Offense, strong start lead Knights to big victory
With the lights of High Point Solutions Stadium shining brightly over the Rutgers men’s lacrosse team Saturday night, the stage was set for the Scarlet Knights to leave a lasting impression on their new home field.
Senior attacker Scott Klimchak set himself up for a big game following his four-goal heroics against No. 20 Army last Tuesday. But freshman attacker Connor Murphy’s offensive display stole the spotlight.
Behind Murphy’s four goals and three assists, the Knights defeated Monmouth, 20-4, decimating any hopes the Hawks had in less than a quarter.
It was Murphy’s first-career start, setting career highs in goals, assists and ground balls in the game.
The Clifton, Va., native’s seven points were also the most for a Rutgers (4-2) player since Klimchak posted seven Feb. 18, 2011 against Wagner.
“It’s so cool coming here playing in the stadium,” Murphy said. “… I was looking forward to [starting]. I was really excited and a little nervous, but all the older guys, the regular starters, just helped me out and got my confidence up. I got a few good shots right at the beginning and just tried to make a difference in the game.”
While Murphy showcased career numbers, the Knights’ attack as a whole put up big stats in a dominating performance.
Leading 17-2, three Knights added goals, outscoring the Hawks, 3-2, in the fourth quarter with mostly reserve players out on the field.
Rutgers led, 11-1, at halftime before six different Knights added their own goals to stretch the lead to 15. Murphy said patience on offense was important in breaking down Monmouth’s defense.
“We didn’t really try to force anything,” Murphy said. “The midfielders did a great job dodging and drawing slides. And once they got it to us behind, we just took it over and made the right looks.”
Rutgers dominated the first half, outshooting the Hawks, 36-9, which included an eight-goal run to start the game.
Sophomore goalkeeper Kris Alleyne played in the first quarter before sophomore Jake Anderson replaced him.
Alleyne did not record a save during his 15 minutes of action but did keep a shutout with a little help from his posts.
Sixteen different Knights scored at least one goal in the game, including senior defender Nicolas Contino’s first of his career.
Remarkably, Rutgers’ leading goal scorer in Klimchak was not one of them, despite taking a team-high seven shots.
While the statistics are impressive, head coach Brian Brecht remains cautious about the road ahead.
“It’s a tough time of year because right now we go into league play and we need to start thinking about the Big East,” Brecht said. “… So hopefully we’ve had the reps and the experience against a lot of different colored jerseys that is hopefully going to help us.”
The return of junior face-off specialist Joe Nardella should be an added bonus for the Knights entering conference play.
Without Nardella, the Knights were 16-for-46 in face-offs in their previous two games against Army and Stony Brook, compared to 46-for-54 with him.
Any concerns about Nardella’s performance during his time on the sidelines vanished about a half-second into the opening face-off, with Nardella already in possession charging at Monmouth’s defenders.
He finished 11-for-12 in face-offs for the game.
“I started practicing earlier this week, so I kind of got back in the swing of things,” Nardella said. “I didn’t really feel like I missed a beat. Kind of just went back out there and felt like I was in a groove again.”
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