Penn State Lacrosse Set For A Battle Of Top-Ten Offenses In NCAA Tournament
No. 1 Penn State men’s lacrosse’s second-round NCAA tournament matchup against No. 8 Loyola Maryland will be a contest between two of the sport’s best offenses.
Powered by Tewaaraton award finalist Grant Ament and 60-goal scorer Mac O’Keefe, the Nittany Lions’ attack definitely needs no introduction. It leads the nation so far with an average of 17.81 goals per game and is coming off a 25-goal performance in the opening round of the big dance. It might seem impossible for any team to match Penn State’s production, but Loyola Maryland has come close throughout the 2019 season.
The Greyhounds boast the nation’s eighth-best scoring offense with 14.06 goals per game and a three-headed monster up front. Kevin Lindley is Loyola Maryland’s resident sharpshooter with a team-leading 59 goals. He’s joined by Chase Scanlan, whose 42 goals are nothing to look twice at, and another Tewaaraton award finalist in Pat Spencer.
Spencer’s 43-goal, 60-assist output so far this season is nothing short of spectacular, and Penn State’s defense will have its hands full against him.
“He’s got wonderful size, which is an extreme asset for him, and he uses it very well,” head coach Jeff Tambroni said of Loyola Maryland’s star. “He has the agility and vision of a Grant Ament and an ability to shoot and stretch the defense similar to Mac O’Keefe. He’s a really dangerous cover because he’s not limited to one skill set.”
Loyola Maryland squeaked by Syracuse in the first round of the tournament, in no small part thanks to Spencer’s contributions. The senior scored a hat trick and added six assists — his 10th game with at least seven points this season — as his team knocked off the Orange by a final score of 15-13.
When Spencer takes the field in East Hartford, Connecticut this weekend, he’ll line up against one of the nation’s better defensive units. He’s seemed to score almost at will against most of his opposition this season, but elite defenses have found ways to keep him at bay.
Spencer registered only one assist in a loss to Army, which ranks No. 2 in defense, and only a goal and two assists against Duke’s fifth-ranked defense. Still he proved he can carve up a good defense against Syracuse (10.14 goals against per game).
Defender Chris Sabia, Penn State’s captain and the Big Ten’s defensive player of the year in 2019, is looking forward to the challenges Spencer and Loyola’s entire offense will present. The senior said covering Grant Ament in practice every day has helped prepare him for most star attackmen he’ll line up against, including Spencer.
“Pat Spencer’s definitely a very talented player,” Sabia said. “I know he and Loyola’s offense are going to give us one of our greatest challenges yet, but we’re very much up to the challenge. They’re going to try and control the pace of the game, just like we are.”
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Yale’s elite attack and faceoff unit will be a worthy challenger to Penn State on Saturday.
It’s hard not to draw parallels between this year’s lacrosse team and a couple other Nittany Lion teams that have used the City of Brotherly Love as a launching pad to sustained success.
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