Historic Win Propels Penn State Men’s Lacrosse To Believe It Belongs With The Best
For the first time in program history, the Penn State men’s lacrosse took down Johns Hopkins on Saturday afternoon. In front of a roaring home crowd, the Nittany Lions were in charge against the perennial blue-blood program.
Sporting their trademark light blue jerseys, the Blue Jays had rolled off seven straight victories before walking into Panzer Stadium.
Sophomore Mac O’Keefe and junior Kevin Hill may have had hat tricks on the day. And junior Nick Spillane’s seven points certainly helped too. But the grittiness of star face-off man Gerard Arceri was what willed the team to victory as the sophomore went 16-23 on face-offs.
Arceri injured his leg during the game against Maryland last week and it was not clear if he would even suit up to play against Johns Hopkins. Coach Jeff Tambroni said Arceri always maintained he would be ready for action against the Blue Jays.
“Our trainers had a different opinion and we did as well, but he proved every one of us wrong today, and got out there and had the performance of a lifetime,” Tambroni said.
When a hit knocked Arceri out of the third quarter, sophomore Nick McEvoy got his chance to shine at the face-off X. McEvoy was able to break away and score off of a face-off he won with only one second remaining in the third quarter. That score gave Penn State two goals in the last 10 seconds of the third quarter, which ultimately turned out to be the difference in a game the Nittany Lions won 14-12.
And although McEvoy was stellar filling in for Arceri in the third quarter, the team’s star face-off man would not be held back by his injury once the fourth quarter began. Arceri surprised everyone, including Tambroni, and said he was good to go. The sophomore’s toughness did not go unnoticed by his teammates.
“I’ve never seen a kid spend so much time in the training room. He was just so determined to get on the field and just so locked in on what he had to do. That’s one of the more impressive performances I’ve ever seen out of anyone,” Spillane said.
The win against Hopkins was certainly a big one, and it is one that moves Penn State to No. 12 in the USILA Coaches Poll. With the Nittany Lions having lost by now top-ranked Maryland just a week ago, Tambroni, however, said this victory was more than just about a rise in the rankings.
“I would say this is a big win. I mean I think honestly every win in the Big Ten is a big win. I do think that playing against some of the traditionally successful teams like Maryland and Hopkins seem to have a different element. Some of it is just belief — a belief that you belong in that conversation,” Tambroni said. “And I think that’s where it starts, that you believe you belong in the same name frame as some of these blue-blood programs.”
And although Tambroni realizes the gravity of this victory, he knows his team has higher aspirations.
“I also don’t want to overblow this because there is a lot of season left to play,” Tambroni said. “Hopefully this just gets us closer to some of our goals that we set this year.”