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No. 7 Penn State Men’s Lacrosse Triumphs Over No. 10 Princeton 13-12, Moves On To NCAA Tournament Quarterfinals

No. 7 Penn State men’s lacrosse (10-4, 4-1 Big Ten) defeated No. 10 Princeton (8-7, 4-2 Ivy League) in the opening round of the NCAA Tournament Sunday night at Panzer Stadium.

Penn State struggled off the opening whistle and fell behind as Princeton’s offense isolated and beat the Nittany Lions’ defenders to score several unassisted goals. Penn State remained lethargic and couldn’t compete and soon trailed the Tigers by a scoreline of 7-1.

After halftime, Jeff Tramboni’s team inspired an impressive comeback to gain a lead and survive in a game that appeared to be finished in the first half.

How It Happened

Penn State started the game off flat as goalie Jack Fracyon was relied on to come up with a quick save off the opening face-off. A few minutes later, the Nittany Lion defense allowed Sean Cameron open space and an early shot, which flew past Fracyon to give the Tigers an early advantage.

The Penn State defense continued to be tested as the Tigers maintained possession on offense. With 10:02 remaining in the quarter, Coulter Mackesy fired a side-armed shot past Fracyon to set the score to 2-0. Princeton continued to pressure and wear down the Nittany Lion defense and deny any movements forward.

Fracyon made a crucial save following a shot from Cameron, which allowed the Penn State offense to gain a much-needed spurt of possession. Not long after, Ethan Long got the Nittany Lions on the board following a pinpoint through pass from TJ Malone to reset the score to 2-1.

With 4:40 remaining in the quarter, Mackesy beat two Penn State defenders from a dodge and slotted a shot in the back of the net from the crease. Trailing by two goals again, the Nittany Lions began to increase the intensity on offense, resulting in several turnovers from erroneous passing.

After the Nittany Lion defense was unable to recover a ground ball from a successful Princeton ride, Mackesy picked up the ball and found his hattrick to make the score 4-1. Penn State couldn’t find its groove on offense after turning the ball over for the fifth time in the first quarter.

The start of the second quarter told a similar story as Penn State quickly fell behind. Princeton’s John Dunphey scored a goal for the Tigers on transition to extend the score to 5-1. The Nittany Lions struggled to gain any offensive momentum as the Princeton defense continued to force key turnovers.

With 10:43 remaining in the half, Mackesy found another goal from a tight angle to increase the Penn State deficit to five. The Tigers continued to dominate Penn State in midfield and kept the ball in the Nittany Lion half.

Princeton’s Alex Slusher found space to shoot and fired a ball past Fracyon to increase the lead to 7-1. After a successful Penn State clear, Malone passed the ball to Long who scored after wrapping around the net and ended the scoring drought for the Nittany Lions.

Penn State’s Kevin Parnham scooped up a ground ball from a Princeton error on offense and transitioned the ball downfield to find Mark Sickler, who rifled the ball passed the Princeton goalie. Just 18 seconds later, Jack Traynor found an open Malone who placed the ball in the back of the net to set the score to 7-4.

Princeton provided an answer as Alexander Vardaro beat a Penn State defender and squeezed the ball past the near post to increase the Tigers’ lead. Penn State’s Malone provided a quick response after finding Long a third time, making the score 8-5.

With 1:40 remaining in the second quarter, Traynor ran into open space and slotted the ball into the net to decrease the deficit to just two goals for the Nittany Lions. Then, Princeton’s Mackesy earned a fifth goal for the night after receiving a pass from Tommy Barnds. The action-packed first half ended with a score of 9-6.

Penn State started the second half seeking an answer after trailing the entire first half. The Penn State offense received several looks on goal early on, forcing several key saves from Princeton’s Michael Gianforcaro.

The Nittany Lion defense appeared rejuvenated after the call was made by Tambroni to switch to a zone defense, which also allowed for more looks on offense. The Nittany Lions earned a man-up opportunity, which was converted by Kevin Winkoff who slid the ball past Gianforcaro.

With 6:49 remaining in the third quarter, Penn State’s Long secured a fourth goal after beating a defender from behind the net. Then, on the other end of the field, Fracyon pulled off a point-blank save on Sickler to allow the Nittany Lions to successfully clear the ball. Matt Traynor found open space on transition and launched the ball passed Gianforcaro to tie the game at 9-9.

The Nittany Lions secured another after Long found his fifth goal of the night by shooting the ball underhand to give Penn State its first lead of the night. Just under a minute later, Malone beat a defender one-on-one to secure his 100th career goal for the Nittany Lions.

The Penn State defense subdued the following Princeton attack to end the quarter with a score of 11-9 in favor of the Nittany Lions.

The Penn State offense continued its scoring spree heading into the fourth quarter after Jeb Brenfleck beat a defender and rifled a shot into the back of the net. Princeton continued to struggle to break down Penn State’s lights-out zone defense, despite several shots from the Tigers to test Fracyon.

Both teams continued to exchange attacks on transition, eventually resulting in Princeton’s Mackesy scoring a side-armed shot to end the Tigers’ 25-minute scoring absence. Just 23 seconds later, Jake Stevens carried the ball forward and ripped a shot past Fracyon to set the score to 12-11.

The Tigers found a leveling goal from Vardaro, who fired a shot from the wing to tie the game at 12-12. Heading into the final five minutes of the game, both teams continued to battle to find a late goal.

With 4:16 remaining, Winkoff beat a defender and hammered a shot into the upper left corner to give the Nittany Lions a crucial goal. With the clock winding down, Penn State remained disciplined on offense and maintained possession to keep the ball away from the Princeton’s offense.

The Tigers earned a final chance on offense following a turnover from the Nittany Lions with the shot clock matching the game clock. Princeton’s Vardaro pushed a final shot on net that was saved by Fracyon. The Nittany Lions cleared the ball and saw the remainder of the game out with the score finishing at 13-12.

Takeaways:

  • The Nittany Lions started the game off cold but rallied following five goals from Long and an impressive performance from Malone, who earned four assists. The Penn State offense dominated the Tigers in the third quarter of the game and scored six unanswered goals during this period.
  • Penn State’s Fracyon was excellent and carried the Nittany Lions to victory by providing much-needed stability on defense as the team went on a scoring spree. Fracyon made 16 saves during the game and was an essential piece to the comeback victory tonight.
  • The Penn State defense answered quick goals from Mackesy after Tambroni transitioned the team into a zone formation. This change was essential and shutdown the Princeton offense for nearly two quarters.

What’s Next?

After an inspiring comeback, Penn State’s postseason run continues in a quarterfinal matchup of the NCAA Tournament. The Nittany Lions will take on Army West Point in Annapolis, Maryland, at noon on Sunday, May 21. Folks can tune into the game on ESPNU.

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About the Author

Ryan Banks

Ryan is a junior from Latrobe, Pennsylvania majoring in Finance. He is a Pittsburgh sports fan and believes Kenny Pickett is 'the guy.' In his free time, he can be found running pickup soccer games or losing money day trading in his apartment. Any inquiries (or stock tips) can be sent via email to [email protected].

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