Men’s Lacrosse Defeats Michigan To Earn Berth To Inaugural Big Ten Tournament
Playing in 109,901-seat Michigan Stadium, Penn State men’s lacrosse defeated the Michigan Wolverines 10-9 on Saturday afternoon, earning a berth in the inaugural Big Ten tournament as a No. 4 seed to take on top-seeded Johns Hopkins on April 30 in College Park, Md.
Following a disappointing 5-7 season, Penn State (5-8, 2-3 B1G) needed a win over the Wolverines (5-8, 1-4 B1G) to have any chance of capturing the Big Ten title. One week after earning its first ever Big Ten win over Rutgers, the Lions picked up their second conference win in a row to enter postseason play with a formidable win-streak.
How It Happened
Clearly energized by the unique setting and a chance at postseason play, Penn State started the game with three unanswered goals. T.J. Sanders started the scoring with a goal 2:40 into the game. The Lions wouldn’t score again for another 10 minutes until Nick Aponte ran from behind the net and scored high over his defender for a 2-0 lead. Two minutes into the second quarter, Aponte added his second of the game off an assist from Tommy O’Neill on a mid-air shot that beat Michigan goalie Gerald Logan for a 3-0 lead.
Penn State’s defense continued to prove mighty behind goaltender Connor Darcey, but Michigan’s Ian King found the net just over a minute and a half after Aponte’s second goal to cut the lead to 3-1. But Aponte was just getting started, scoring over a minute later for a first-half hat trick to rebuild Penn State’s three-goal lead. The Lions would hold the Wolverines scoreless for the rest of the half, taking a 4-1 lead into the half. It was the first time Penn State held an opponent to one goal in the opening 30 minutes this season.
The third quarter showed an increased offensive effort from both sides, as the Wolverines scored 2:24 into the second half to halve the lead. Penn State would respond with a 4-2 run, however, taking an 8-4 lead into a frantic fourth quarter.
Looking to spark a comeback in front of the home crowd, Michigan out-scored the Lions 5-2 in the final 15 minutes of play. After Sanders scored his second of the game to give Penn State a 9-5 lead, the Wolverines answered with a flury of goals, scoring three times in less than two minutes to make it a one-goal game 9-8. Sanders allowed Penn State to take a brief sigh of relief, scoring with less than six minutes remaining for a 10-8 lead. Michigan would add another goal with 2:27 left to pull back within one, but Darcey and the Lions would hold on to secure the important victory.
Player(s) of the Game
Nick Aponte and T.J. Sanders. Both strikers added hat tricks to pace the offense, and both did it in spectacular fashion. Sanders fourth period goal was critical in maintaining the slim lead, and without the impressive showing from the goal-scoring duo, the Lions season would almost certainly be over.
- Connor Darcey made 13 saves, his 10th game this season with double-digit stops.
- Pat Manley, Dan Craig, and Brian Prestreau scored one goal apiece. Mike Sutton, Dan Craig and Mike Aronow each tacked on an assist.
- Penn State lost the face-off battle 14-23 with Drake Kreinz going 4-for-9 and Billy Lombardi posting a 5-9 record.
- The Nittany Lions won the ground ball battle, 23-22, but out-shot the Wolverines 43-38.
Image: Mark Selders/GoPSUsports.com