Penn State Men’s Lacrosse 2021 Season Preview

Story posted February 18, 2021 in Sports, CommRadio by Charlie Murray

The much anticipated return of Penn State Men’s Lacrosse is here as the Nittany Lions return to the field this weekend for the first time in almost a year.

Like all teams across the country, the Nittany Lions had their 2020 season cut short due to COVID-19. With many of their top players returning this year, Penn State is looking to build off of that amazing final four season back in 2019.

Penn State was only able to get to play seven games last year before the NCAA canceled all winter and spring sports in early March. However, in those games the Nittany Lions got to play, they showed their top-level performance from the year before was no fluke.

While on the road, they beat No. 20 Villanova 19-10, and No. 6 Penn in a 18-17 overtime thriller. They lost narrowly to both No. 7 Cornell and No. 3 Yale.

In those seven games played, they outscored opponents 121-77. This is a trend that the Nittany Lions will certainly hope to build on coming into their 2021 season.

The facilitator of Penn State’s high-powered offense was attackman Grant Ament, a player who the Nittany Lions will be without this year. Ament decided to not come back for a fifth year and instead declared for the PLL Draft, where he was selected first overall. This is a key loss for the Nittany Lions as they are losing a three time All-American, their team captain and their consistent leader in points.

Despite the loss of their best player, Penn State will boast a ton of top returning players. It will be returning six of their seven top scores from last season. With a good amount of players coming back for a fifth year due to the 2020 season being cut short, they will look to pick up pretty much where they left off.

Of those returning for an extra year, the most impactful will be faceoff man Gerard Arceri and Attackman Mac O’Keefe.

Arceri holds the program record for faceoff wins and has been awarded All-American honors for his work at the faceoff.

In 2019, he won 60% of his faceoffs. In the shortened 2020 season, he finished winning about 55% of his faceoffs. His ability to win the ball consistently on the faceoff has been integral in the program’s new found success and will certainly help the Nittany Lions during their 2021 campaign.

The return of Mac O’Keefe is also very important for the Nittany Lions this year. He already holds the Big 10 and Penn State program record for most goals at 192. He is just 20 goals shy of the NCAA all-time goals record.

O’Keefe has been the go-to guy for Penn State in terms of scoring, being the leading goal scorer for the team every year since he was a freshman. He will be the main anchor at attack, because of the departure of Ament, and will play an essential role for one of the nation’s top offenses.

As for other key returners, goalie Colby Kneese will see his fifth season starting between the pipes for Penn State. He has played consistently well, posting a .517 save percentage during the 2020 season. Alongside Kneese will be defenseman Nick Cardile, who will be the anchor of the Nittany Lion defense.

With only the first half schedule being released so far, we don’t know the full extent of the schedule yet. But what we do know is that Penn State will be tested right out of the gate.

The Nittany Lions open their season in New Jersey as they take on unranked Rutgers, then return back to University Park to take on No. 5 Maryland, who ranked No. 1 in the Big 10 preseason poll.

They then will host No. 10 Ohio State at home on March 6. Then they round out the first half of the season by going on the road to take on No. 20 Johns Hopkins and Michigan.

Having to face three of the nation's top teams back-to-back-to-back will not be an easy feat for the Nittany Lions to take on. With Penn State ranked at No. 6 in the country, it has high expectations for this season and these first five games will set the tone for another potential final four season.

 

Charlie Murray is a freshman majoring in journalism. To contact him, please email charliemurray175@gmail.com.

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