MLAX: Nittany Lions Secure Place in B1G Tournament with Senior Day Win
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. – The No. 18 Penn State Nittany Lions defeated the Michigan Wolverines 14-9 Saturday afternoon at the Penn State Lacrosse Field.
It was Senior Day for the Nittany Lions (8-6, 2-3 Big Ten) and they honored their seven seniors in a ceremony prior to the game. There are only six active seniors on this year’s team and the seventh and final name read was Connor Darcey’s. Darcey, who tragically passed away in June, has been honored and remembered all season by the Penn State lacrosse community and as of today, he will be forever ingrained in Penn State lacrosse history.
In an emotional ceremony, and with the Darcey family in attendance, the Nittany Lions announced that their locker room would be dedicated to Darcey and revealed a plaque that will hang in the room.
In a game where the Nittany Lions secured a spot in the Big Ten Tournament and also clinched the Creator’s Trophy, six players tallied goals and three recorded five points. Attackman Nick Aponte led the offense with four goals and one assist while attackman TJ Sanders recorded a hat trick and added two assists. Freshman midfielder Kevin Hill recorded his first collegiate hat trick and was dynamic on offense.
“I’m just really proud of them,” said Penn State head coach Jeff Tambroni. “There was just a ton of emotion swirling around the senior day ceremony, especially in conjunction with the dedication to the Connor Darcey locker room, and I’d be lying If I said I wasn’t concerned that when they came out of that they weren’t going to be able to manage and harness their emotions, but we just kind of allowed them to do their thing as young men and I think it was a special moment.”
Aponte opened the scoring with 10:05 left in the first quarter and midfielder Mike Sutton scored with 24 seconds left to give the Nittany Lions a 3-2 lead after the first 15 minutes. The Nittany Lions threw seven shots on goal, but goalkeeper Gerald Logan made strong saves to keep the Wolverines (3-10, 0-5 Big Ten) close.
The second quarter was filled with end-to-end action as the fans in attendance saw 10 goals scored, six by the Nittany Lions and four from the Wolverines. Penn State rattled off four goals in a row, two of which came on the man-up. Hill and Sutton recorded the extra-man goals, but long-stick midfielder Chase Brown scored a shorthanded goal that sparked the Wolverines.
Michigan went on to score three of the final five goals in the quarter to take momentum into the second half trailing 9-6.
The Wolverines had a strong start to the second half by scoring two early goals and did not allow the Nittany Lions to have a possession until Aponte scored with 11:39 left in the third quarter. Aponte’s goal proved to be a turning point as the Nittany Lions scored four of the final five goals, including four straight.
While the box score would suggest Penn State dominated the second half, the Wolverines had numerous chances from close range and kept goalkeeper Will Schreiner busy. Schreiner made four saves in each of the final two quarters, including many big chest saves. Attackman Grant Ament scored the final goal for Penn State with 8:04 left and finished with a team-high four assists.
“We’ve been going on a three-game losing skid all by one goal, so that’s obviously been tough to swallow, but we bounced back and we got this win and we have another week with the guys, so it’s great,” senior Tommy O’Neill said.
The Nittany Lions will be off until the start of the Big Ten Tournament Thursday in Baltimore.
Eric Ohlson is a junior majoring in broadcast journalism. To contact him, email email@example.com.