As spring break got underway in Happy Valley and students headed home, No. 5 Penn State Men’s Lacrosse (5-0) hosted No. 8 Penn (2-1) in Holuba Hall on a frigid Saturday afternoon. The battle of these Pennsylvania schools came following big victories for each squad – Penn State over Cornell and Penn win over Virginia. The Nittany Lions played a tremendous second half to take down a very strong Penn team 14-13.
How It Happened
Penn came out looking sharp and focused throughout the first quarter. The Quakers controlled possession off of the face-off, keeping the ball in Penn State’s half for what felt like one sustained period after the next. The Quakers scored an early, unassisted goal by Riley Hupfeldt just 1:39 into the first.
Penn continued to look strong with possession early, and it wasn’t long before Simon Mathias scored a second goal four minutes into the quarter to make it 2-0 in favor of the Quakers. Penn’s impressive offensive play didn’t stop there as the visitors made it 3-0 after Alex Roesner made his way from behind the net to steer one over Penn State’s goalie.
The Nittany Lions showed their ability to create something out of nothing after Chris Santagelo stripped a Quaker midfielder, left the rest of the Penn squad in the dust, and slotted one away to make it 3-1. Penn kept long spells of possession throughout the first quarter, however, forcing the Nittany Lions to play flawless defense. With just 18.2 seconds in the first quarter, Hupfeldt struck again to give the Quakers a 4-1 advantage.
Sophomore midfielder Nick Spillane opened up the scoring for Penn State in the second quarter, firing a difficult shot past the Junkin in net to make it 4-2. That score didn’t last long, however, as James Farrell scored for Penn to extend the lead to 5-2. After three face-off violations on Penn, the Nittany Lions had were given a man-advantage for 30 seconds, but couldn’t capitalize. Quickly after, Quaker attacker Alex Roesner made it 6-2 in favor of Penn with 12:25 left in the second quarter.
Later in the second, senior attacker Nick Aponte was assisted by Ryan Keenan after a long spell of Penn State possession. Aponte’s goal made it 6-3, and it was the Nittany Lions’ most impressive possession and their most well-worked goal of the game to that point. Once again, however, the Quakers responded in the form of a goal from Simon Mathias to make it 7-3.
Penn State seemed to settle into the game during the game during the second half, as things felt like they were getting back to normal when the freshman phenom Mac O’Keefe got into the scorers column to cut the lead to 7-4. The Nittany Lions went into the half facing a 3-goal deficit but playing with increasing confidence and effectiveness.
That confidence was on display early as Nick Spillane scored a goal for the Nittany Lions just 37 seconds into the second half. Gerard Arceri brought the game to 7-6 on a fantastic goal just 6 seconds later. Arceri won the face-off in a flash, took off down the middle of the Quaker defense, faked a pass, and finished off a great scoring play. The Penn State sideline was fired up after these two goals.
After winning a man-advantage for a hold on the Quakers, the Nittany Lions tied things up at 7-7 with a Kevin Hill goal. Before you could blink an eye, it seemed as Penn State had taken complete control of the game. Penn responded (stop me if this sounds familiar) with a goal from sophomore Tyler Dunn. Dunn made his way across the face of goal after a huge scrum for a lose ball to give Penn their lead back.
The game turned into a back a forth battle during the third period as both defenses remained strong and both offenses made few mistakes. Penn would break through again, though, with 7:30 left to go in the third quarter to extend their lead to 9-7.
Penn State roared back as Matt Florence scored an unassisted goal within a minute to cut the lead to just one. Kevin Hill continued the scoring party with another unassisted goal to tie things up and turn up the temperature in Holuba by a few degrees. It didn’t stop there as Penn State went a man up after a Penn penalty, and Nick Spillane gave the Nittany Lions their first lead of the day, 10-9.
You guessed it, the Nittany Lions didn’t stop there. Mike Sutton kept the Lions rolling with yet another goal to make it 11-9 with just a few minutes left in the third quarter. But, in keeping with the theme of the day, Penn would respond with a goal just 8.7 seconds before the quarter ended. In any case, Penn State took a 11-10 lead into the final quarter of play.
Penn State’s Spillane scored a minute into the fourth quarter, scooping up a loose ball in front of the Quaker goal and slotting it past Junkin. Tyler Dunn found the back of the net for Penn with 10:51 left in the game to tighten things up at 12-11. Penn State just couldn’t stop scoring, and the senior Dan Craig extended the Nittany Lions lead to two. Spillane, again, came through with a crucial goal to give the Nittany Lions a three goal lead – a lead that felt much bigger than three.
Tyler Dunn made it 14-12 with less than four minutes left in the fourth quarter, and then Dunn scored again with 2:42 left to play. With under a minute to play, Penn pulled their goalie, but a Nittany Lion missed a wide open net that would’ve sealed the game. Penn got possession back, but the Nittany Lion defense held up to complete the comeback win and bring Penn State to 5-0 on the season.
Player of the Game
Nick Spillane | Senior | Midfielder
Spillane put on a shooting display, especially during the second half, notching 5 goals in the game. The sophomore from New York was crucial in Penn State’s comeback win over No. 8 Penn.
The Nittany Lions will be taking on Furman – hopefully outside – on Tuesday, March 7. The game will be televised on BTN at 3 p.m.