Last Saturday, Penn State tasted defeat for a ninth time this season, falling to Johns Hopkins in Baltimore 13-10.
Despite a third and early fourth frame resurgence, the Blue Jays’ hot second frame and strong finish put the blue and white to bed.
After that defeat, Penn State sits with a 1-3 record in the Big Ten with only one conference opponent remaining on its schedule.
No. 4-ranked Rutgers is the blue and white’s final regular-season opponent, and despite the Scarlet Knights boasting the fourth-highest scoring offense of any NCAA team, coach Jeff Tambroni and his team are still confident about pulling off an upset.
Despite suffering a number of disappointing losses this season, the morale is still high in the Nittany Lions’ locker room.
“The rest of the team is certainly disappointed with this last result against Johns Hopkins,” Tambroni said. “But we are still determined to continue to grow and learn in an attempt to finish stronger going through our last regular-season game.”
Another reason why this Penn State team is so high in morale is the rise of certain players — particularly junior Mac Costin.
Beginning the season as the starting midfielder, Costin was asked to learn a new position for the Nittany Lions, starting at attack following Jack Traynor’s injury earlier this season.
This position swap has been instrumental in the blue and white’s offensive approach this year, as Costin currently leads the team in goals with 19.
“He's really starting to kind of find a rhythm down there and has become an important person for us in an offensive that is consistent, that is productive,” Tambroni said. “He's created a great deal of leadership on the attack.”
Tambroni was quick to heap more praise on Costin, saying that the junior was “immediately amenable” to the position change, and the team is “proud and grateful” for his goal-scoring consistency.
MORE SPORTS COVERAGE
Penn State produced a star linebacker in Micah Parsons out of last year’s draft, and now the…
Looking past this final regular-season game with Rutgers, Costin will likely have to continue his fine form in front of the net, as a rematch against Johns Hopkins or Ohio State is on the cards for the first round of the Big Ten Tournament.
Along with last week’s loss to Johns Hopkins, the Nittany Lions were put to the sword by Ohio State as well this season, losing 18-9 in Columbus, Ohio.
With key players returning from injury, though, such as Traynor and fifth-year senior defenseman Brayden Peck, the Nittany Lions are eager for a chance to exact revenge for one of these two defeats.
“Finishing stronger toward the end of the season and revenge is on the mind of our guys,” Tambroni said. “So it's an exciting opportunity, and one that we will not take for granted once it arrives.”
With the new rules of the Big Ten Tournament, all six teams will qualify for the playoffs. The first and second teams in the Big Ten will receive a first-round bye, and the remaining four teams will have a playoff to see who moves on.
With Maryland and Rutgers already locking in first- and second-place rankings, respectively, and Penn State solidly in fifth place in front of Michigan, the Nittany Lions are likely to play the fourth seed in the rankings.
This seed will be determined in the final week of the regular season, as Ohio State plays Michigan and Johns Hopkins plays Maryland.
Regardless of the opponent, Tambroni remains excited at the prospect of victory and is eager to finish the season on a high note.
“At the end of the day, I think regardless of who we play, we recognize how talented this league is from top to bottom,” Tambroni said, “And I think we’re excited about that.”