By Pat White, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. -- Coming down the stretch, the eighth-ranked Penn State men's lacrosse team was playing some its most inspired lacrosse of the early season against third-ranked Notre Dame. It appeared as though there might be an upset brewing in an electric environment at Holuba Hall in front of the Penn State faithful.
For the second straight season, the Nittany Lions (2-1) and Fighting Irish (2-0) duked it out and needed overtime to decide a winner. In a game that saw 18 goals, seven ties and three goals in 24 seconds to end regulation, Notre Dame ultimately prevailed with a game-winning goal by freshman Matt Kavanagh with 1:34 left in overtime.
Despite the heartbreaking loss for the Nittany Lions, head coach Jeff Tambroni was pleased with his teams' effort.
"There's a difference between losing a game and failing to create an effort on the field," Tambroni said. "Notre Dame was one goal better in overtime, but that's high praise because Notre Dame is a very good lacrosse team."
In a rollercoaster game, Penn State held an 8-7 lead in the last minute of play. Notre Dame tied the game with 24 seconds left, and took the lead on a goal on the ensuing faceoff just seven seconds later. Tambroni credited Notre Dame's persistence to tie and take the lead late in the game after trailing so late.
The Nittany Lions battled back with some fight of their own with 17 seconds left on the clock. Junior midfielder Tom LaCrosse (Canandaigua, N.Y.) had magic in his stick, dodging at the restraining line and letting fly a left-handed shot on the run that beat Notre Dame's All-American goalkeeper John Kemp to force overtime with .6 seconds remaining in regulation.
"My teammates [cleared] through because they realized there was no time left," LaCrosse said. "They let me get to my left and I shot it at the goal and hoped for the best."
It was a big goal for the junior, who scored three goals against Notre Dame and has stepped into a bigger scoring role this season for the Nittany Lions. Tambroni credits his team's mental toughness to not get discouraged after surrendering the lead.
"To have the peace of mind to win a faceoff and then to have the poise, knowing the clock is running down to get a good shot against a first team All-American goalie," Tambroni said, "that says a lot about [LaCrosse] and a lot about our team."
Tambroni said that Penn State did not lose the game due to a lack of effort. Both teams played an evenly matched game across the board and played in a defensive battle. Junior goalkeeper Austin Kaut (Morton, Pa.) is proud of the team's effort and said the game was decided on by one more good chance by Notre Dame.
"We knew it was going to be a defensive battle all day," Kaut said. "Both teams played really well and it just comes down to maybe working a little harder and getting one more ground ball."
The effort also came in large part from depth at the midfield. Redshirt junior Kyle VanThof (Penfield, N.Y.) and sophomore Kyle Zittel (Eden, N.Y.) scored key goals to give Penn State a two-goal lead at the start of the fourth quarter. Freshman Sammy Davis (Pittsfield, Mass.), sophomore Michael Richards (Skaneateles, N.Y.) and junior Steven Bogert (Carlsbad, Calif.) played great on the defensive end and provided Kaut with options in the clearing game that finished 23-for-24 on the day.
Tambroni hopes that Penn State and Notre Dame can rekindle a rivalry that stems from the epic battles on the football field in past years. Notre Dame has been a national powerhouse lacrosse program for the last six years and Tambroni can see a rivalry coming if Penn State continues to build as a program.
"I hope we get to the point where they consider us a rival," Tambroni said. "If we get to that point when people put us in that conversation with Notre Dame, then we'll take that as a compliment."
Despite playing well, the team has to put the emotional loss on the backburner and turn its focus to the upcoming game against Ohio State.
"We played real hard today and competed," Kaut said. "We just have to think about the next game, Ohio State this weekend, and put this one behind us."
Lions' Great Effort Trumps Tough OT Loss
By Pat White, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
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