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Penn State Men’s Lacrosse In Desperate Need For Bounce-Back Year

With the 2022 season kicking off on Saturday, Penn State men’s lacrosse will need to be better on both sides of the ball if it wants to return to the NCAA Tournament.

The Nittany Lions finished with a 4-7 record last year in a season that featured only Big Ten opponents. Now, with a handful of new opponents on tap and a fresh group of players guiding the way, Penn State could be in for a major change.

First and foremost, the Nittany Lions will need to account for the loss of midfielder Mac O’Keefe, who departed to the Premier League Lacrosse’s Chaos Lacrosse Club as the No. 6 overall pick. O’Keefe led the Nittany Lions with 29 goals last year and served as a major leader in the locker room.

This year’s team will need senior attackman TJ Malone to step up and produce like he did last year, especially considering O’Keefe’s absence. Malone should be the go-to guy in clutch situations for this team, as he is undoubtedly the team’s best feeder from the crease and scorer. Malone posted a decent shot percentage at .298 last season and scored 25 goals, but he will need to improve even more if he’s to serve as Penn State’s top offensive option.

The starting goalie for the Nittany Lions will most likely be redshirt junior Aleric Fyock. Last season, Fyock played in five games for Penn State and started two of them. He posted a solid 13.05 goals-against average and a .526 save percentage across those matchups.

Another important team aspect is the leadership of captains Brett Funk, Brayden Peck, and Brian Townsend, who should work to spearhead development for the team’s younger players.

Captains Funk and Peck will lead Penn State’s defense after contributing as starters last season. In 2021, Funk played and started in nine games and picked up 12 ground balls across the campaign. He also forced four turnovers. Peck, meanwhile, also played in nine games last year and started in eight of them. He was able to pick up 13 ground balls and force seven turnovers.

Both players are going to need to increase ground ball production and create more turnovers for the defense to improve to an elite level.

Senior Jake Glatz is an important player for Penn State at the faceoff X. Faceoffs are the best way for this team to get possessions, and it will likely be up to him to win a lot of them. Last year, he posted a .511 win percentage on faceoffs.

There’s also talent among freshmen on the team, including goalie Jack Fraycon. If Fyock sees struggles, the first-year net-minder out of Annapolis, Md. could add value.

Penn State has two very talented players from two of the best lacrosse high schools in the country. This impact can be essential for the team. Between midfielder Ethan Long from Calvert Hall and attackmen Will Peden from Malvern Prep, success is in their reach.

The Nittany Lions will have a lot of important games on their schedule for this season, both in the conference and out of it. Penn State will host No. 7 Yale on February 26 at Panzer Field, which should serve as an early-season test considering that Yale is among the favorites to win the NCAA Tournament.

Another important game for Penn State will be against rival Ohio State in Columbus on April 2. Both of these Big Ten squads are unranked going into the season, but a lot could change for these two tournament hopefuls.

Along with Yale, the Nittany Lions currently have seven ranked opponents on the schedule to begin the season, including Maryland (No. 2) and Rutgers (No. 9).

Penn State will open the season against Lafayette at 1 p.m. on Saturday, February 5, at Holuba Hall. The game was moved indoors due to this weekend’s inclement weather.

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About the Author

Ethan Bell

Ethan is a freshman majoring in journalism at Penn State. He loves all things Pittsburgh sports and is the best league commissioner of all time in Fantasy Football. He is from Mt. Lebanon, Pennsylvania, and he swears that Fiori's in Pittsburgh is the best pizza in the world. If you want to get a hold of him, follow him on Twitter @EBell45 or email him at [email protected]

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