No. 17 Nittany Lions Held Off by Villanova, 9-7
March 29, 2014
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - The visiting Villanova Wildcats built a four-goal lead in the third quarter and fended off a late Nittany Lion rally to win, 9-7, Saturday afternoon at rainy Penn State Lacrosse Field. Austin Kaut (Morton, Pa.) matched his season-high in saves (13), while Michael Richards (Skaneateles, N.Y.) and Shane Sturgis (Downingtown, Pa.) tallied two goals apiece for the Nittany Lions.
Penn State (4-5, 0-1 CAA) committed a season-high 21 turnovers and was unable to solve the staunch Villanova defense, shooting just 22.6 percent. On the other hand, Villanova (4-5, 2-0 Big East) won its third game in a row led by Kevin O'Neil (three goals, one assist) and Austin Frederick (three goals).
The Wildcats and Nittany Lions traded goals early as VU's Eric Gartner and PSU's Richards had it at one goal apiece with 6:33 left in the opening frame. Villanova then went on a 3-0 run on goals from O'Neil and Frederick to earn a 4-1 lead with 10:56 remaining in the second period.
Pat Manley (Arnold, Md.) made a quick move through traffic on the crease to score his sixth of the season with 7:25 to go, but Austin answered nearly immediately, scoring 22 seconds later to regain the three-goal lead, 5-2.
Penn State looked to mount a comeback before halftime on Sturgis's first goal in three games with 2:54 left in the half. The senior had been held scoreless in his past two games against Dartmouth and Albany.
Sturgis then connected with TJ Sanders (Orillia, Ont.) on the extra-man a shade under three minutes left in the quarter. For Sanders it was his 20th of the year, while Sturgis earned his 13th assist of the season and Penn State was within a goal, 5-4.
The Nittany Lions held possession at the end of the quarter and seemed destined for the final shot of the half, but a turnover by Sturgis went the other way and O'Neil scored in transition with four seconds remaining on an assist from John Locascio for a 6-4 advantage after 30 minutes.
Coming out of the break, Villanova doubled its lead on tallies from Jack Curran and Gartner for an 8-4 advantage with 9:51 remaining. Penn State would snap a nearly 15-minute scoreless drought when Tom LaCrosse (Canandaigua, N.Y.) fought through traffic for his sixth marker of the year with 3:20 left in the third and the score, 8-5 for Villanova.
Sturgis notched his second of the game and 25th of the season 3:48 into the fourth quarter to bring Penn State within two goals at 8-6. The Wildcats responded with O'Neil's third goal of the day with 10 minutes to go, re-establishing the three goal lead.
Richards notched his first multi-goal game of his collegiate career as he rolled around the cage with 3:45 left and the comeback was on again.
Drake Kreinz (Delafield, Wis.) won his 11th faceoff of the day in 19 tries, setting up Penn State's offense. VU goalkeeper Dan Willis would make three of his nine saves in the game's final three minutes to hand the Nittany Lions their fourth defeat in their past five games. Kreinz finished with five ground balls.
Penn State out-shot Villanova, 31-29, and won the ground ball battle, 32-25. PSU committed 21 turnovers to Villanova's 16. The Wildcats were 1-for-2 on the EMO, while Penn State was 1-for-5. PSU cleared 20-of-24 and VU was 19-for-22.
Defensively, the Nittany Lions were led by James Burke (Duxbury, Mass.) as he posted career highs in ground balls (5) and caused turnovers (5). Kaut saves four shots in each the first, third and fourth quarters, while Willis made five of his nine saves in the fourth quarter.
The Wildcats won for just the fourth time in 20 meetings with Penn State, stopping a two-game PSU winning streak in the series.
The Nittany Lions return to conference action when they travel to Drexel next week in Philadelphia. The 2 p.m. contest will take place at Vidas Field.