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Men’s Lacrosse Falls To Johns Hopkins In Big Ten Semifinals, 14-9

Following an impressive win over Michigan to advance to the first-ever Big Ten Lacrosse Tournament, Penn State fell to top-seeded Johns Hopkins on Thursday night in College Park, Md., 14-9.

Redshirt sophomore goaltender Connor Darcey kept Penn State competitive against the 16th-ranked Blue Jays, making 17 saves, just one shy of his career-high of 18 at Harvard earlier this season. With Johns Hopkins peppering the net in the early going, Darcey stopped 11 shots in the first half.

How It Happened

The opening quarter was not friendly to the Nittany Lions, as the Blue Jays raced to an early 5-0 lead. With just nine seconds left in the first quarter, Penn State would finally light up the scoreboard, as All-Big Ten honorable mention T.J. Sanders scored his first of the game and 28th of the season on a wraparound to make it a four-goal game.

Sanders goal would awaken a slumbering Penn State offense, as the Nittany Lions scored the next six goals to put a scare into the tournament favorites. Ryan Keenan scored on a pass from Nick Aponte at the goal line for his first collegiate tally, and 38 seconds later, Sanders scored his second of the game to pull within two, 5-3. With the man-advantage another minute later, Matt Florence rifled a feed from Sanders below the crossbar to make it a one-goal game.

A conduct foul on the Blue Jays’ head coach wiped off the ensuing face-off, and Florence capitalized with an overhand shot into the far right top corner just four seconds later for the game-tying goal. With 4:22 remaining in the quarter, Dan Craig scooped up Aponte’s shot that was initially saved and put it past Johns Hopkins’ Eric Schneider to complete the rally, giving Penn State its first lead of the game, 6-5.

With over a half to play, Penn State was in the driver’s seat looking for a trip to the inaugural Big Ten title game. But the Blue Jays answered with an impressive rally of their own, outscoring the Nittany Lions 9-3 in the game’s final 34 minutes to stifle the upset bid, 14-9.

Player of the Game

Three worthy candidates emerged once the dust settled in Maryland:

  1. T.J. Sanders – The Nittany Lions’ leading scorer added two more goals to finish the season with 29, sixth-most in the Big Ten. The junior also added an assist, his 13th of the season.
  2. Matt Florence – Florence added a two goals and two assists, as well as a team-leading nine shots on goal. The redshirt sophomore finishes the season with 16 goals, including two game-winners.
  3. Connor Darcey – The redshirt sophomore was faced with the daunting task of filling All-American Austin Kaut’s shoes and performed admirably, finishing with the second-most saves per game in the Big Ten (12.57) and the fourth-best save percentage (.553). Facing the conference’s most potent offense in terms of goals per game (12.50), Darcey came up with 17 saves.

Quote of the Game

“I love our kids,” head coach Jeff Tambroni told after the game. “It’s a challenging time, knowing that you just didn’t do enough to move on, so we’re just going to gather our thoughts and move on.

“Hopefully, we can take this experience, move forward, learn from it, and do a better job next year of putting ourselves in a similar position and taking advantage of it.”

What’s Next?

The loss concludes Penn State’s first season in the Big Ten with a 5-9 record, including back-to-back wins over conference foes Rutgers and Michigan to qualify for the tournament. Though the Lions failed to live up to its preseason No. 14/17 ranking, Penn State showed resiliency by battling back from a five-game losing streak to earn a berth to the Big Ten’s first tournament.

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About the Author

CJ Doon

CJ is a senior journalism major from Long Island and Onward State's Sports Editor. He is a third-generation Penn Stater, and his grandfather wrestled for the university back in the 1930s under coach Charlie “Doc” Speidel. Besides writing, one of his favorite activities is making sea puns. You can follow him on Twitter @CJDoon, and send your best puns to [email protected], just for the halibut.

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