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Rutgers remains perfect after win over in-state rival Monmouth

<p>Sophomore midfielder Christian Mazzone scored a game-high 3 goals in 12-6 win over in-state rival Monmouth.</p>

Sophomore midfielder Christian Mazzone scored a game-high 3 goals in 12-6 win over in-state rival Monmouth.

The last time the Rutgers men’s lacrosse team faced off against Monmouth, it walked off the field at High Point Solutions Stadium on the short side of a one-goal game that it lead until the fourth quarter.

When the two intrastate foes met on Saturday in Long Branch, the Scarlet Knights exhibited how much they have improved since that 2015 matchup.

The No. 16 Knights (5-0) took their first lead 3 minutes and 12 seconds into the game and never gave it back in an eventual 12-6 win over the Hawks (2-1). 

Senior captain Scott Bieda continued his strong play in a 5-point effort, finding the back of the net three times and dishing out two assists.

Fresh off of being named Big Ten Defensive Player of the Week, sophomore midfielder Christian Mazzone scored a career-high three goals and picked up a team-high six groundballs.

The win marked the fourth time this season Rutgers has taken a lead early in the game and held onto it until the final horn.

Monmouth entered the game with the top scoring defense in the nation, surrendering an average of just over four goals through its first two games, but they were blitzed by the Knights’ top-10 scoring attack early and often.

Mazzone, Bieda and sophomore attacker Jules Heningburg each found the back of the cage in the first five-plus minutes of the game, respectively, to give Rutgers an early 3-0 lead. After the Hawks got on the board late in the quarter to draw the deficit to two, the Knights scored twice in the final 10 seconds of the quarter.

After an unassisted goal from sophomore midfielder Christian Scarpello with 10 seconds on the clock, Rutgers gained possession, and redshirt freshman attacker Adam Charlambides found Bieda for a goal with one tick left on the clock.

With a 5-1 lead, the Knights’ offensive momentum continued, but goalie Nick Hreshko stepped up for Monmouth. Rutgers got a total of seven shots on net in the quarter, but Hreshko stopped all of them.

It was the first time the Knights have been shutout in a quarter this season, and it allowed the Hawks to claw back into the game at 5-3 heading into the half. Monmouth got the first goal of the second half to bring the deficit down to one with over 28 minutes of lacrosse left to play.

But that would be the closest the home team would get to an upset victory for the remainder of the afternoon. 

Rutgers scored seven more goals while holding the Hawks to just two scores in the final minutes of action as it cruised to its fifth-straight win.

The Knights' 5-0 start is their best since the 2003 season, when they reeled off wins in the first seven games.

Rutgers dominated the loose ball battle, scooping 39 of the total 51 groundballs on Saturday. It is yet to lose the advantage in that department this season.

The Knights dominated in the faceoff circle as well, as sophomore Alex Schoen won 17 of 20 draws.

The Rutgers’ offense has garnered most of attention in the first third of the season as its starting attackers and depth players have lit up the scoreboard consistently, but its defense has been strong as well, especially in the previous three games.

After only allowing three goals in each half against Monmouth, the Knights haven’t given up more than 7 goals in each of the past three games. In the 20 total quarters of lacrosse played this season, Rutgers has allowed more than three goals just three times.

In the backline of the defense, senior Kris Alleyne has been strong in goal while filling in for sophomore Max Edelmann. Making his second straight start in net, Alleyne made seven saves to earn to his second win on the season.

After finishing up a stretch of three games over the span of eight days on Saturday, the Knights won’t play again until Friday.

The break couldn’t come at a better time, as Rutgers will face its first ranked opponent of the season next when it pays a visit to No. 18 Stony Brook on the third leg of its four-game road swing.

For updates on the Rutgers men’s lacrosse team, follow @EricMullin_ and @TargumSports on Twitter.

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