UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - No. 15 Penn State men's lacrosse pulled off the upset, defeating fourth-ranked Johns Hopkins to earn the program's first win against the Blue Jays.
Headed into the matchup, Penn State head coach Jeff Tambroni knew he'd need to rely on a heavy rotation as the Nittany Lions delivered in a stellar offensive performance.
"I was really grateful with the contributions both midfields made, we had seven guys playing at the midfield and three at the attack and every one of those guys did their part," Tambroni said. "We knew we were going to need that kind of performance to make this thing happen today."
The Nittany Lions saw goals from eight different Nittany Lions, including sophomore attacker Mac O'Keefe and junior midfielder Kevin Hill, who both score three goals apiece.
It was the midfield that generated more than half of Penn State's goals Saturday afternoon, led by five different goal-scorers.
"I think we have some very talented players, but I think in order for us to be good everyone has to contribute," Tambroni said. "Sometimes it's the attack's turn and sometimes it's the middies' turn. Today we just had a few more opportunities with our middies and they took advantage of that."
Penn State's offense thrives on the involvement of everyone. While the team has been working on trying to include everyone in its offensive production throughout the first half of the season, things are starting to finally take shape during Big Ten play.
"That's what we preach every day, we're a team offense," Hill said. "There's not one guy that's the all-star, we work as a team every single day, that's how we succeed. We take a lot of pride in that and that's why we won this game and played so well in the first half offensively."
Perhaps the true star of the game was sophomore attackman, Gerard Arceri. After leaving last weekend's game late in the fourth quarter with a leg injury, it was unclear if he would play Saturday afternoon against the Blue Jays.
Even though Arceri battled through the pain, he went an impressive 16-23 on the day.
"He's been saying he's going to play since Sunday night, there was never a doubt in that young man's mind," Tambroni said. "Our trainers had a different opinion and we did as well, but he proved every one of us wrong today and got out there and had the performance of a lifetime."
The week leading up to the game wasn't easy though, as Arceri spent all of his time in the training room instead of taking reps on the field.
Knowing the importance of Saturday's game against the Blue Jays, Arceri was determined to make it onto the field to help his teammates fight for the win.
"I've never seen a kid spend so much time in the training room," junior midfielder Nick Spillane said. "He was just so determined to get on the field and just so locked in on what he haxd to do. That's one of the more impressive performances I've ever seen out of anyone."
After taking a big hit at the end of the first half, it looked doubtful Arceri would return to the field. He ended up sitting the third quarter out, giving sophomore Nick McEvoy time at the face off X. McEvoy was spectacular in the meantime, finishing 2-4 with a goal off a face off win with just a second remaining in the third quarter.
Arceri re-entered the game in the fourth quarter, providing yet another spark of momentum for the Nittany Lions to help them secure the victory. There were just a few changes Arceri had to make to his game plan in light of his leg injury though.
"I tried to find my wings a lot faster," Arceri said. "I still tried to pull the ball to myself, but I tried to find them as quick as I could because I couldn't run. Also trying to find [Colby Kneese] back there as an outlet and as many outlets as possible after winning the face off."
As his teammates and coaches noted, Arceri's performance was nothing short of amazing. Even though he was hampered with pain, it was his strong mindset that helped him stay in the game.
"The key was his mental toughness outside of his physical ability," Tambroni said. "What he was able to do out there, just focus and eliminate any thoughts about his leg and dominate the way he did, that was a special once in a lifetime kind of performance."