Lions Pull Off Dramatic Comeback on Senior Day

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By Jackson Thibodeau, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - It is unusual for a 14-game regular season to be summarized in just a single game, but with the way the Penn State men's lacrosse team battled back against Hofstra on Saturday, that is exactly what was done.

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The Nittany Lions erased a four-goal deficit heading into the fourth quarter to score a dramatic 9-8 double overtime victory over Hofstra on Senior Day.

"Our play today was an example of what we have been like all year," said head coach Jeff Tambroni following the victory.

"We battled through some adversity this year but we fought back and continued to believe in ourselves and our system and we found wins at the end of the year," Tambroni said. "That is the same way we battled today."

The Nittany Lions were quickly put in check after Hofstra scored four-straight first quarter goals.

"We started off really slow but we kept the faith and we continued to believe," said senior attackman Matt Mackrides (Newtown Square, Pa.), who registered his 97th, 98th and 99th career goals against the Pride.

"We said we needed possessions and we needed to execute small details like getting ground balls--we knew if we did that, then we had a chance."

Entering the fourth quarter, the Nittany Lions found themselves down by four goals with NCAA Tournament hopes in their minds.

Execution of details and possession time translated into an emphatic comeback that was sparked by a Mackrides' goal just a minute into the final quarter.

Following Mackrides' score, Penn State piled on five of the next six goals that would be scored in the game, including a dramatic score with just 18 seconds remaining from sophomore Gavin Ahern (Rockville Centre, N.Y.) that sent the contest into overtime.

In the sudden death overtime period, the Nittany Lions had trouble gaining possession, but lockdown defense held Hofstra from scoring, and sent the game into a second overtime frame.

"There was no magic formula for our defense," said assistant coach Peter Toner. "We just figured out what Hofstra was doing and we were able to make adjustments on defense that kept the ball out of the net."

The Pride secured possession yet again in the second overtime period, but a fantastic between-the-legs-save by goaltender Austin Kaut (Morton, Pa.) gave the ball back to the Nittany Lions, and led to the game-winning score.

"I knew that [one of Hofstra's attackman] was a righty from our scouting report," said Kaut. "I knew he would try to go to the right side of the net and I noticed that they liked to shoot in the five-hole, so I guessed correctly and ended up making the save."

The save gave the Nittany Lions possession with just under two minutes remaining in the period. After a Penn State timeout, sophomore Shane Sturgis (Downingtown, Pa.) and Matt Mackrides executed a play that led to Sturgis flinging the ball into the back of the net and securing the sudden-death victory.

"The game-winner was all about putting two of our best scorers out there in Shane and Matt and letting them work together," said Tambroni.

Once the comeback was complete, the team rushed the field and celebrated around Sturgis, whose goal secured the team's fifth win in a row.

"To cap off the season with an overtime win for our seniors and our entire team was something special," said Tambroni.

The comeback wouldn't have been possible without a key chain of events that turned the momentum in favor of the Nittany Lions.

A dramatic game-tying shot, lock-down defense, a crucial save, and a well executed play led to the emotional victory.

As for the play of the seniors, Mackrides wasn't the only veteran making an impact.

Senior attack Jack Forster (Jenkintown, Pa.) registered three points, midfielder Ryan Link (Englewood, Colo.) caused a turnover and picked up five ground balls, and defenseman Ryan McGarvey (Lower Gwynedd, Pa.) picked up one ground ball before leaving the contest after an apparent head injury.

The win caps off the regular season and gives Penn State a 5-1 record in the CAA, translating into the second seed in the CAA Tournament.

The Nittany Lions will host Drexel on Wednesday in the semifinal round of the CAA playoffs, and barring a win and a Massachusetts loss, the team could host yet another CAA Tournament game on Saturday, May 5.

Wednesday's faceoff against the Dragons is set for 7 p.m.

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