Hawks hand Rutgers rotten result
History has a habit of repeating itself.
Head coach Brian Brecht drew a long breath through his nose and exhaled slowly from his mouth in an attempt to compose himself for his postgame interview.
The obvious first question — what did he tell his team in the locker room after the game?
Brecht began again with a deep breath, followed by a sigh before answering.
“I was at a loss for words. I don’t think you have the words for every situation, but I kept it short and sweet,” he said.
After fighting tooth and nail for a victory over a winless Wagner on Tuesday, the Rutgers men’s lacrosse team faced a similar threat in Saturday’s game against Monmouth.
The Scarlet Knights hosted a Hawks team still in its infancy after joining Division I lacrosse in 2014. Entering the matchup, Monmouth had failed to win a single game at the Division I level, going 0-14 in its inaugural season and beginning 0-1 in 2015.
But on Saturday, everything changed.
Rutgers wrote itself into the history books in a way the Knights would rather forget.
Rutgers handed the Hawks their first Division I win, falling 10-9 after dominating play in nearly every statistical category.
But the story sounds familiar.
The Knights came into the Wagner game with a decided edge on paper, but the game was tied at nine after three quarters until Rutgers kicked it into high-gear in the fourth, negating an upset bid with a 13-10 win.
Four days later, when the Hawks descended upon the banks, it was the same story.
Rutgers jumped out to an early 3-1 lead after goals by a pair of freshmen in midfielder Chad Toliver and attacker Jules Heningburg, along with junior attacker Scott Bieda, only to see it fade quickly with the Hawks taking a 6-4 lead into the half.
The two teams went back and forth through the final two periods, with Monmouth mounting a three-goal run to go from down, 8-7, to up, 10-8.
The Knights added a man-up goal with four minutes left to play to draw within one, but a desperation dart from midfielder Jeff George was thwarted in the waning moments. And when the horn sounded, the Hawks had their program’s first win.
“Obviously, we’re disappointed, a little upset, a little shocked,” said senior faceoff specialist Joe Nardella. “(Monmouth) executed better than we did down the stretch and that’s why they ended up coming away with the win.”
Another area that has lacked stability and consistency in execution is the play at the goaltending position.
Junior Kris Alleyne was named the starter at the season’s outset and held the title through the first three games before being ceded by junior backup Jake Andersen, Tuesday against Wagner.
The change was short-lived.
After giving up six first half goals, Rutgers inserted Alleyne for Andersen in the second half.
But the incumbent’s performance was equally underwhelming.
When the Knights began Saturday’s game with Monmouth, freshman Alex Larson was in net at high noon at High Point.
The youngster did not appear ready for the responsibility, allowing six first half goals while saving just two. Alleyne played the second half yet again, surrendering just four goals, but four was enough.
The Knights' coach was candid when asked postgame if he knew who would be in the cage for Tuesday’s tilt with Army.
“After today (Monmouth), no I don't. And I think that’s one of the things we need to figure out going forward.” Brecht said. “It’s a big concern. It concerns me that we haven’t had a lot of saves the last couple games and when you win a lot of the stats and you’re close in some games, you look at everything –– one shot, one groundball, one save –– everything,” he said.
Much like the narrow win over Wagner, the Knights outshot the Hawks by 10 and scooped 19 more groundballs.
Nardella dominated at the X, winning a whopping 87 percent of his faceoffs (20-23).
But still, somehow, the game was lost.
Senior Brian Goss tried to view the game with tactful restraint.
“A couple bounces here and there and we just didn’t execute when we needed to,” Goss said. “We really gotta focus on ourselves and learn from the mistakes that we made if we want to get better as a team.”
Nardella all but confirmed the Knights' mindset for Monmouth wasn’t conducive to victory.
“We thought that we were going to have a better day than we did ... (I) give a lot of credit to (Monmouth), they played hard, especially down the stretch, and they executed when we didn’t,” the senior said.
Nardella and his team know exactly the type of opponent they will be facing Tuesday and they won’t let this lesson go unnoticed.
“If (Wagner) or losing to Richmond and Virginia wasn’t a wake up call, this has gotta be one,” he said.
For updates on the Rutgers men's lacrosse team, follow @KevinPXavier and @TargumSports.