Penn State men’s lacrosse drops second straight

Story posted March 29, 2014 in CommRadio by Alex Passaretti

Villanova (4-5, 2-0) did not trail once on a rainy Saturday afternoon, as the Wildcats were too much for No. 20 Penn State (4-5, 0-1), defeating the Nittany Lions 9-7.

For Penn State, seniors Shane Sturgis and Michael Richards each scored twice, which was not enough to carry the Nittany Lions to victory.

Senior Kevin O’Neil led the Wildcats to victory, contributing three goals and one assist. Freshman midfielder Austin Frederick also notched a hat trick for Villanova.

Villanova was able to break down the Penn State defense for the entire first half. They used picks efficiently and cut to the goal to split the defense and get their guys to the crease.

Turnovers were another key for Penn State’s lack of success. The Nittany Lions turned the ball over a season-high 21 times, including 13 times in the first half.

“Between our shooting and our decision making offensively, I thought we just gave the ball away far too many times in that first half to provide any rhythm,” said Penn State head coach Jeff Tambroni. “I think that ultimately became our Achilles’ heel.”

Junior Eric Gartner of Villanova scored the first goal of the game with 8:24 left to go in the first quarter. Richards retaliated with a goal of his own, tying the game at one apiece. However, Villanova was able to score twice more, including a man-up goal from Frederick late in the quarter.

The second quarter consisted of relentless attack and pressure from both teams. Penn State scored three times in the quarter, two of which were created solely on the work Sturgis did in one-on-one situations. Pat Manley scored one and Sturgis scored the other.

After a holding penalty was called on Gartner, TJ Sanders scored a man-up goal with 2:54 left to go in the first half, and Penn State trailed 5-4.

After a Penn State time out with 48 seconds to go, it looked as if they would be going into the half down one goal, but Kevin O’Neil and the Wildcats had other ideas. O’Neil was able to control the ball in the Penn State defensive zone and ripped a top-shelf goal with just three seconds left on the clock. Penn State went into the half down 6-4.

“I thought we were doing a good job about midway through the second quarter of valuing the ball a little bit more,” said Tambroni. “We settled into a zone defensively then gave one up right at the end of the half and that was a killer in regards to momentum.”

During halftime, Penn State made some noticeable adjustments to their defense, as they only allowed three goals for the entire second half.

“We just weren’t making simple plays in the first half,” senior goaltender Austin Kaut said. “At halftime we just talked and said ‘we just have to calm down and play the way we’re capable,’ and we did, but it wasn’t enough.”

Villanova started the second half where it left off. Less than three minutes into the half, sophomore Jack Curran scored his first goal of the game, extending the Wildcat lead to 7-4. Gartner scored for the second time with 9:51 left in the third quarter and Villanova led 8-4.

Penn State senior midfielder Tom LaCrosse scored an unassisted goal with 3:20 left to make the score 8-5. Penn State managed to put one in the back of the net with 13 seconds remaining in the quarter, but the goal was waved off for a crease violation.

There was not as much action in the fourth quarter, and the Penn State offense was a little too complacent for the crowds’ liking, as fans voiced their displeasure from the stands.

Sturgis cut the Villanova lead to 8-6 with goal with 12:12 left in the quarter, as Penn State began their comeback. However, O’Neil topped off his hat trick with 10 minutes remaining, stretching the lead to 9-6.

Penn State could not get a decent look for a shot until there was 3:45 left to go in the game when Richards scored his second goal of the day.

Villanova freshman goalie Dan Willis recorded five of his nine saves in the fourth quarter, three of which came in the final three minutes.

The horn sounded, and Villanova came away with the upset win over Penn State in a slightly dominating fashion. It is just the fourth Villanova win in 20 meetings between the two schools.

In the loss, Shane Sturgis moved up to seventh on Penn State’s all-time points list, but that doesn’t mean much to him.

“We just lost,” Sturgis said. “I care about that way more than any of that other stuff.”

Penn State will look to recover in a conference matchup against Drexel next week, in Philadelphia.

Alex Passaretti is a sophomore majoring in broadcast journalism. To contact him, email