MLAX: Nittany Lions End Blue-White Weekend With Senior Day Victory Over Rutgers
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. – With the campus quieting down after an exciting Blue-White weekend, No. 9 Penn State men’s lacrosse and their 10 seniors on Senior Night rolled past No. 14 Rutgers, 13-7. Penn State won the Friendship Cup for the twelfth time, which is the Rutgers/Penn State rivalry, and now have a 12-5 record all time against the Scarlet Knights since 1998.
The Nittany Lions also punched their ticket to the Big Ten Tournament, claiming the No. 4 seed in the conference and joining Maryland, Ohio State and Johns Hopkins. Rutgers was eliminated with the loss.
The Nittany Lions were coming off two straight Big Ten losses, after losing tough road matchups to No. 2 Maryland and No. 8 Johns Hopkins. Rutgers was coming off a heartbreaking three-overtime loss to Maryland.
The Nittany Lions came out hot and got right to business. In the first quarter, they dominated time of possession and their faceoff game was unreal. Freshman Gerard Arceri has been Penn State’s best faceoff guy all year, but the last two games he had struggled. Tonight, he bounced back in front of the home crowd and had Penn State at one point up 10-0 on faceoffs.
The score was 3-2 when Penn State called a timeout to regroup. Out of the timeout, Arceri won the faceoff clean, found the streaking freshman and Nittany Lion leading goal scorer Mac O’Keefe in the slot and O’Keefe fired home the fourth goal of the quarter.
From there on, Penn State’s defense was stifling the whole game. How good was it? They held Rutgers without a goal from the 4.6 second mark of the second quarter all the way to the midpoint of the fourth quarter.
The Nittany Lion offense steadily added more goals. O’Keefe would go on to score three goals and sophomore Kevin Hill added a hat trick to lead the scoring.
The Nittany Lions committed 16 turnovers, facing a Scarlet Knight defense that was the No. 1 team in forcing turnovers. All that was washed out by the dominant faceoff performance Arceri gave them, as he and the wings secured a 16-6 blowout in faceoffs against Rutgers.
Penn State owned time of possession, their defense hunkered down time and time again and veteran senior Nick Aponte ran the offense. The Nittany Lions had the perfect, lethal combination of fast-paced attacking with slow forming, tiresome offense that fooled Rutgers all evening.
By the fourth quarter, Rutgers never put it together and by the time they had scored three fourth quarter goals, it was all too late for a comeback. Penn State had won and parents and family stormed the field to celebrate with the players and coaches.
Penn State head coach Jeff Tambroni thought effort was the key to how they won tonight.
“Biggest thing was effort,” Tambroni said. “It was the desire to maintain to maintain our total possession time.”
He also gave props to Arceri in his bounce back effort.
“Gerard was spectacular today,” Tambroni said. “His wings and Tommy Wright were awesome.”
Senior Aponte was excited for the win, but knows it’s not the biggest priority Penn State faces now.
“We just have to keep this going,” Aponte said. “Put our focus on Michigan and end this season good”
Penn State improved to 11-2 with the victory, while Rutgers fell to 9-4. The Nittany Lions will end the regular season next Sunday when they take on the Michigan Wolverines at Michigan Stadium.
Matthew Harvey is a junior majoring in broadcast journalism and history. To contact him, email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.