Late-game Rally Too Much For Nittany Lions
March 2, 2011
By Will Donley, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
Junior defensive midfielder Ryan Link (Englewood, Colo.) stood in front of the net and blocked the shot. The ball ricocheted back and forth off of sticks and bodies in front of the net until Irish junior midfielder Max Pfeifer (Crozet, Va.) picked up the ball and casually buried it into the back of the net.
Pfeifer's goal began a late-game, three-goal rally by the Fighting Irish that proved to be too much for the Nittany Lions. No. 3 Notre Dame came away with a 6-2 victory over Penn State on Bigler Field.
The Nittany Lion game plan was simple. Limit Notre Dame's potent offense's scoring opportunities by forcing the Irish to take poor shots and take advantage of a quality Irish team defense that focuses intently on the dodger but fails to cover off-ball players.
The game plan was semi-successful. The defense held the Notre Dame offense to only six goals on 42 shots - most of which were from poor angles or from more than 15 yards. A lot of the defensive success had to do with freshman goalie Austin Kaut (Morton, Pa.), who started his second straight game for the Nittany Lions. Kaut made 15 saves on the afternoon.
The offense, however, failed to take advantage of Notre Dame's lackluster off-ball play and scored only two goals on Sunday. Junior attackman Matthew Mackrides (Newtown Square, Pa.) took a Colton Vosburgh (Kennett Square, Pa.) assist and scored Penn State's first goal with six minutes left in the first quarter.
Freshman midfielder Tommy LaCrosse (Canandaigua, N.Y.) made his first career start on Sunday and scored Penn State's second goal. LaCrosse swept across the top of the Notre Dame defense and fired a left-handed shot past Irish goalie John Kemp (Potomac, Md.). The third-quarter goal was the second of LaCrosse's career.
Notre Dame's on-ball defense was stellar. Penn State midfielders and attackman, alike, could not run by the Irish defenders. The Nittany Lions did not win their one-on-one match-ups and demand that the Irish defense slide to the ball carrier. This allowed the Notre Dame defense to relax and fall back into what they do best: play sound team defense.
Penn State never forced Notre Dame's young goalie Kemp to make difficult saves, offering up only 19 shots. Although facing such a limited number of shots often proves difficult for a goalie, Kemp still managed to get into a rhythm and turn away Penn State's desperate late-game attempts.
The success of the Nittany Lion defense must be recognized, however. After two games, the defense claims a 6.5 goals per game average. Kaut already has 25 saves on the season and boasts a .658 save percentage.
In order to keep up with the defense, Penn State's midfielders and attackman must return to the fundamentals of successful team offense and begin to run by their matchups. If the Nittany Lion offense improves, Penn State will compete for a Colonial Athletic Association title.
The Penn State offense will get a chance to improve upon its dreadful numbers this weekend against a Big Ten foe. The Penn State Nittany Lions take on the Ohio State Buckeyes this Saturday at 1:30 p.m. on Bigler Field. The Buckeyes are ranked No. 12 in the USILA Division 1 Coaches Poll.
Will Donley, Senior Attackman, Penn State Men's Lacrosse Team, GoPSUsports.com