Second Half Surge Not Enough for Penn State

After a hard fought battle at Ridley Sports Complex in Loyola Maryland yesterday, the Greyhounds came out on top of PSU 8-6. There were many moments in the game where it seemed like the Nittany Lions would pull off the upset; there were just as many moments where you could tell Loyola had the advantage.

Penn State drew first blood in the game and showed an early sign of life that they’re a competing program with a goal from Matt Florence. However, Loyola would go on to score three unanswered goals to finish out the first quarter. (Loyola goals Brian Sherlock, Zach Herreweyers and Tyler Albrecht)

Penn State played tough in that opening period and proved they can compete. Right away, a lacrosse-knowledgable spectator could tell that PSU didn’t accumulate the amount of shots it takes to compete with Loyola and programs like them. On the day, Loyola had 50 shots compared to Penn State’s 27 shots. That’s almost two times the opportunities on goal.

Granted, PSU took higher quality, in-close shots whereas Loyola felt free to reign showers of shots from anywhere on the field. At the higher D-I levels, many programs will find that those random, long-range shots can pay off in the end.

The second quarter wasn’t much prettier for PSU. Once again, they opened to scoring drive with a goal from Pat Manley unassisted, but the Greyhounds were apt to fire 3 goals themselves and close out the quarter. Loyola’s Albrecht, Herreweyers and Sherlock all found the back of the cage again in the second quarter.

So here’s halftime: Penn State is feeling pretty defeated already, trailing the Greyhounds 6-2. How in the world can there be a rebound against a team like Loyola? Somewhere in that halftime locker room speech, PSU Head Coach Jeff Tambroni must have said something because the Lions came back onto the turf roaring.

In the third quarter, Loyola’s Herreweyers found the cage again to open the scoring. However, PSU answered back less than two minutes later with a goal from Brian Prestreau. Those would be the only two goals scored that quarter, but the PSU defense came ready to fight. They stood their ground, got their rotations and slides together, and were ready for the Loyola onslaught this time.

“Fourth quarter! Fourth quarter! Fourth quarter!” – Remember the Titans

Here’s the fourth quarter, last shot for PSU. Mike Sutton scores on an extra-man opportunity for PSU. Three minutes later, PSU’s TJ Sanders finds the net. Three minutes later, Nick Aponte scores. Just like that, three unanswered goals for Penn State brings the score to 7-6 Loyola. All PSU needs is another goal to chance overtime.

The ball continues to go back and forth, as it did all game, exchanging possessions. Penn State gets the ball on offense, and with Loyola playing a man-defense stacks up in an “I” formation. Two attack men behind the cage to chase shots, four lined straight up the middle from crease to midfield. Crease offender is breaking open for edge passes while the two middle are off-ball picking. Ball gets rotated to the top.

Top midfielder swings down the right side, which is completely open with defenders stacked up in man-defense. This midfielder even beat his defender on the cut. HE HANGS HIS STICK FOR THE SHOT!!!!! Loyola defender originally beat steps in, completely demolishes the PSU midfielder’s stick, ball come loose, Loyola recovers.

The Greyhounds find another scoring opportunity with a nice goal from Romar Dennis with less than two minutes in the game. No matter the effort from PSU the game was over.

We (spectators) now know PSU can compete at these levels. They need to clean up their shots, take more opportunities, and play heavy defense. With those easy modifications in practice this week, I don’t see why the Nittany Lions can’t upend future competitors.