No. 9 Penn State men’s lacrosse got off to a very strong start this season. In that strong start, the team went on a double-digit winning streak that propelled it to the top of the NCAA rankings, but since being ranked as the best team in the nation, the team began to struggle. In their only appearance as the No. 1 team in the nation, the Nittany Lions lost a crucial Big Ten matchup to a similarly high-ranked opponent, and therefore, quickly lost their No. 1 ranking. After this tough loss, the team continued to struggle and fall down the national rankings.
Although the men’s lacrosse team only lost two consecutive games, its season has very closely resembled that of the Penn State men’s hockey team’s season. Guy Gadowsky’s squad got off to a hot start, winning 14 of 15 games including an 11-game winning streak, to earn the No. 1 national ranking heading into its showdown with then-No. 11 Ohio State at Pegula Ice Arena. The Buckeyes swept Penn State in a two-game weekend series, and from there, the Nittany Lions went on to lose eight of their final 13 games of the season.
While it may be too early to tell if the men’s lacrosse team will have similar struggles in its final two games against No. 14 Rutgers and unranked Michigan, it’s easy to see the similarities between the two programs this season. If the hockey team is any indicator of the future, then the lacrosse team will struggle for the rest of the regular season. Fortunately, these regular season struggles foreshadowed an extremely strong postseason for Penn State hockey.
As most people in Happy Valley know, Penn State responded to the bad ending to the regular season by winning the Big Ten Championship, clinching its first NCAA Tournament bid, and scoring ten goals in its NCAA Tournament opener. Although the Nittany Lions’ season ended with a 6-3 loss to eventual national champion Denver, fans could walk away with plenty of optimism for the future.
Dropping two games since taking the No. 1 national ranking, it will be crucial for Penn State men’s lacrosse to finish the regular season strong going into the Big Ten tournament and, hopefully, the NCAA Tournament. Although it is possible to overcome a slow finish in postseason play, going into the postseason with momentum from a strong finish would help them win a tough Big Ten tournament.