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NCAA College Lacrosse Sunday Quarterfinal Recap: Penn State’s offense thrives, Yale finally gets best of Penn

A high-scoring afternoon at Rentschler Field results in Penn State and Yale facing off again next Saturday.

Matt Dewkett

EAST HARTFORD, C.T. — The high-scoring carried over from Saturday’s Virginia and Duke victories.

In all, a record 124 goals were scored in the quarterfinals, breaking the mark set in 1996 (110). In the NCAA Tournament, 347 goals have been scored, which is the fourth most for any single tournament and 52 shy of the record set in 2015 (399).

Penn State’s Offense Scores 21 Thanks To O’Keefe & Ament

The offense continued with the much-anticipated matchup between Pat Spencer and the Loyola Greyhounds and Grant Ament and the Penn State Nittany Lions.

What was originally headlined as a matchup between two Tewaaraton finalists was overshadowed by Mac O’Keefe’s NCAA record setting nine goal afternoon. The Ament-O’Keefe connection occurred six times in Penn State’s 21-14 win over Loyola.

“All I need is a flash of the stick and [Ament’s] gonna find me,” O’Keefe said.

“He makes my job pretty easy,” said Ament, who finished with a goal and eight assists. “He’s not a crease finisher. A guy that can shoot from 16 or 17 yards makes my job pretty easy.”

After going up 3-1, Loyola went on a 5-0 run to take a 6-3 lead. But Penn State began what would be a decimating scoring affair that would take them to halftime. The Nittany Lions scored 11 of the final 12 goals in the opening half, including runs of seven and four goals. Jeff Tambroni’s squad scored nine goals in the second stanza.

But the Greyhounds were not going away without a fight. After the teams alternated four goals between each other, Loyola went on a 5-0 run with four of the goals coming from Spencer. He finished his final collegiate lacrosse game with a career-high six goals as well as five assists and set the single-season Patriot League record for points in a season with 114.

In the end, it just wasn’t enough as Penn State ended the game with a 5-0 run, including three goals from O’Keefe.

“I’m proud of our guys,” said Greyhounds head coach Charley Toomey. “As I told them in the locker room, we showed our character. We battled. And bulge your neck in that moment at halftime when things could’ve really gone south, they just kept fighting. And that’s what they’ve done all year for me.”

For one of the best attackmen in the decade, Spencer described his four years playing college lacrosse with one word: grateful.

“I’ve been surrounded by great people, great coaches for four years and it sucks that it ends like this,” Spencer said. “I had a blast. It’s kind of surreal right now that it’s over, but thankful for all the people who have been a part of this for me and pushed me and made me better.”

Preparing for Spencer also made the player defending him on the opposite side, Chris Sabia, better as well. But so did guys on his own team.

“I know he’s one of the best attackmen in the country, but every day I play against the best attackmen in the country,” Sabia said. “I felt like I was very prepared for him.”

For Penn State, their historic run continues with their first ever trip to Championship Weekend. For guys like Ament, Sabia, Nick Cardile, Brayden Peck, TJ Malone, and John Nostrant, it means they’ll play in front of their hometown crowd at Lincoln Financial Field where many of them have been at for Philadelphia Eagles games.

It also means enjoying some of Philly’s cheesesteak places.

“I just joked around with coach [Tambroni] that we might need to make a cheesesteak run next week with the guys,” Ament said.

I hope they choose Steve’s.

NOTABLE STATS

  • Penn State registered 54 shots in the win, with 40 of them being shots on goal.
  • Nittany Lion midfielder Jack Kelly registered four goals and an assist.
  • Despite a slow start, Penn State’s Gerard Arceri went 22-of-36 from the faceoff X with 13 ground balls.
  • Loyola goaltender Jacob Stover ended the season like he finished last year by tying a career-high with 19 saves despite the loss.

Tigh’s Lucky Trip Helps Yale Return To Championship Weekend

13 ties. Seven lead changes. And the goal that broke the final tie began on Jack Tigh tripping himself.

“I tried to take him top side, tripped over my feet, I don’t know if it was because I wasn’t used to the grass,” said Tigh. “I lost the ball, thought it was still in my stick at first but I saw it was right underneath me. Scooped it up with one hand and got really lucky to split the double and found the back of the net.”

It was a crazy finish to an incredible lacrosse game which saw the Yale Bulldogs finally get the best of the Penn Quakers in their third meeting of the season in an 19-18 overtime thriller. Neither team had a lead larger than two the entire game.

“I can’t imagine if you’ve never seen [lacrosse] before or maybe you turned it on and you were a casual fan, what an impression it must have made on the people who didn’t know a lot about the game,” said Yale head coach Andy Shay. “That’s one of the best games I’ve ever seen or been a part of.”

While the starters stepped up for Yale, such as Jackson Morrill’s four goals and three assists, hat tricks from Matt Gaudet and John Daniggelis, and three caused turnovers from Aidan Hynes, it was midfielder Lucas Cotler who played a huge role in the win. The junior had a career-high four goals to go along with an assist for his second consecutive five-point game, which is also a career-high in that category.

“I just think it’s been a culmination of working hard all year,” Cotler said. “I got off to a slow start and took that to heart. Our team needs some guys to step up and we have other middies like Christian Cropp, Brian Tevlin, Teddy Forst. All those guys are stepping up and that elevates everyone’s game as well.”

Prior to the NCAA Tournament, Cotler only registered 13 points (9 Gs, 4 As). He wasn’t happy with his season after the second Penn loss in the Ivy League Championship game two weeks ago. But Cotler credited the rest of the team as well as their previous NCAA Tournament experience for helping them prevail in the end.

“I think that’s honestly what had us prevail today. Playing in those big games and having guys with experience in those big spots, it just gives you an advantage mentally.”

For Penn, it’s the end of the run for many of their seniors. Attackman Simon Mathias finished with a hat-trick and two goals, midfielder Tyler Dunn had a hat-trick, while goalie Reed Junkin stopped 14 shots in their final games.

“We turned around a program that has been pretty much 7-7 the past three years and we wanted to make a difference this year and we did that, but it was cut short,” said Junkin.

“This group is as strong a group as I have been around,” said Penn head coach Mike Murphy. “It’s not just talent. It’s kind of how well they led, how well they were aligned in terms of what we were doing.”

NOTABLE STATS

  • Yale FOGO TD Ierlan went 10-of-13 on faceoffs to start the first quarter, but went 12-of-28 for the remainder of the game. He did win the faceoff to start overtime and also recorded 19 ground balls.
  • Both teams each had eight different scorers. Penn had five players record hat-tricks (Dunn, Mathias, Adam Goldner, Mitch Bartolo, and Sean Lulley), while Yale had four (Morrill with four goals, Gaudet, Cotler, and Daniggelis).

SEMIFINAL SCHEDULE

#3 Virginia vs. #2 Duke (Noon, ESPN2)
#5 Yale vs. #1 Penn State (2:30 PM, ESPN2)