SOUTH BEND, IN - A four-goal first half surge was enough to lift 25th-ranked Rutgers past sixth-ranked Notre Dame, 5-2, in BIG EAST men’s soccer action Saturday night at Alumni Field in South Bend, IN. Rutgers and Notre Dame entered the match tied along with Providence in third place in the conference standings with a 3-1-1 record. The win, coupled by a Providence loss, puts the Scarlet Knights in sole possession of third place in the BIG EAST entering Sunday’s matches. The Scarlet Knights improve to 7-3-1 overall and 4-1-1 in the conference.
Rutgers opened its first half scoring barrage with a goal at the 34:27 mark. Junior Richie Arenas (Guatemala City, Guatemala) tallied his seventh goal of the season, penetrating through the Irish defense, outracing the UND defenders to the goal and putting it past Irish keeper Chris Sawyer.
Less than two minutes later, junior Chris Karcz (Clifton, NJ) received a pass from freshman Brinker Daily (Atlanta, GA), winning a battle with Sawyer for the ball and back-heading in his fifth goal of the season from 15 yards out.
Senior Josh Gros (Mechanicsburg, PA) recorded his fourth game-deciding goal of the year, and BIG EAST-leading 10th goal of the season in the 41st minute. Gros got free on the right side and took an Arenas pass, sending it inside the far post.
Freshman Nick Labrocca (Howell, NJ) got into the scoring acting for RU. One of 19 Scarlet Knight newcomers this year, Labrocca received a pass from Gros at the top of the box, firing a low ball from 20 yards out that hit the lower left corner of the net for the Scarlet Knights’ fourth goal of the half. Labrocca’s goal capped a span of four goals in 9:50 for the Scarlet Knights.
Down, 4-0 at halftime, Notre Dame stormed back with two early scores in the second period by Greg Martin and Ian Etherington.
Rutgers capped its scoring with a fifth goal in the 81st minute. Junior Brian Johnson (Marshfield, MA) slipped behind the defense and connected on a pass from freshman Jason Pelletier (Middletown, PA) to knock home a low shot for his second goal of the season.
Rutgers and Notre Dame each recorded 10 shots, while the Irish had a 7-3 edge in corner kicks. Freshman Lubos Ancin (Burlington, NJ) made three saves in goal for Rutgers in his first career start in place of the injured Scott Conway (Aston, PA). Sawyer made one save for Notre Dame.
“It was an all-around exceptional team performance tonight,” said Rutgers head coach Bob Reasso. “We had as good a first half as we have had in a long time. We got great goals from a variety of scorers. We passed the ball well and finished our plays with the highest quality. Notre Dame is a great team, they showed a lot of character fighting back. I thought this was a well-deserved win for us tonight.”
The victory is also the third against a ranked team in 2003. RU previously defeated No. 25 William & Mary in overtime, 3-2, and No. 12 Connecticut, 2-0. Rutgers has played six ranked teams this season, dropping its lone match to No. 14 St. John’s, 3-1, while earning a 1-1 tie with No. 19 Seton Hall.
The five-goal effort tonight is the Scarlet Knights’ highest of the season and the most since a 7-1 victory over Princeton on October 30, 2002. The win extends Rutgers’ unbeaten streak against the Irish to seven games. The Scarlet Knights registered wins in all, but one of those matches, tying Notre Dame, 1-1, last season.
Rutgers returns home to face Syracuse on Tuesday, Oct. 14, at Yurcak Field at 7 p.m.