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Monmouth Versus Rutgers: Who Really Runs NJ Athletics?

baseball for page 22Rutgers University has consistently set the bar for division one collegiate athletics in NJ. Whether it be because of its involvement in a nationally recognized conference like the BIG 10 or their countless championships from their time in the Big East, Rutgers has been the standard. As the lone NJ. representative in FBS football, the Scarlet Knights have cast a shadow over most other in state division one schools. 

But could the tides be turning? Could Rutgers be stepping aside to a greater collegiate power in NJ? You be the judge. 

MU has given Rutgers a run for their money as of late. Over the course of the 2014-2015 collegiate season, the Hawks have come out on top in the majority of the meetings between the two universities. MU has gotten the better of the Scarlet Knights in, baseball, men’s lacrosse, men’s soccer, women’s lacrosse and field hockey.

The Hawks were narrowly denied another win over Rutgers in a tightly contested men’s basketball game in West Long Branch, NJ. In front of a sell-out crowd at the Multi-purpose Activities Center, the Hawks led for over 30 minutes only to be ousted by a last second shot which gave the Scarlet Knights a dramatic come from behind win. 

“We’ve had a great amount of success against Rutgers,” said Monmouth University Vice President and Director of Athletics, Dr. Marilyn McNeil. “I think it’s a very good in-state rival, I think it makes sense to have the big public school and the little private school match up, and for us to come out on top is really sweet.” 

The men’s soccer team got the trend started with a 3-0 thrashing of Rutgers in Piscataway in mid-Sept. A first half goal from senior forward, Dom Sarle was all the Hawks needed as MU breezed past the Scarlet Knights. The Hawks added two second half insurance goals to put the game to bed.

“In men’s soccer, there has been a standard of success established against teams from all conferences in the country, so the win against Rutgers or a BIG 10 team really was just another game for us,” said men’s soccer Head Coach Robert McCourt. “We don’t put too much stock into one win or loss or the name of the team we play.”  

Monmouth’s men’s soccer program would go on to win their first Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference (MAAC) Tournament Championship. While the Hawks moved on to the NCAA tournament, the Scarlet Knights fell out of the BIG 10 Tournament in the quarterfinals to the University of Maryland 2-0 ending their season prematurely. 

“Dr. McNeil has created a very positive departmental environment that offers all of our programs the opportunity to be successful,” said McCourt. “Our coaches really enjoy working at Monmouth. I feel the results on the field are a direct reflection of the environment Dr. McNeil has created for us.” 

Shortly after men’s soccer’s triumph over Rutgers, MU’s field hockey team followed. In early October, MU squared off with Rutgers in the Hawks’ last non-conference game on So Sweet A Cat Field. The Hawks came out victorious 3-2 off a 53rd minute winner from senior forward, Trish O’Dwyer. 

The MU field hockey program continued their good form into the post-season winning their first MAAC Tournament Championship qualifying them for their first NCAA tournament appearance. Rutgers Field Hockey would follow the road paved by the men’s soccer program and bowed out in the quarterfinals of the BIG 10 Tournament yet again, this time at the hands of the University of Michigan. 

Men’s and women’s lacrosse  would be the next MU teams to take on the Scarlet Knights. Still in its infancy, the men’s program was searching for their first ever win in year two beofre their meeting with Rutgers. The Hawks would secure their first ever win for the men’s lacrosse program in Piscataway with a final score of 10-9, courtesy of a fourth quarter game winner from freshman, Bryce Wassermann

Women’s lacrosse enjoyed similar success. The Hawks squeezed out a 13-12 overtime win against Rutgers thanks to senior midfielder Allison Stathius’s unassisted goal in the second overtime. 

“We are definitely playing more consistently at a higher level than we have in years,” said women’s lacrosse Head Coach Denise Wescott. “For the program as a whole this win against Rutgers has helped us take a step towards the top 30. There will be a fight for the conference championship, and playing out of conference at this level will help us be more successful.”

The in season women’s lacrosse program is coming off their seventh straight win and remain unbeaten in MAAC play. While the women’s program currently sets the bar, the men’s lacrosse team is 5-6 through eleven games and has shown promise over the course of the season. 

Women’s lacrosse at Rutgers is now 1-13 and could see their season come to a close sooner rather than later. The men’s lacrosse team at Rutgers is now 4-9 after three straight losses. 

MU baseball is the most recent team to face the Scarlet Knights. The Hawks traveled to Bainton Field on the campus of Rutgers University just over two weeks ago. MU came out with the win 6-4. 

Redshirt freshman infielder, Shaine Hughes, drove in the winning run with a sacrifice fly in the seventh inning. The Hawks are heading into a tough in-conference series with Niagara this weekend. The Purple Eagles are sitting in the top half of the MAAC standings and should be a good test for MU. 

“We’ve always strived to have a sense of excellence,” said McNeil. “It’s division one athletics, we want to compete and we want to succeed. We’re not just here to have a scholarship or to have fun, we want to compete.”

As of current released MU Hawks schedules, both the men’s and women’s soccer programs will be taking on Rutgers yet again this upcoming fall. The women will travel to Piscataway in late August to face the Scarlet Knights while the men’s program will host Rutgers in mid-Sept. 

There is no denying the forward progress of the Monmouth University Athletics Department. With dominating performances over Rutgers and schools alike, MU has certainly staked a claim for the best NJ has to offer. Add an ambitious front office and a strong core of coaches and MU could be a force to be reckoned with in the not so distant future. 

“I really do think that we can be one of the penultimate private institutions in division one and I don’t think our size will limit our success,” said McNeil. 

PHOTO COURTESY of Taylor Jackson