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No. 14 UMass Takes Defensive Battle over No. 5 Nittany Lions, 8-6

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March 15, 2014

(3-3, 0-1 CAA)

  1st 2nd 3rd 4th TOT
UM 1 4 2 1 8
PSU 2 1 1 2 6

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Penn State Lacrosse Field • University Park, Pa. • Attendance: 618

(6-1, 1-0 CAA)

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - An extended 7-2 run by No. 14 Massachusetts over a 29-minute span was too much for No. 5 Nittany Lion men's lacrosse in an 8-6 loss Saturday afternoon at Penn State Lacrosse Field.

Penn State (3-3, 0-1 CAA) dropped back-to-back games for the first time this season as a stodgy UMass (6-1, 1-0 CAA) defense overwhelmed the Nittany Lions. Penn State led 2-1 with 2:04 remaining in the first quarter, but the Minutemen allowed just two goals in the next 45 minutes to open an 8-4 lead. Saturday's game was Penn State's last CAA season opener.

Sophomore TJ Sanders (Orillia, Ont.) scored a game-high three goals, registering his 11th career hat trick in the process. The player of the game was UMass goalie Zach Oliveri who saved 15 shots, including 11 in the second half as the Minutemen built their lead.

One of the featured matchups entering the contest was that of the faceoff men: Penn State's Drake Kreinz (Delafield, Wis.) and UMass' Joe Calvello, who came in ranked 13th and 11th, respectively, in win percentage this year. Kreinz got the better of Calvello, winning 9-of-15 faceoffs. Calvello, who was a member of the 2013 All-CAA Second Team, was also flagged for an illegal stick late in the fourth quarter in addition to four faceoff violations.

Accompanying Sanders's offensive game was Penn State leading scorer Shane Sturgis (Downingtown, Pa.), who scored his 22nd and 23rd goals of the season on Saturday. Sturgis finished the game with three points, the first time he was held to less than five points in a single game all year.

Senior midfielder Tom LaCrosse (Canandaigua, N.Y.) opened the scoring on a runner from the left side of the cage just 49 seconds into the contest. UM's Connor Mooney would score his first of the day with 5:30 remaining in the first period before Sturgis scored in transition for a 2-1 lead with 2:04 left in the quarter. UMass out-shot Penn State, 10-7, but Austin Kaut (Morton, Pa.) made four of his 10 saves in the opening five minutes of the contest.

The second period belonged to the Minutemen as Grant Whiteway, Robert Lynott, Jeff George and Brendan Hegarty contributed to a 4-0 run in the first 13:40 of the frame and a 5-2 lead. Sanders had a man-up goal with 47 seconds left in the half as the two teams entered the locker room with a 5-3 UMass advantage.

The opening 10 minutes of the third quarter were scoreless as Penn State squandered a double man-up opportunity in the early going. Eventually, Mooney's second goal came following a Penn State penalty on a Whiteway feed for a 6-3 lead.

Sturgis answered with his second of the day as he fell into the crease on a nifty pass from Kyle VanThof (Penfield, N.Y.) with 2:54 remaining in the period, cutting the UMass margin to two goals. Nick Mariano responded 44 seconds later to up the margin to three goals entering the fourth quarter, 7-4.

Mariano scored his 17th goal of the year with 9:30 remaining in the game for the largest lead in the game at four, 8-4, which capped the 7-2 run over three quarters.

UMass' defense held up down the stretch with a second double man-down situation midway through the quarter following penalties by Aaron Madaisky and James Fahey. PSU was unable to capitalize on the chance and would have to wait until 1:53 left in the game to score again as Sanders put home a VanThof pass.

Before the ensuing faceoff could take place, Penn State requested a stick check of Calvello's equipment and he was assessed with a three-minute, non-releasable penalty, giving the Nittany Lions a chance to cut into the three-goal deficit.

Penn State missed two shots and UMass forced a turnover to kill off most of the penalty before Sanders tallied a last-second goal for the final 8-6 score line.

The physical game featured 12 penalties for 11:30 of penalty time, but the two teams combined to go just 3-for-10 on the extra-man. PSU was 2-for-5 and UMass was 1-for-5. Penn State won the ground ball battle, 28-21, while holding a 36-33 shot advantage. UMass committed 15 turnovers and Penn State had 11.

In addition to three goals, Sanders had four ground balls, which tied his career high (vs. Yale; May 11, 2013). Steven Bogert (Carlsbad, Calif.) had one of his best games of the season with four ground balls and two caused turnovers. Senior defender Kessler Brown (Springfield, Va.) forced a career-high three caused turnovers.

Massachusetts improves to 11-6 all-time against the Nittany Lions, holding Penn State to its fewest goals since a 9-5 loss to Lehigh (March 20, 2012).

The Nittany Lions have a quick turnaround as its hosts Dartmouth Tuesday for a 5 p.m. contest at Penn State Lacrosse Field. After Dartmouth, the high-scoring Albany Great Danes (Saturday, March 22, 1 p.m.) visit Happy Valley before PSU caps its four-game home stand with Villanova (Saturday, March 29, 2 p.m.).




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