PISCATAWAY, NJ – The 18th-ranked Rutgers men’s soccer team scored three first-half goals en route to a 3-1 victory over Lafayette in the first round of the NCAA Men’s Soccer Championship in front of 1,709 fans at Yurcak Field Saturday afternoon. With the win, the Scarlet Knights improve to 11-6-4 and advance to the second round, taking on the University of Akron on Wednesday, Nov. 26, at 7 p.m. in Akron, OH.
Rutgers now advances to the second round of the NCAA Tournament for the seventh time in 12 appearances under 23rd-year head coach Bob Reasso
A focused Rutgers squad jumped on the Leopards early, scoring in the seventh minute of the match. Senior Josh Gros (Mechanicsburg, PA) recorded his 14th goal of the season at the 6:33 mark. Junior Wes Kirk (Bloomfield, NJ) served a long feed into the box where junior Chris Karcz (Clifton, NJ) used his head to flick the ball over to a wide open Gros, who put it home from five yards out.
It appeared Lafayette would settle for the 1-0 deficit heading into the half, but Rutgers had different ideas, scoring a pair of goals in the final 90 seconds of the period in what proved to be the difference in the match.
Freshman Nick LaBrocca (Howell, NJ) tallied his second career goal with 1:23 left in the half. LaBrocca sent a cross from the far touch line intended for junior Richie Arenas (Guatemala City, Guatemala). The ball sailed past Arenas’ head, curving just inside the post, past a confused Jay Freedman in goal for the Leopards.
Forty seconds later, Arenas put the Scarlet Knights up, 3-0, burying home a hard, left-footed shot from 20 yards out. Kirk notched his second assist of the match, settling the ball of his chest and bouncing it to Arenas.
Lafayette prevented the shutout with a goal in the 69th minute as Victor Krasij took a Ryan McCaughey cross, scoring from five yards out.
“I thought we were exceptional in the first half, said Reasso. “I thought we came out strong and could have scored a couple more goals early in the second half. To Lafayette’s credit, they kept battling and battling, but I felt we were well-deserved winners. We now have a quick turnaround and need to start getting ready for Akron on Wednesday. We are happy to keep playing and moving on to the second round.”
Freshman Lubos Ancin (Burlington, NJ) made three saves in goal for Rutgers, while Freedman collected eight stops for Lafayette. Rutgers outshot Lafayette, 21-11, holding a 4-3 edge in corner kicks.
Rutgers is now 9-1-2 when Gros scores a goal, this season. His 14 goals move him into 12th place in the Rutgers single-season record book for goals, while his 33-point season tally moves him into a tie with three others for 13th in the RU single season record book for points.
The Scarlet Knights’ three goal performance marks the eighth time RU has totaled three goals in an NCAA Tournament match.