DALLAS - On Saturday afternoon, the Penn State men's lacrosse team (6-3) upset No. 1 Denver (7-1), handing the Pioneers their first loss of the 2016 season, and their first loss in their last 20 games. With the 15-10 victory over the Pioneers, the Nittany Lions clinched the Patriot Cup title.
The contest, held at Ford Stadium on SMU's campus, started off in favor of the Nittany Lions as junior midfielder Brian Prestreau got Penn State on the board first.
The Nittany Lions were able to keep a constant eye on the Denver defense in the first half, ending the second quarter leading 8-6. However, at the end of the third quarter and beginning of the fourth Penn State was able to pull away from Denver to a commanding 15-7 lead with four minutes left in the game.
Three late goals from Denver weren't enough for the Pioneers to edge the determined Nittany Lions, and Penn State won 15-10.
Head coach Jeff Tambroni explained how the key to his team's tremendous win was their determination right from the first faceoff. Tambroni noted how faceoff man, junior Billy Lombardi, was key for helping the Nittany Lions gain vital possessions throughout the game.
"He just competed so hard today, but also so intelligently," said Tambroni. "You look at Denver as a team and they're good in all facets but you look at the faceoff 'x' and the last two years they've been the No. 1, No. 2 team in the country and I thought Billy, when we didn't win the immediate glance, he did enough to allow it to be a more 3-vs-3."
Lombardi went 13-for-28 at the faceoff 'x' against Denver, but Tambroni noted how the combination of Lombardi's intelligence and conviction became the pivot point of the game that all other members of the team built off of.
Another standout performance for the Nittany Lions came on the defensive end.
The Nittany Lions, who have been working toward more consistency as a whole, really buckled down on defense against the Pioneers.
"I thought there was a combination of two things, one I thought out defense did a really nice job of mixing things up to keep Denver a little uncomfortable, just enough," said Tambroni. "They did just enough to keep them off balance which gave Will [Schreiner] more time to see the ball and gave him a little bit more time."
Tambroni pointed to the consistency of sophomore goalkeeper Will Schreiner's performance in net throughout the game allowed the defense to remain confident and calm throughout the game.
Schreiner made six key saves in Penn State's victory over Denver.
On attack, several players notched multiple points, as junior Dan Craig and sophomore Ryan Keenan notched three goals, while senior TJ Sanders, redshirt junior Matt Florence, and freshman Grant Ament all notched two apiece.
For the players, the win is a confidence boost as they head into challenging conference play next weekend. Continuing the momentum and sticking to the basics will be essential for the Nittany Lions moving forward.
"We just beat a very good team by doing some simple things," said Craig. "So I think if we stay to a quick tempo and sticking to the little things, we'll do just fine."