As the Penn State men’s lacrosse team enters the stretch run of its season and the approaching conference tournament, the squad is clicking at exactly the right moment.
The No. 16 Nittany Lions (7-5, 3-1 CAA) used a four-goal run in the second half to take control of the game and defeat Towson (7-5, 2-2 CAA), 8-3, Saturday night at Johnny Unitas Stadium in Towson, Maryland — giving Penn State its third win in a row.
Despite the offense struggling at times due to the play of Towson goalie Andrew Wascavage, who had 17 saves, Penn State used strong performances from attacksmen Matthew Mackrides and Shane Sturgis to get offensive chances. The two scored six of Penn State’s eight goals.
“Both those guys were opportunistic...Matt did a great job at creating his own opportunities while Shane put himself in a great position off the ball against a goalie who was seeing the ball very well,” coach Jeff Tambroni said. “Both did a great job with their chances.”
After Towson took a 1-0 lead in the first quarter, the Lions answered back with four unanswered goals. Mackrides tied the game 1-1 with 6:11 left before three goals in the last 2:36 of the first quarter from Sturgis, Mackrides (his second of the game) and midfielder Drew Roper saw Penn State lead 4-1 entering the second quarter.
The Lion’s offense failed to score in the second quarter as Towson’s Matt Lamon scored two goals within 40 seconds to cut the Tigers’ deficit to 4-3.
“Our offense was playing well in the first quarter and I thought we could have blew that game open in the second quarter had we just managed our offensive possessions a little bit better.” Tambroni said.
Penn State then took complete control in the second half as Sturgis scored 4:42 into the third quarter to put the Lions up 5-3.
“We were losing our confidence a little bit due to their goalie, when that ball went in, it was like a sense of relief to the whole team,” Tambroni said.
The Lions used a strong defensive performance and possession time to shut out the Tigers in the second half. Penn State midfielder Danny Henneghan won four of the six face-offs in the second half and had success with face-offs all game, winning 10 of the 14. Towson was held to just five shots, many from the outside, in the third quarter and goalie Austin Kaut saved them all.
From there, the Lions slowly increased their lead with goals from Sturgis and Mackrides. Jack Forster scored with a man advantage with 5:35 to cap the 8-3 win.
Penn State will close the season with two home games, starting with Delaware on Saturday at 7 p.m. The Lions are in second place in the conference and hold a one game lead over fourth place, which is the last spot that gets in the conference tournament.
Tambroni said his team will not change their approach from the last few games.
“We’re going to approach it just like we did the last two, with great urgency,” Tambroni said. “Our guys understand that there's very little between continuing their season in the CAA tournament or packing up their bags and going home. At this point, it's basically do or die for us.”