Matchup provides prospect for new rival
When it comes to college athletics, few programs have a longer history than Rutgers.
The Scarlet Knights are among the first American institutions to engage in intercollegiate athletics, participating in their first sporting event in 1866.
While Rutgers is often celebrated for being the birthplace of college football, the men’s lacrosse program also carries some deep roots.
The Knights began playing lacrosse in 1887, lasting for three years before folding and were reinstated in 1920.
Since its return, Rutgers has had multiple periods of national prominence, appearing in five NCAA tournaments and producing six National Lacrosse Hall of Famers.
Tomorrow, the Knights (3-2) will add to their programs illustrious history when they play Monmouth for the first time in High Point Solutions Stadium.
“I coached [head coach of Monmouth Brian Fisher] when he was a senior, when I was an assistant [at Rutgers], so being able to have that and grow the game of lacrosse, it makes sense for us to play,” said head coach Brian Brecht. “We’re a half-hour away, and I think it’s going to be one as the sport grows in New Jersey. … This Rutgers-Monmouth game, 10, 20, 30 years from now could be just as much of a big rivalry as the Rutgers-Princeton game is now.”
The Knights enter the matchup with their 9-8 overtime win Tuesday at No. 20 Army still fresh in their minds.
Notorious for losing a majority of its games during the final minutes of play last season, Rutgers showed an encouraging sign of progress with the victory.
But no matter how big the result, Brecht stresses that you are only as good as your next game.
“It’s just a matter of us refocusing and putting the last two games behind us and get in the next one, which is certainly a mark of a good team,” Brecht said. “Win, lose or draw it’s about refocusing, getting the next one and taking care of the home turf.”
Monmouth (0-3) is in its inaugural season as a Division I lacrosse program, fielding 32 freshmen on its 41-player roster.
The Hawks failed to score in double digits in all three of their games thus far, and dropped a 6-7 four-overtime game to Wagner, which Rutgers dominated, 20-5, earlier in the year.
Despite Monmouth’s struggles and inexperience, senior defender Nicholas Contino, who was named to the Big East Weekly Honor Roll this week, says the opponent does not matter.
“We always try to worry about ourselves and play our game,” Contino said. “We don’t like to look at who we’re playing against. It’s always what we have to do, and make sure we do things the right way to make sure we get ourselves a win.”
Senior attacker Scott Klimchak is one of the Knights who exemplify focusing on their own game.
After having his 20-game goal-scoring streak broken away to Stony Brook last Saturday, the Clark, N.J., native stuck to his style of play, responding with a four-goal performance against Army, including the game winner in overtime.
The output pushed Klimchak’s career total to 103 goals, placing him eighth all-time in Rutgers’ history.
Klimchak’s team-leading 17 goals also have Rutgers tied for ninth in the nation with No. 4 John Hopkins in scoring offense.
After a tiring four-straight road games and no severe weather conditions ahead to ruin the Knights long-awaited debut inside the stadium, Klimchak and the rest of the team aim to continue their momentum.
“It’ll be good that we get to play at home,” Klimchak said. “The bus rides sometimes are a little bit of a pain, but finally getting to play home, with home-field advantage in the stadium, it will be a nice change.”
For updates on the Rutgers men’s lacrosse team, follow @TargumSports on Twitter.