The “Cardiac Cats” take on America’s Team in Annapolis
Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium will host a few quarterfinalist teams in the NCAA Men’s Lacrosse Tournament— specifically, the Black Knights from West Point and the Nittany Lions from Penn State.
Follow along to find out some game-changers for both teams and expectations for the game.
Penn State Gamechangers
The most obvious game-changer for Penn State is TJ Malone. He is the best player on attack for Penn State and his ability to win his matchups against an opponent's top defender leads to blue and white victory.
Also, expect Kevin Winkoff and Matt Traynor to have solid games as well. Winkoff has the hardest shot on the team and may be able to steal a goal or two with his power. Traynor will need to be crafty in the midfield and capitalize on opportunities like he has all year.
On the opposite side of the ball, 2nd team All-American netminder Jack Fracyon will have to be huge between the pipes. Fracyon has had double-digit saves in all but two games this season and has been a leading force in victory for Jeff Tambroni’s team all year.
The biggest question mark for Penn State will be Chase Mullins. Mullins is a very talented Fogo but he has struggled since entering college. Currently, he’s winning 47% of his draws, but on Sunday afternoon the biggest thing will be making the faceoff stripe a battle each time.
Jack Posey has to be a game-changer on defense as well. The All-American honorable mention has had to lock down every opponent’s top attackmen all season and Reese Burek of West Point is no joke. This matchup along with the Malone-Pilate matchup will be a large factor.
Army Game Changers
Reese Burek and Jacob Morin will be the biggest threats on offense in this contest for West Point. Burek can do just about anything on offense to not only score goals but assist goals. He will most likely draw a tough physical matchup from Jack Posey who will make sure Burek earns every point he gets.
Morin is a threat to Penn State because he can absolutely rip the ball from anywhere and score. Penn State relied on the zone defense in the second half to stall Princeton’s offense. Morin can break the zone with his range and will pose a threat at all times, especially during man-up situations.
In fitting fashion, the Black Knight's netminder, Knox Dent, has been nicknamed “Fort Knox” for his spectacular play between the iron all season. Coming off a 16-save performance against Maryland in the opening round, Dent is looking sharp and will be a tough task for the Nittany Lion's attack.
Although Dent has been a driving force in the success of Army recently, the biggest issue for Penn State will come at the faceoff stripe. Army Fogo, Will Coletti is an absolute beast at the stripe and has won at a 61% clip this season.
To put things into perspective, Coletti has won the faceoff battle in all but two of the games he’s played this season. One of those losses was to Mike Sissleberger who went 5th overall in the PLL Draft and the other was Luke Wierman who went 66% against Penn State.
On defense, Army has AJ Pilate, the sophomore defender from Long Island. Pilate was not the craziest of recruits but he has turned into an absolute game-changer locking down his opponent's best attackmen game after game.
Expect this to be a close battle that comes down to the final possession. Both teams are really good, Army is battling injuries, but Penn State will be battling to just gain possession of the ball. This feels like a 13-12 game that either side could win, and the score may be even lower if both goalies continue to stay hot.
Hayden Lewis is a first-year majoring in broadcast journalism. To contact him, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.
About the Contributors