UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Despite the momentum from a win at Cornell last week, the No. 15/12 Penn State men's lacrosse team (3-1) was unable to defeat Villanova (1-1) during the Nittany Lions' first outdoor home game of the season on Saturday. The Wildcats defeated the Nittany Lions 19-9.
Penn State's 3-0 start to the season was its best since 2002, but was cut short of reaching 4-0 for the first time since 1992.
At the starting whistle, both teams were eager for possession time. The Nittany Lions took several shots on net, but Villanova scored first. Junior midfielder Mike Sutton answered for the Nittany Lions, tying the score 1-1.
At the half, the Lions trailed the Wildcats 8-3.
At the start of the fourth quarter Penn State was down 16-7. Freshman attack man Grant Ament kicked off the fourth quarter for the Lions, finding the back of the net with 12:11 left to go. However, a relentless defensive performance from the Wildcats held back the Lions on attack.
Two more Nittany Lions scored in the fourth, to inch Penn State closer on the scoreboard. Jimmy Nowoswiat and Robby Black, both freshmen, scored with less than a minute and a half left in the fourth, but it wasn't enough to bring the Lions back.
"We seemed to not have a lot of rhythm today," said head coach Jeff Tambroni. "I don't know if that was due to possession time, our mindset, or maybe our opponent, but the momentum never seemed to shift in our favor."
Several Nittany Lions had multi-point games, including junior Nick Aponte, senior TJ Sanders, and freshman Grant Ament, who had one goal and one assist each. Freshman Kevin Hill scored his first collegiate goal, notching two in Saturday's contest.
Tambroni noted earlier in the week how important communication is for the team, and saw a positive performance from his players on the field Saturday with their ability to make connections and vocalize on the field.
"I don't think [communication] was one of our weaknesses today," said Tambroni. "The little things really just seemed to hurt us."
Looking ahead, the Nittany Lions are on the road at Penn this Saturday and are eager to bounce back and get another win on the road.
For the Lions, there are several things they would like to improve on before their next contest.
"We're going to work on face offs," said junior attack man Nick Aponte. "We're going to really focus on Penn, on their personnel, really just what we can do to get a fire back under us and try to keep on rolling with the rest of the season."
Tambroni explained it's vitals for the Nittany Lions to have a refreshed mindset this week during practice. The team's ability to move on quickly from a loss and restart the momentum for another matchup is critical to success week-to-week.
"I just said to our guys that no matter what you do, when you leave the turf you're either 1-0 or 0-1," said Tambroni. "It's not like you lose the season in one game, it's not like you win a championship in one game during the regular season, and I talked about the same thing after Cornell. It's important for us to just learn from our mistakes and create confidence from the things that we did well."