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Rutgers Women’s Basketball Media Day 2014

By James Stumper Jr.

The Rutgers women’s basketball team held their annual media day Wednesday morning at the Rutgers Athletic Center in Piscataway. The term of the day was “excitement”, as it’s clear that the 2014 WNIT Champions are eager to get back out onto the court and start their inaugural Big Ten campaign.

c vivian stringer media day

Head Coach C. Vivian Stringer meets the media at the RAC.

Head Coach C. Vivian Stringer, entering her 20th season as head coach of the Scarlet Knights, is at the helm of an experienced team this season. Rutgers returns all five of their starters from last year, and has added two junior college transfers who can shoot the three-pointer, Natalie Parsons and Cynthia Hernandez.

The Scarlet Knights all expressed major excitement when they discussed Rutgers becoming a Big Ten team.

Senior Christa Evans is pumped to join the Big Ten, especially after competing in the Big East and the American Athletic Conference the last two seasons.

“It’s great,” she said “It’s another challenge – it’s gonna be competitive and we’re excited to get started.”

“I’m excited for the new competition,” said junior Kahleah Copper, RU’s leading scorer and the WNIT MVP, “I’m just excited to be in the Big Ten.”

There certainly will be plenty of new competition, as an entirely different slate of conference games awaits the Scarlet Knights. In addition to having to compete with conference powers such as Penn State, Michigan State and Nebraska, the Knights also have quite a challenging non-conference schedule as well.

“I’m really excited for Tennessee and North Carolina to come here,” said sophomore Alex Alfano.

Those two games will likely be the most difficult games on the non-conference schedule, which also includes a trip to Baton Rouge for a date with the LSU Tigers.

Rutgers womens

The Scarlet Knights, coming off a WNIT title, are ready to go in their inaugural Big Ten season.

The Scarlet Knights are clearly focused on making the NCAA Tournament this season, something they haven’t done since 2012, but have done 23 times in team history. Many thought they should have been in the NCAA Tournament last season, but the selection committee had other ideas, and the Scarlet Knights went on to win the Women’s NIT.

While an NIT title is nice, many Scarlet Knights felt they were robbed of an opportunity to compete in college basketball’s marquee event.

“It’s like a big old chip on our shoulder,” said junior Rachel Hollivay, “we’ve got something to prove.”

Senior Betnijah Laney echoed that sentiment.

“It wasn’t an ideal situation,” said Laney, “we take that, we look at it to see what we’ve accomplished. It’s given us something to build off of.”

Laney is confident heading into the year, adding “I think this season is going to be really special for us.”

As mentioned, the Scarlet Knights return all five starters from last season, but there are a few key additions, mainly two junior college transfers – Natalie Parsons and Cynthia Hernandez. The Knights struggled mightily shooting the three last year, doing so at just a 28% clip. In junior college, Parsons and Hernandez shot the three at 35.3% and 43.2% respectively.

“Having us being able to shoot that three-pointer,” said Parsons, “it really opens up everyone else as well.”

Parsons isn’t shying away from the chance to knock down a big shot in a Big Ten venue, either.

“I cannot wait,” she said, “those are the moments you dream of.”

The entire Rutgers team is excited to have added that layer of offense that they were missing last season, and they believe it could be a big help.

“I’m very excited,” said sophomore Tyler Scaife of the newcomers, “They’re going to open up the floor a lot.”

Excitement was the general feel from the Rutgers women’s basketball team at today’s media day, and why not? Coming off a WNIT title season and returning the entire starting lineup, the Knights are poised to make an impact during their first season in the Big Ten.

“This team is not going to disappoint you,” said C. Vivian Stringer, “we’re going to give you a show that you will not believe.”

Rutgers Media Day 2014 – Men’s Basketball

By Dylan Mruczinski

Tuesday afternoon, Rutgers held their Media Day at the RAC in Piscataway as the inaugural Big Ten season approaches. ‘Excitement’ was the word of the day as every person in attendance understood the importance of a good start to the season.

Eddie Jordan Media Day

Eddie Jordan meets with the media at the RAC. (Photo: James Stumper Jr.)

Second-year Head Coach Eddie Jordan started off the media conference composed and collected as he praised his staff and team for the work they have put in during the offseason. Perhaps the most compelling quote in Coach Jordan’s opening statement was “We’re excited about being in the Big Ten, the top conference in the country.” With plenty of NBA experience from himself and his staff, Coach Jordan appeared more than ready for the B1G competition ahead and will be looking to his two senior leaders in Myles Mack and Kadeem Jack to carry the team.

Coach Jordan stressed the importance of getting better everyday as the season progresses, something that Power Forward Kadeem Jack did tremendously last year. Coach Jordan even called Jack the impact player and strength of the team. The senior big man became a double-digit scorer for the Scarlet Knights last season (14.3 ppg) and has embraced the vocal leadership role of the team.

“My role is to keep the tone of the team, and bringing the high energy and high intensity to practice,” Jack said.

Coach Jordan believes Jack’s potential has yet to be fully tapped and has enjoyed watching the young man develop. Throughout the offseason, Kadeem has worked extensively on his 8-12 foot jumper along with bringing high intensity to practice day in and day out.

Another key to Eddie Jordan’s offense will be the NJ native, Point Guard Myles Mack. Mack was the lead scorer for Rutgers last season and has his mind set on a “Big Ten focus.” One thing Mack has worked on this offseason is coming off of ball screens, while keeping his lethal first step off the dribble intact. Myles Mack, once seen as a pure scorer in his high school days is ready to take on an up tempo style of play against Big Ten competition.

“We’re an East coast style team,” said Mack in reference to the up-tempo style of offense Rutgers will bring to its new conference. Mack has also worked on his on-the-ball defense, something that will be of vital importance come Big Ten play with the great guards the conference always boasts.

Myles Media Day

Senior Myles Mack is embracing his leadership role. (Photo: James Stumper Jr.)

Other than the seniors Mack, Jack, and Malick Kone, this is a young Rutgers squad in terms of experience. This team however, is bigger than last year, something that Coach Jordan stressed during his time at the podium. “Competing at the rim” something Coach Jordan has seen every practice from his team is another thing to be excited about. Junior Greg Lewis will certainly take on a bigger role in the front court. Coach Jordan called Lewis “the most consistent practice player” thus far and insisted that making his shots will be key to Rutgers success. Another exciting big man is Sophomore Junior Etou who looks to improve his already stout defense. Cousin of the Oklahoma City’s Serge Ibaka, Etou has been influenced by his relative’s angry defensive presence on the floor. With Coach Jordan wanting to bring a new style to the Big Ten, it will be important for Etou and the rest of Rutgers’ bigs to be disruptive.

The Scarlet Knights are also going to be looking toward some new faces for production. JUCO transfer Bishop Daniels is primed to see a ton of action to secure the back court. You could tell that Daniels has that natural born leadership throughout interviews and is a player that could play a bigger role this season than many anticipate. Freshman newcomers, D.J. Foreman and Mike Williams have impressed in practice along with Shaquille Doorson, a 6’11 Center from the Netherlands. These 3 youngsters offer a promising future for the Knights and will all play a role later in the season.

Overall, it seems that Eddie Jordan has done a quality job in just his first two years as Head Coach. The players all buy into the system and staff he has assembled. Most importantly, the future of Rutgers Men’s Basketball looks to be in good hands of an extremely confident and intelligent basketball mind. Many believe that Rutgers will struggle in its first season as a member of the Big Ten, with the help of a competitive non-conference schedule that won’t ease the transition. Yet the players and coaches alike are well aware of expectations and ready to excite.

Rutgers opens the regular season against George Washington home at the RAC on November 16th after an exhibition game welcoming Baruch College on November 8th.

The Evolution of Gary Nova

By Dylan Mruczinski

Up and down.

Then up again.

Down again.

Down.

Down.

Down once more.

Up and up.

This poetic sequence of up and downs seems to depict Gary Nova’s career as a four-year starter at Rutgers. Nova has been forever criticized by the energetic media hub that is the Tri-State area, yet has remained tough this season in his effort to regain confidence and put forth his best play that every football fan knows he is capable of.

The senior QB out of Elmwood Park, NJ is looking to lead the Scarlet Knights to their fourth straight bowl berth, 10th postseason visit all time, and first as a member of the Big Ten. Heading into the 2nd half of the 2014 season, Nova understands his role as a leader and his importance to this Rutgers offense that has averaged 426.7 ypg so far that has Rutgers on pace for its best offensive production since the 2008 season.

Nova Mel Evans AP

It seems as if Gary Nova has finally found some consistency: will he be able to keep it up? (Photo: Mel Evans/AP)

With a 5-1 record and only in-conference games left to play, Gary Nova (other than a turnover-ridden performance against Penn State) has been borderline flawless as the quarterback of New Jersey’s team. Nova’s statistics tell the tale of the major jump he has made this season. His completion percentage is currently 62%, up 5% since his 2012 career high. While completing more passes and in turn making better decisions when throwing, Nova has not sacrificed the ability to gain yards through the air which typically occurs when quarterbacks see their completion percentage rise. His yards per attempt (10.67 YPA) is up over 3.5 yards from his previous 3 year total. The Rutgers faithful have fallen in love with the crisp 15-yard in/post route that Nova has perfected, time and time again to his receivers this season that is a major factor in boosting his YPA. Additionally, Nova is on pace to set career highs for passing yards, touchdowns, and QB rating this season.

So what exactly is in Nova’s drinking water this Fall you may ask? Why has he flourished in a year that saw key receivers Ruhann Peele and Andre Patton fall to injuries before the start of the season? Better yet, how is Nova posting career numbers in a year that everybody and their mothers saw as a scheduling death-trap against the Big Ten’s elite schools from both divisions?

The answer may be the influence of his extremely over-qualified Offensive Coordinator, Ralph “The Fridge” Friedgen. No stranger to changes in the playbook, Nova welcomed Friedgen as his fourth offensive coordinator in as many years he has been at Rutgers. The Fridge, who has helped restore Nova’s confidence, will now look to lean on Gary even more late in the season as the running game took a huge hit with the loss of RB Paul James to an ACL tear.

One thing that goes undocumented in the stat books is Friedgen’s influence on Nova’s ability to use his legs. Other improvements in Nova’s game this year include his acknowledgment of the coverage downfield and the tremendous out-of-pocket presence he has exhibited so far in RU’s inaugural Big Ten campaign. Prior to this season, Nova had rushed for 1 touchdown while this year, he already has 3. Nova has also never finished the season with positive rushing yards, due to sacks counting against QB rush yards, one of the NCAA rules that differ from the NFL.

Tulane v Rutgers

Photo: Getty Images

It can be presumed that Friedgen’s offensive mind noticed this in film prior to the season and continues to encourage Nova to ‘tuck it and run’ when the pass downfield is not there. This season may be the year that Nova finally eclipses the 0 rushing yard stat due to his escapability out of the pocket. It seems that Gary Nova is playing at the comfort level in the pocket he showed back at Don Bosco Prep where he won two state championships.

There is no doubt that Gary Nova’s most legacy-determining games are yet to come with a tough three-game stretch against more B1G elite: Ohio State, Nebraska, and the often dreadful homecoming game, this time vs Wisconsin. Perhaps Nova’s most telling game about his progression will be in a visit to East Lansing taking on nations fourth-ranked defense in Michigan State. Nova having already surpassed previous QB and now graduate assistant Mike Teel’s all-time TD record looks to extend the mark against some of the Big Ten’s best. Nova’s toughness might be his best trait, something that is needed to excel at the next level. As one of the top Pro-Style QB recruits in 2011 Gary Nova is now looking to establish himself as one of the best senior signal callers to enter next years 2015 NFL draft. With a strong finish to the season and rising draft stock, don’t be surprised if you wind up hearing Nova’s name called this spring.

Next on Rutgers schedule are the No.13 Ohio State Buckeyes, where prestigious head coach Urban Meyer has already praised Gary Nova’sxceptional play against Michigan this season. “He had the day of days against our rival,” Coach Meyer said at this week’s Big Ten coach teleconference.

If Gary Nova and Rutgers want to continue their success, the senior quarterback is going to have to keep trending up in Columbus.

Women’s Soccer Impressive in first B1G Season

By Dominick Savino

If you asked around the Hale Center to find out which individual or team is the Rutgers athletic department’s best-kept secret, you’d receive a wealth of varying answers. Some would say Kemoko Turay, the redshirt freshman defensive end who came into the season a virtual unknown yet currently leads the Big Ten with 5.5 sacks. Others might say the wrestling team, which was quietly slotted at No. 19 on the initial Associated Wrestling Press rankings released on Monday. A few humorists might even say Gary Nova, who—despite his dutiful service as the football team’s eternal scapegoat—has led the football team to a 5-1 record and sits at 5th in the FBS in passing efficiency. Well, with no knock against these nominees, I’m happy to inform you that all of those answers would be horribly wrong.

Enter the No. 14/7 Rutgers Women’s Soccer team from stage left. Yes, you read that right; they’re ranked No. 7 in the country according to Tuesday’s rankings by Soccer America, the highest the Scarlet Knights have been in any poll in program history. It’s important to understand that the rankings system for D1 Women’s Soccer is a bit different from the norm, as there are two news outlets, a coaches’ association, and a NCAA soccer organization that each release their own weekly rankings of equal repute. However, the rankings across the board have been nothing short of impressive. In addition to the No. 7 ranking by Soccer America, the team is No. 15 according to TopDrawerSoccer, No. 14 in the National Soccer Coaches Association of America (NSCAA) poll, and No. 13 on the NCAA RPI list.

Casey Murphy Tian Li Daily Targum

Casey Murphy has impressed thus far. (Photo: Tian Li, The Daily Targum)

With its record-breaking ranking and a 10-1-1 record, it would be logical to assume that the team is led by a strong nucleus of seniors, but then you’d be wrong again. Perhaps the most important player on this year’s team is the one preventing all the goals rather than the one scoring them, as freshman goalkeeper Casey Murphy has been absolutely sensational. In her first season of college soccer—let alone Big Ten soccer— Murphy has started all 12 of the team’s matches, played all but two minutes and 30 seconds of them, and conceded only four goals. If her 0.33 Goals Against Average (GAA) and 0.902 save percentage don’t jump off the page enough, her current streak of 434 minutes without a goal conceded might do the trick. In that time span, Murphy has picked up four consecutive clean sheets, including her most recent in University Park against then-No. 6/7 Penn State, a team that came into the contest averaging 2.85 goals per game.

Madison Tiernan Tian Li Daily Targum

Madison Tiernan has been a key cog in RU’s offense. (Photo Credit: Tian Li, The Daily Targum)

Despite Murphy’s phenomenal play, it would be incorrect to overlook the success that the rest of the team has sustained, primarily from its forwards. Senior Stefanie Scholz and sophomore Madison Tiernan have been invaluable to the offense, netting nine of the team’s 22 total goals. With the game on the line, the team has looked to these two forwards to provide scoring, and Scholz and Tiernan have delivered by scoring a combined 6 of the team’s 10 game-winning goals. However, the forward duo has greatly benefitted from the other offensive threats that make up the attacking midfield and forward ranks, as nine other players have scored at least once thus far. Senior midfielder Amy Pietrangelo and sophomore forward Jessica Puchalski each have 3 assists, and Pietrangelo has added 3 goals to establish herself as a potent scoring option when in the attacking half.

Even with Rutgers’s sustained offensive output and Murphy’s near-invincibility in net, the team’s defensive midfielders and defenders have locked down their opponents and assisted Murphy by limiting the amount of legitimate scoring chances that she has to save. The defenders have been anchored by junior centerbacks Brianne Reed and Erica Skroski, who along with Murphy are the only three players to log more than 1,000 minutes on the field. As a result, Reed and Skroski are two of the most prominent reasons why the team has conceded only 42 shots on goal, fewest in the Big Ten.

With such an outstanding start, it’s easy to forget about the significant changes that the program endured over the summer. Most obvious is the University’s move to the Big Ten, where the Scarlet Knights were predicted to finish 8th out of 14 teams by the Big Ten Women’s Soccer Preseason Coaches’ Poll. Sporting a 6-1-1 conference record, the Scarlet Knights are currently tied for 3rd place in the Big Ten and have defeated both of the teams above them (Penn and State and Michigan) with 1-0 victories. Additionally, in July, head coach Glenn Crooks retired after 14 years at the helm, finishing as the second-winningest head coach in program history. Crooks handed the team over to long-time assistant head coach Mike O’Neill, who has mitigated the growing pains that come with a coaching shift by employing many of the formations and coaching philosophies that helped Crooks achieve success.

With a new head coach, a new conference, and a relatively young cast of players, this Rutgers Women’s Soccer team had every good reason to miserably fail, and most predictions forecasted a 2014 campaign for the Scarlet Knights that wasn’t too far removed from that worst possible scenario, but this team hasn’t let changes and youth ruin its season. In fact, they’ve embraced these potential pitfalls and made them cornerstones to their success. For those exact reasons, this team is good—really good, even great— and chances are you don’t even know about it.

Knights Flying High at 5-1

By Dominick Savino

With a Gary Nova kneel down and a quick flip of the football to the referee, the Scarlet Knights’ first half their inaugural season as a B1G-time football team came to a close. Or maybe it was when defensive lineman Kemoko Turay batted down Michigan kicker Matt Wile’s 56-yard field goal attempt in the late stages of the 4th quarter to preserve Rutgers’s lead. Or perhaps it was even at some point during Nova’s career-defining game in which he picked apart the Michigan secondary to the tune of 404 yards and 3 touchdowns.

Regardless, on Saturday night in Piscataway, Rutgers beat Michigan. So yes, Rutgers now has its first win in Big Ten competition. Also yes, Rutgers is 5-1 going into a bye week and the midpoint of the season. And yes, all Big Ten puns aside, Rutgers is a big-time team and should be regarded as such.

gary nova

Senior QB Gary Nova has been locked in since the loss against Penn State.

During its three biggest victories—against Washington State, Navy, and Michigan— in the first half of the season, Rutgers has squared up and outmatched three vastly different offensive styles. The Rutgers defense, the heart of this year’s team, bent but did not break against Washington State and gunslinger QB Connor Halliday. Three weeks later, on the heels of what can only be called “The Loss,” Rutgers rolled into Annapolis and stopped Navy’s vaunted triple option in its tracks, holding the Midshipmen’s FBS-leading rushing attack to only 171 yards. On Saturday, even with the turmoil plaguing college football’s most successful program, embattled dual-threat quarterback Devin Gardner showed flashes of his dynamic brilliance, but the Rutgers defense came up with key stops late in the 4th quarter to seal the deal.

Of course, on the other hand, there is the big “1” looming in the loss column. If not because of Rutgers’s first B1G win, if not because of Michigan’s prestige, last Saturday night’s field-storming at High Point Solutions Stadium was a much-needed emotional release for the thousands of Rutgers fans still heartbroken by Penn State quarterback Christian Hackenberg’s late-game march down the field in what seemed, looked, felt, and even smelt like Rutgers’s first Big Ten win. There were more than enough things that Rutgers did wrong during its 60 minutes against Penn State; many of them, such as Nova’s glaring 5 interceptions and the defense’s inability to stand on its head for one last drive, have been broken down and analyzed hundreds of times over. Nevertheless, in a game where a single play could have made the difference, Rutgers showed that it wasn’t exactly going to be the conference basement-dwellers that analysts across the country projected them to be.

But now, with its first conference victory in the books, Rutgers enjoys a much-needed bye week before it stares down the barrel of a daunting second-half schedule: 6 games (all conference matchups) in seven weeks, only two of which are home; three matchups against teams in the AP Top 25 Poll and another against a team bounced from the rankings this past weekend; and the nation’s 1st and 3rd best running backs, the 3rd best passing team, and the 4th best run-stoppers.

Despite the quality of its upcoming opponents, this Rutgers team is built to stand up to the challenges of a Big Ten schedule. For all of the criticism, untimely interceptions, and passes beyond the line of scrimmage, Gary Nova has proven that he’s mentally tough and has the skills to lead a formidable passing attack. Although Paul James is an irreplaceable offensive cog, the duo of Desmon Peoples and Justin Goodwin has shown that it can complement the passing game and, in some cases, pick up meaningful yardage. With the upcoming bye week, the receiving corps will be at full strength, and it has recently hit its stride as Janarion Grant, John Tsimis, and Andrew Turzilli have all emerged as threats alongside Leonte Carroo. And it must not go without noting that the offensive line has stood tall every game, allowing only 8 sacks and providing a needed push up front to create holes for the running game and time in the pocket for Nova.

defense

RU’s defense has shined all season long, but more challenges await.

On the defensive side of the ball, there is not enough praise to be spread around, as the Rutgers defense currently leads the NCAA with 5 blocked kicks and ranks 3rd in the FBS with 24 total sacks. Captains and starting defensive linemen David Milewski and Darius Hamilton have combined for six of those sacks and 12 additional tackles for loss. Redshirt freshman Kemoko Turay has been in a class of his own, racking up a Big Ten-leading six sacks and a NCAA-leading three blocked kicks. Despite all the position changes and injuries, the back seven have come up huge in key moments, like free safety Johnathan Aiken’s forced fumble against Washington State and cornerback Andre Hunt’s sack to push Navy away from the endzone during their final drive.

It’s no secret to anyone on or around this football team that the second half of the season will present the Scarlet Knights with significantly larger, taller, and faster challenges than the first half has. Its first game after the bye, an afternoon showdown against #15 Ohio State in Columbus, will be a long way away from a home matinee against Howard or Tulane. Later down the road, a matchup against #8 Michigan State in East Lansing will be an even further departure from the confines of Piscataway.

But none of that matters to Rutgers, not this football team. They’ve shown every journalist and analyst and “college football insider” that they are a lot better than 4-8. They’ve shown mental toughness and found ways to scratch out victories. And most importantly, they’ve shown that the Scarlet Knights are a big-time team— a big-time program—and they’ll rise to the occasion against some of the nation’s best.

The Block Heard ‘Round the Banks

By Gabe Sustick

Rutgers won its first Big Ten game Saturday 26-24 against Michigan, but it was much more than just a win.

kemoko

Redshirt Freshman Kemoko Turay notches his third blocked kick of the season (Photo: Saed Hindash | NJ Advance Media)

It was a cool night on the banks of the old Raritan, but you couldn’t tell from the pure excitement emitting from High Point Solutions Stadium.  With three minutes and seven seconds to go in the game, Michigan was setting up for a 56-yard field goal attempt that would give them a 27-26 lead.  Prior to the kick, it didn’t seem possible that the stadium could get any louder. However, that theory was proven wrong once Kemoko Turay’s left hand blocked away the potential go-ahead field goal attempt.

It was at that moment that tension collectively turned to joy.  Once the clock hit zero, those screams became pure jubilation, as the goal posts were brought down and the sea of black began moving towards the field.  Fans running to get as close to the players as they possibly could shaking hands and high-fiving everyone they saw.

College sports fans all have one common dream, to be able to storm the field or court and celebrate with the players.  It is a dream that many fans are never able to experience, which is why it needs to be savored.  It didn’t matter whether you were a freshman or a senior, an athlete or a fan.  At that moment, they were all connected by one single emotion, joy.  That joy can never be taken away, because they were all a part of history, they were there when Rutgers won its first Big Ten game.

This game had the feeling of Louisville back in 2006.  No it wasn’t a game against two ranked teams, or against rivals, or as big of an upset.  But it was what the Scarlet Knights gained from these two games that makes them similar.  Like the Louisville game, this was another statement for Rutgers football.  There will be critics that say it was a bad Michigan team, what does it really mean? That fans need to show that they have been there before.  It is true, Michigan is not having a good season, but that doesn’t take away from the history of that team and the fact that they are still one of the most decorated programs in college football history.  It was only the second Big Ten opponent for the Scarlet Knights, after a soul-crushing loss against Penn State.  It was their first win, and that can never be taken away.  The fans deserved to act just like it was Louisville, because it showed that they had arrived at their new home.

The blackout crowd rushes the field the celebrate RU’s victory (Photo: Saed Hindash | NJ Advance Media)

Contrary to the Louisville game, instead of a game winning field goal, the Michigan game had a blocked field goal, a potentially season-defining moment that helped Rutgers make a statement. More than anything, this was a game for the players.  Not just the players on this team, but the players to come after them as well.  The recrutis that see this game and say that they want to be a part of something like that.  The freshman on this team having confidence after seeing what Turay has done given the opportunity.  Many of the players on this team are from New Jersey, and to be able to win a game like this in their home state, with their fans is a dream come true.  This is only the first step that Rutgers had to take in its new conference.  Who knows what the next step is let alone when it will be, but that is for the new players to figure out.  For fans, it is one thing to be watching it, but for the players, seeing that excitement and joy is special to them, and one of the reasons why they play.

It was also a great moment for head coach Kyle Flood, who has been the head man Rutgers since 2012.  To be able to see their players succeed on the big stage is what every coach wants.  Even though there is more work ahead for Flood, he will always have this milestone to hold onto.

No matter what people took away from this game, whether it be good or bad, there are only two things that matter:  the future of this team, and the memory of the fans and players on the field postgame, singing the alma mater together.

Rutgers Dominates at FirstEnergy Park

By Cassandra Inacio

Lakewood- The Scarlet Knights took on the Fordham Rams on Tuesday night at FirstEnergy Park, home of the Lakewood BlueClaws.

Captain Brian O’Grady said that the team enjoyed playing at FirstEnergy Park and that it gave people who live further south than Rutgers a chance to see them play.

Rutgers bounced back from a tough loss against Houston on Sunday April 6th with a season high 17 hits.

Fordham scored one run in the first inning, but it was quickly answered by the Scarlet Knights with 3 runs.

After Mike Carter struck out, Nick Favatella crushed a double off the wall in right field and moved to third on a single by O’Grady. After O’Grady was caught stealing, Vinny Zarillo legged out an infield single to score Favatella.

An error by Fordham’s first baseman brings Joe D’Annunzio to 3rd and Vinny Zarillo home.

But the  Knights really came alive in the second inning.

Pat Sweeney, Rutgers shortstop, lead off by crushing a home run to left field for his first of the season and second of his career, he ended the night 4 for 4 with three runs and three RBIs.

Freshman Mike Carter and senior Nick Favatella hit back to back triples and O’Grady smoked a line drive to right to score Favatella.

Senior Pat Sweeney said, “I was just trying to be aggressive very early in the count. Fortunately, I got some good pitches to hit and was able to put some good swings on the ball.”

Freshman lefty Ryan Fleming earned his first career win in a strong outing, giving up 3 runs over a season-long six innings.

Fleming said, “I felt like I could throw my breaking ball in any count. I was just focusing on throwing strikes and I knew my defense would back me up. Our offense had a great day with 17 hits and 13 runs and picked me up many times.”

Rutgers Wins WNIT

By Matthew Salvatore

In a game that came down to the very last shot. A hero arose for the Scarlet Knights. Tyler Scaife drove the ball down the court slashing through defenders and put the ball through the hoop, sending UTEP fans home disappointed.

In a season where the Knights went an impressive 21-8 in non-tournament play, many find that Rutgers was 100% snubbed by the NCAA selection committee. With no birth in the NCAA tournament, hall of fame head coach, C. Vivian Stringer, decided to participate in the Women’s National Invitational Tournament (WNIT).

The Scarlet Knights made it through the first two rounds with relative ease, taking on Delaware, and Harvard. Then in the third round Rutgers took on their in-state rivals, the Seton Hall Pirates, in a double overtime thriller that created as one fan said “The best atmosphere I’ve seen in the RAC in years!” Stringer and company sliced through another two rounds leading them to a final show down against the UTEP Miners that had sold out in mere hours.

With UTEP seemingly off of their game, Rutgers had managed to jump to an 18 point advantage over the Miners with 18:41 left in the second half behind the scoring of Tyler Scaife and the great defensive effort of Rachel Hollivay. The Knights would fall cold however, and UTEP would not go down easily as they scratched and clawed their way back to a lead with just over 5 minutes left in the game. With the great play of the Knights’ Kahleah Copper, and the Miners’ Kristine Vitola, the two teams battled back and forth. Neither team could find an advantage over the other. After a long exchange between the two teams. The ball was placed in the hands of Tyler Scaife with just 8 seconds left and the rest is history.

With no players graduating from this Rutgers squad, the future is bright. A hall of fame head coach who has no plans on leaving, a rising sophomore guard in Tyler Scaife who was named to the All-WNIT team, rising junior guard in Kahleah Copper who was the WNIT MVP, great key players like Betnijah Laney, Rachel Hollivay, and Syessence Davis who all contribute consistently on defense, and great production off the bench are all weapons that Rutgers has moving forward. Look for these Scarlet Knights in next year’s NCAA tournament, and they will make a statement.

Lastly, a much deserved Congratulations to the Rutgers Scarlet Knights Women’s Basketball team on a great season and a WNIT trophy to add to the history.

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