By Maria Canales, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
VILLANOVA, Pa. - No. 9 Penn State men's lacrosse showed up at Villanova Stadium Saturday afternoon motivated once again to display its offensive power from last week's victory. After a slow start, the Nittany Lions secured a 17-12 win against the Wildcats, marking the first time the Nittany Lions have opened the season with a 4-0 under head coach Jeff Tambroni.
Freshman attacker Mac O'Keefe kept the large Penn State crowd entertained, scoring eight goals for the Nittany Lions. With a team-high eight goals, O'Keefe broke his own freshman single game scoring record that he set in just the first week of the season.
"He makes it look so easy," Tambroni said. "I know how hard he works to put himself in that position, so he is reaping a lot of rewards from his work ethic."
On attack, the trio on the front lines featuring O'Keefe, sophomore Grant Ament, and senior Nick Aponte accumulated 13 of the 17 goals scored Saturday. Ament netted three goals for the second time this season, scoring all three in the third quarter.
Tambroni credited Villanova's defense with holding their own during the first half, forcing the Nittany Lions to be more creative on offense. However, it was Ament's third-quarter performance that sparked the Penn State motivation to pull away in the second half.
"Grant was just super aggressive and I thought our offense became a lot more confident and aggressive because of it," Tambroni said. "He played with a lot of enthusiasm and today out there in the third quarter. He just looked like he was having a lot of fun."
Ament's performance also gave Penn State the opportunity to relax a bit during the second half and settle into a scoring groove. The Nittany Lions scored three unanswered goals to end the third quarter, wrapping up a seven-goal frame that sent Penn State surging ahead 14-8.
At the other end of the field, freshman goaltender Colby Kneese remained steady throughout the game, making 11 saves in the first half alone. Saturday's contest marked Kneese's third start of the season.
"We knew he was going to be tested today, these guys shoot the ball from all areas and they shoot the ball very well," Tambroni said. "Colby had a great week of practice, we were very pleased with the week of practice that he had and just knowing that he was going to be the starting goalie this week without looking back, having a game under his belt really helped."
Kneese made 18 saves on Saturday afternoon, securing a .600 save percentage.
"He continues to keep getting better," Tambroni said. "We needed every save that he had today."
Off the field though, Tambroni was pleased with the large turnout of fans who made the trip to support the Nittany Lions. Both Villanova and Penn State share a similar color scheme, but the constant "We Are" chants ringing down from the bleachers, only added fuel to the team with a large support system behind them."This has always been a thrill for us heading back into the Philadelphia area whether it's Penn or Villanova, we're extremely grateful for our alumni base," Tambroni said. "You talk about Penn State in general, you talk about passion, you talk about loyalty and these lacrosse fans are no different. It was nice to see a group like this come out and support these guys."