College lacrosse: No. 9 Penn State builds early lead, cruises in win over No. 14 Rutgers
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. – In one of its most dominant performances of the season, the No. 9 Penn State men’s lacrosse team (11-2, 2-2 Big Ten) never trailed, cruising past the No. 14 Scarlet Knights of Rutgers (9-4, 1-3 Big Ten), 13-7, to clinch a berth in the Big Ten tournament in front of a record 3,208 fans Sunday night.
With the win, Penn State also claimed the Friendship Cup, awarded to the winner of the Penn State – Rutgers contest each season. Since the trophy’s inception in 1998, Penn State holds a 12-5 advantage in the series.
The Nittany Lions put together a complete effort in all facets of the game en route to the team’s 11th win of the season.
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On the offensive side of the ball, seven different Nittany Lions registered goals, with nine logging points in the game. Four players had multi-goal games.
Freshman attackman Mac O’Keefe and sophomore midfielder Kevin Hill each scored three goals in the game, marking their eighth and third hat tricks of the season, respectively. O’Keefe’s three-goal outing marked 42 total goals on the season, tied for the fifth-most goals in a season for a Penn State player, and just five shy of tying the record. With two more goals, O’Keefe would tie the Penn State freshman record for goals in a season, set by TJ Sanders in 2013.
In addition to O’Keefe and Hill, three other Penn State players in Dan Craig (2g, 1a), Grant Ament (1g, 2a) and Nick Aponte (3a) all recorded three-point nights. Aponte’s three assists moved the senior captain to ninth all-time in career assists with 65 to date. Ament’s three points put him just five short of tying for the ninth most in a single season (57).
Junior midfielder Ryan Keenan charted his second multi-goal game of the season with a pair of scores, while midfielders Mike Sutton and Gerard Arceri each scored a goal of their own. Tommy Wright logged his third assist of the year against the Scarlet Knights.
In addition to his goal, Arceri had a dominant night at the faceoff ‘x’, going 16-of-20 at with a game-high seven groundballs. Wright did his part on the wings, gathering six groundballs for the Nittany Lions.
In the cage for Penn State, freshman goalie Colby Kneese logged his 11th win of the season, stopping seven shots and allowing seven goals.
Before the game, Penn State honored seniors Nick Aponte, Tyler Chambers, Dan Craig, Matt Florence, Drake Kreinz, Billy Lombardi, Brian Prestreau, Matt Sexton, Mike Sutton and Peter Triolo in a ceremony to thank them for their contributions to the program.
Penn State returns to the field next Sunday, facing Michigan (8-5, 0-4 Big Ten) in the Big House at 2 p.m. ET. The game will be tape delayed on Big Ten Network, but fans can watch all the action live at BTN2go.com.
The Turning Point
With 8:10 left in the second quarter, Rutgers’ Casey Rose scored to pull Penn State within one at 4-3. From there, Kevin Hill scored on the run to give Penn State a two-goal lead. Six seconds later, Gerard Arceri fired off a shot after winning the faceoff to extend the lead to three. The quick goals powered a 5-0 run and a 9-1 scoring streak into the fourth quarter.
- Mac O’Keefe – O’Keefe logged his eighth hat trick of the year, making another stride towards the freshman season scoring record while moving to fifth all-time in single-season goals.
- Gerard Arceri – Arceri got back on track at the faceoff ‘x’ with a dominant 16-of-20 performance while gathering a game-best seven groundballs.
- Tommy Wright – Wright was all over the field, logging a team second-best six groundballs. He added his third assist of the season while also forcing a turnover.
- Defensive Unit – The defense was stingy throughout the game, limiting Rutgers to 26 total shots. The 26 shots are the fewest that a team has gotten off against Penn State this season.
- Connor Murphy – Murphy scored a pair of goals and added two assists for a game-high four points.
- Christian Mazzone – Mazzone created havoc in the defensive end, accounting for three of Rutgers’ eight caused turnovers while adding a goal and an assist.