Knights open home schedule against ’Nova
In its first game in a critical month of April, the Rutgers men’s lacrosse team takes to the grass of Yurcak Field for the first time this season to take on No. 13 Villanova. The conference stakes could not be any higher for the Scarlet Knights.
Rutgers notched its first Big East win last week against Providence, but the victory marked only the first of three the Knights need to qualify for the tournament at the end of the season. If Rutgers cannot topple the No. 13 team in the nation, it has to go undefeated in the Big East to close out the rest of its season.
“If we can get this win against Villanova, we are one step closer to making the tournament,” said sophomore attackman Scott Klimchak. “This game could make or break our season, depending on what happens. It would be a huge win for us in the Big East.”
The Providence win saw a resurgence of the attack, which had been quiet this season behind a productive midfield led by senior co-captain Will Mangan. Klimchak alone scored four goals, supported by one goal apiece from junior attackmen Duncan Clancy and Nicholas DePaolera.
Head coach Brian Brecht hopes the newfound symmetry between the attack and midfield carries the offense against the top-rated Wildcat defense.
“Certainly Scott Klimchak came to play [at Providence] — four huge goals with the game-winner. DePaolera and Clancy each had a goal and a couple of assists — our attack play was excellent,” Brecht said. “It really complimented the play of our midfield that we have been getting all year round.”
The experience of playing against a top-ranked team likely will not surprise the Knights. Rutgers got that out of the way early, facing No. 2 Duke in its season opener. The Knights traveled to No. 6 Notre Dame only two weeks ago and nearly completed a late-game comeback.
“We have been in this situation before. Duke was a top-10 program, Notre Dame is a top-10 program,” Brecht said. “The guys are battle-tested. I do not think they are going to be nervous entering a game with the likes of Villanova.”
The opportunity to play at Yurcak Field helps to ease the pressure of both the conference implications and the caliber of their opponent.
Brecht hopes the atmosphere, along with the opportunity to wear white home jerseys after a two-week stretch on the road, motivates the Knights past their Big East opponent.
“What a great honor it is going to be to get a game finally at Yurcak Stadium,” he said. “All this spring we have been on the field turf, and now we have a chance to get to play in our 5,000-seat lacrosse stadium. I hope it gives us a little more punch and a little more juice going in to the game as we kick off the month of April.”
Whatever added motivation the Knights can get is critical, because without a victory at Yurcak, the Knights take yet another tick mark off the pivotal three wins needed to qualify for postseason play.
And as the season winds down, opportunities for those wins begin to disappear.
“The goal has always been to play games in the month of May,” Brecht said. “We do not have any games scheduled for May, so taking care of business in April will get us those games in May. This is a huge game for our senior class and a big game for our program.”