Penn State Men’s Lacrosse Faltering Without Ament
The Penn State men’s lacrosse team suffered its first loss days before it even played its first game of the season, and it was a season-changing one. The Nittany Lions lost junior attackman Grant Ament to a foot injury that occurred during practice, and the veteran will be missing for an indefinite period of time.
The team’s first loss that showed up in the standings came against Villanova, ultimately ending in heartbreaking 17-16 loss. The game was an adjustment — the first of many for the team.
Losing a player like Ament, someone who was listed on Inside Lacrosse’s Preseason All-Big Ten team, was never going to have an easy fix. Coach Jeff Tambroni began that mending process by sliding midfielder Nick Spillane into the attack corps. Spillane has had a solid season thus far, tallying five goals and six assists through four games, yet his production alone was never going to be enough to replace Penn State’s leading scorer from a year ago.
The junior from The Haverford School, a lacrosse powerhouse, had 3o goals and assists for the Nittany Lions last season and was the engine that made Penn State’s lethal offense go. Without this piece in place, another star player will need to step up and take on a significant role until Ament can make his triumphant return.
One name that certainly comes to mind is sophomore Mac O’Keefe. O’Keefe burst onto the scene last season as a freshman, when he scored 51 goals and broke Penn State’s record for the most goals in a single season. So far this season, however, O’Keefe has been the focus of most team’s defensive strategies, as evidenced by O’Keefe’s no-goal performance against Robert Morris.
Although O’Keefe did show a promising glimpse of his 2017 self when he recorded five goals against Hobart earlier this season, the team will certainly need more of that from him in the coming weeks. With teams faceguarding O’Keefe, other players will need to step up and make opposing defenses pay as well.
Matt Donnelly, who tallied two goals and an assist against Robert Morris, will need to continue to be a viable option in attack for Penn State. Kevin Hill, who matched Donnelly’s offensive performance against the Colonials, will need to help make up for Ament’s production as well. These two juniors will likely find themselves best positioned to carry the team until Ament returns, and Tambroni will need them playing at their very best.
Ament is out indefinitely, so O’Keefe will not only need to lead the Nittany Lions back from a disappointing 2-2 start to the season, but the rest of the team will must follow suit.