian Brecht warned that his team cannot be complacent.

“I think right now I look at our schedule and I see 15 games that are either 50/50 pushes or reaches in my honest opinion,” Brecht said. “So we take no one for granted. … We’re going to have to show up for 60 minutes. We do not have any games where we can just roll out the balls and this one on Saturday is certainly not going to be any different.”

Another change the Knights will face against the Jaspers comes at the defensive end.

Defender Ed Bartleson, who played a large role in the team’s backline, graduated and leaves a gap to fill.

But promising freshman defender Chris Groel is pegged to make major contributions and sophomore Kris Alleyne, the reigning Big East Goalkeeper of the Year, returns with more experience.

With the return of senior captains Andrew Parrilla and Nicholas Contino, the Knights’ defense should be stronger than last season.

“Everything is coming together pretty well,” Parrilla said. “We’re getting better every single day with each other and that’s what we want to continue to do … but we still have a long way from where we want to be.”

A strong preseason and a new year have the Knights very optimistic entering the season, but despite that spirits are high, the team still feels they have plenty to prove.

“We are not ranked as high as our kids would like to be, so if they want to prove that that’s not who they are then it starts with each and every game that we have,” Brecht said. “We have 15 games starting with Manhattan, and that is the only thing we’ve been focused on for the last week and a half.”

By Sean Stewart

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