By Jackson Thibodeau, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - After a back-and-forth first half, a goal scored just seven seconds into the third quarter sparked an offensive streak that led the Penn State men's lacrosse team to a win over Villanova on Saturday.
Junior midfielder Danny Henneghan (Beverly Hills, Mich.) secured the opening faceoff in the third quarter, charged down the field and dished a pass to sophomore Gavin Ahern (Rockville Centre, N.Y.) who dumped the ball into the net.
"We haven't been a real second half team all season," said goalkeeper
Austin Kaut (Morton, Pa.). "We really needed to come out with energy and click
on all cylinders and that's what we did."
Kaut had a superb outing, tallying 17 saves. The sophomore entered Saturday's contest with an impressive .600 save percentage, which is ranked sixth in the nation.
"Austin was awesome today," said sophomore attack Shane Sturgis (Downingtown, Pa.), who scored two goals and tallied an assist against the Wildcats. "If you shoot from the outside, not many goals are going to go in against him."
Forcing shots from the outside was exactly what Coach Tambroni and the Nittany Lions planned to do heading into the game.
Tambroni stressed to his team that they would be in good shape if they didn't allow inside looks, which is something they allowed a lot of in last week's loss to Bucknell.
Kaut wasn't alone in his efforts to quiet Villanova's high-powered offense. Physical play from the defense contributed to 13 clears, seven forced turnovers, and 28 ground balls secured - all of which aided the goalie in his impressive outing.
The tough defensive play was reflected on the other side of the field, as clears and turnovers provided the offense with transition opportunities.
"Any time we can get transition goals is a plus for us," said senior midfielder Ryan Link (Englewood, Colo.). "It gives our defense some time to rest and gives our offense a good opportunity to put goals on the board."
Link gets a taste of both the offensive and defensive sides of the ball. The midfielder switches between a long pole and a short pole several times throughout games.
The senior forced two turnovers and secured three ground balls in the contest against Villanova.
Penn State's offensive firepower was distributed evenly against the Wildcats, as nine different Nittany Lions were credited with a point in the game.
Seniors Matthew Mackrides (Newtown Square, Pa.) and Jack Forster (Jenkintown, Pa.) were atop the scoring list for the Nittany Lions, each registering five points.
"I think the offense shared possession and responsibility today," said Tambroni. "We never got away from the game plan and that allowed us to meticulously go through the game and secure a win."
Saturday's game served as the final non-conference game of the season for Penn State. The team will now enter the heart of their conference schedule, facing four-straight CAA opponents to close out the regular season.
"We needed a win like this heading into conference play to get our momentum back," said Forster.
Penn State will travel to Philadelphia next Saturday to take on Drexel. Faceoff is set for 2 p.m.