Penn State Men’s Lacrosse Heads Into Regular Season With Two Preseason Ties
Men’s lacrosse looks to be primed for another strong season after tying the program record for wins in 2017. The Nittany Lions took on both Navy and Army in weekend exhibition games already and now eye up regular season play.
Jeff Tambroni’s squad tied both teams in these preseason scrimmages, but there’s still a lot to take away from both efforts. The early showings suggest Mac O’Keefe is ready to continue his scoring outbursts, but will need to do so consistently to give the Nittany Lions their best chance against stronger Big Ten opponents. Sophomore Nick Cardile also appears to be making his way into the Penn State defense as a mainstay in front of Colby Kneese.
The first preseason matchup came on Saturday, January 20 at Holuba Hall against a visiting Navy side.
The Nittany Lions opened up their first January showdown quickly, jumping out to a 4-0 lead against the Midshipmen in what looked like the 2017 Nittany Lions at their finest.
Spillane scored twice early on before Mac O’Keefe notched his first goal in competitive play as the Nittany Lions got out to that early lead. O’Keefe would be good for three goals on the day, and a goal from Grant Ament, among a handful of other scores, would send Penn State to halftime holding an 8-5 lead.
The Nittany Lions even extended their lead to 10-6 following goals from Robbie Black and Matt Donnelly, but Navy stormed back to eventually tie it all up at 10 apiece. The comeback may not seem so promising to the average observer, but it was clear that Tambroni was not looking for long minutes from his starters as the game morphed into a battle of second-teamers.
Play moved outside to the Penn State Lacrosse Field on Saturday, January 27 as Penn State took on another military opponent in Army. This matchup was not like the high-scoring affair the Nittany Lions had with the Midshipmen, yet it ended similarly in a tie.
Grant Ament, a veteran leader of the 2018 squad, opened up the scoring after making an Army defender miss with an impressive deke. That was the only goal of the opening frame, though, as both sets of attackers went relatively cold.
O’Keefe and Ament found Matt Donnelly for another preseason goal to make it 2-0, opening up the scoring in the second quarter. Army came back with two goals of its own before Dylan Foulds gave Penn State a 3-2 lead. The Nittany Lions carried that lead into halftime.
Donnelly netted another goal in the third quarter, but the Black Knights stormed back to make it 5-5 heading into the final quarter of play. Mac O’Keefe was notably scoreless on the afternoon, despite tallying nine shots, which could be some cause for concern in attack. The sophomore is clearly a goal-scoring machine, but he appeared to be frustrated with his performance on the field. The matchup ended all square at 6-6, but the Nittany Lions showed some important signs of strength for a preseason contest.
Moving forward, the Nittany Lions will take on Villanova in Happy Valley to open regular season play. These two sides have squared off before in non-conference play, so expect some chippy, close play in this matchup. You can catch the game on at 1 p.m. Saturday, February 3.