No. 3 Penn State men’s lacrosse remained undefeated in a rare Tuesday afternoon spring break faceoff against Furman today. Shaky defense made it a one-goal game late in the fourth, but dominant second and third quarters were enough to push the Nittany Lions (6-0) past the Paladins 12-10.
How It Happened
A low-scoring first was something of a warm up for Penn State. Freshman phenom Mac O’Keefe opened up scoring with his 26th of the season. Furman answered with its sole goal of the period, then Nick Aponte and Nick Spillane put Penn State up 3-1 to close the quarter.
Matt Florence sent the Nittany Lions on a four-goal run to start the second, featuring Spillane’s second of the day, Nick Mcevoy immediately off the next face off, and Mike Sutton. The Paladins finally got on the board thanks to Lou Yovino after a long possession with 2:16 left for a 7-3 score. Penn State gifted Furman an automatic possession and man-up opportunity headed into the third with an unnecessary roughness call at the horn.
Furman capitalized on the golden opportunity despite solid disruption efforts from Penn State’s defense (most notably, Peter Triolo) to open up second-half scoring. A smart back-door cut put Dan Craig wide open to double Penn State’s lead 8-4. Yovino responded, but here’s where Penn State started to run away with the game. A Craig scoop shot then two-in-a-row Kevin Hill made it 11-5 with three minutes left in the third, but Furman’s William Holcomb finished the quarter’s scoring.
The Paladins opened up the quarter’s scoring for the first time all game. A four-goal run — Furman’s best of the day at the time — tightened Penn State’s lead to 11-9 with 8:57 left to play. Penn State stayed in its own defensive end for far too long, and Furman’s Jonah Moore beat Colby Kneese stick-side to make it a one-goal game late in the fourth. Kneese caught on to the way Furman was shooting and managed to save a Paladin shot and clear it, giving Penn State an opportunity for offense for the last two minutes of the game. Ryan Keenan came up huge off a long pass from Spillane to make it 12-10 Penn State with :44 left to play.
- O’Keefe doesn’t hurt, but Penn State does just fine when he’s not putting up insane numbers. This is crucial to long-term success — not every game is going to be a string of highlight reelers, and that’s okay. The depth of this team shouldn’t be understated.
- This might sound a bit weird, but I was impressed with Craig’s spacial awareness. On his goals, he knew exactly where he had to go to make a play. It’s clear that Penn State’s strength is offense.
- Bouts of defensive pressure from Penn State were encouraging and forced some turnovers, but those bouts need to last. There’s a learning curve with any freshman goalie, but Colby Kneese needed to sharpen up in the fourth and the defense in general needed to settle down. There were certain goals Kneese just needed to save, but he recognized the way Furman was shooting at the very end — he didn’t freak out and he managed to clear it — huge for Penn State’s win.
- It wasn’t perfect, but sometimes experience in the close ones is just as important as crushing opponents — especially for a freshman goalie.
Penn State heads to Cambridge for a face off with Harvard Saturday. We’ll be there, so follow along with us all game.