April 2, 2010

Rutgers Hosts St. John's in BIG EAST Opener

from presss release

– The Rutgers men's lacrosse team will host its first BIG EAST home game when it welcomes St. John's to RU Turf Field Saturday at 3 p.m.

The contest will be shown on Verizon FiOS1 through tape delay. Ralph Bednarczyk will be calling the play-by-play with Matt Bocklet on the color. Sarah Oliphant will be the sideline reporter.

The Scarlet Knights (5-2, 1-0) have won four of their last five contests including a 10-8 upset at No. 11/13 Notre Dame last Saturday. Senior midfielder Justin Pennington (Flemington, N.J.) led RU with three goals against the Irish en route to being named the BIG EAST Offensive Player of the Week. Senior goalie Billy Olin (Horseheads, N.Y.) was named to the conference honor roll and is expected to start Saturday after collecting 11 saves and two ground balls against the Irish.

RU's five wins through the first seven games is the best start for the Scarlet Knights since opening with the same record in the 2004 season.

The Red Storm (3-5, 0-1) lost their first home game of the season to No. 6/6 Hofstra 13-4 on March 23. The team then fell in the final minutes to Penn State 13-11 on the road on March 27.

Freshman Alex Lagodich was named to the BIG EAST Weekly Honor Roll this week. The midfielder scored one goal on Tuesday against the Pride and a career-high four goals on Saturday at Penn State. STJ is led by third-year head coach Jason Miller.

Rutgers leads the all-time series with St. John's by a 16-2 mark. Last season, the Scarlet Knights knocked off the Red Storm by a 14-10 score at the second annual Lacrosse Day of Champions at Manhasset High School. Attackman Kory Kelly (Princeton, N.J.) scored four goals to lead RU to the victory.

"We have been working towards this (strong start)," said ninth-year Rutgers head coach Jim Stagnitta. "We kind of had to start this thing over five years ago and rebuild the whole thing. This is the first real senior class we have had since my two years here when we were in the (NCAA Tournament).

"We have grown with this group. These guys have played since they were freshmen. They have been through this whole process for us. Their leadership and character has certainly made my life a lot easier and it is something we haven't had in a while here."

Kelly and Pennington lead RU in points with 20 apiece. Pennington has tallied multiple points in all seven games this season and has notched a goal or assist in 16 straight games dating back to last season. Kelly leads the teams in goals (16) and has scored nine over the past three games.

Senior co-captain Gerhard Buehning (Essex Fells, N.J.) is third on the team in points (16) and has tallied a goal or assist in 16 straight games.

Rutgers owns the conference's best points (18.72) and assists (7.00) per game averages.

The Scarlet Knights have held onto to the ball well this season, as they rank second in the nation in fewest turnovers per game with a 12.0 average.

RU has significantly improved their scoring offense and defense from a season ago. The Scarlet Knights goals per game (11.3) and goals allowed (6.86) rank 19th and third in the nation, respectfully. RU's scoring margin ranks third in the country at 4.43, an increase of six goals from last season.

"We knew we needed to shoot the ball better heading into this season," said Stagnitta. "We worked on it a lot in the offseason. We are not quite where I wish we would be, but we have gotten better. We have done a great job of creating opportunites but even against Army two weeks ago we outshoot them 36-18 and shoot 20 percent and don't come away with the win. So we have to keep our shooting percentage up because there are a lot of one-goal games."

Junior Brian Shemesh (Hillsborough, N.J.), sophomore Jacob Fradkin (Owings Mills, Md.) and redshirt-sophomore Andrew D'Agostino (Syracuse, N.Y.) have started at defense for Rutgers the past six games. The trio has guided RU to a BIG EAST best and nation's third-best scoring defense (6.86).

Fradkin leads the Scarlet Knights in caused turnovers with 13 and D'Agostino and Shemesh are tied for second with six apiece. D'Agostino is second on the squad in ground balls (25) and has scooped up 15 over the last three games.

Following the St. John's game, Rutgers will be on the road for their next two contests with road games at Jacksonville (April 10, noon) and at Princeton (April 13, 7 p.m.)

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