UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. –– Was it Colby Kneese’s huge kick save in the fourth? Was it the two-goal run over the final six seconds of the third, which included a faceoff win goal by middie Nick McEvoy? Was it the fact Penn State saw eight different players find the back of the cage? What was the pivotal moment in a Big Ten lacrosse game that pitted host No. 15 Penn State against No. 5 Johns Hopkins against each other at Panzer Stadium on the hottest Saturday of 2018? For the Nittany Lions, the answer is probably yes to all of those, as the Penn State took down Johns Hopkins, 14-12, for the programs first ever win over the Blue Jays.
The Nittany Lions were looking for a signature win on the season, and a win that would elevate them in Big Ten play. That came on Saturday as Penn State used a balanced offense, and a few spectacular plays to take down Johns Hopkins, and improve their record to 8-4, 2-1 in Big Ten play.
GAME! @PennStateMLAX beats @jhumenslacrosse for the first time in school history, 14-12. Arceri, O'Keefe and Spillane lead the way in a huge @bigten win. Hopkins snaps a 7-game win streak. pic.twitter.com/4ijoyz5sxH— US Lacrosse Magazine (@USLacrosseMag) April 14, 2018
The Blue Jays would start the game, going up 2-1, with just five minutes to play, but Penn State would go on a four-goal streak as Mac O’Keefe and Kevin Hill would each find the back of the cage twice. With just 45-seconds left to play, JHU would get on the board one more time in the opening period.
Penn State continued to build on their offensive momentum as the scored three straight goals to start the second quarter. Freshman Cole Willard would snipe one in from distance as Mac O’Keefe found the rookie for the score. O’Keefe would then find the back of the cage himself as freshman Bobby Burns dished the rock for the score. The third Penn State goal came from another freshman as Brian Townsend made a great cut to the front of the cage, and Nick Spillane found the freshman for his fourth dime. Johns Hopkins would get one back, but another two-goal run by the Nittany Lions gave Penn State a 10-4 lead before the Blue Jays would grab one more before the break.
The Nittany Lions found success at the face-off ‘x’ in the first half as sophomore Gerard Arceri battled through injury, and dominated the opening quarter to go eight of nine, and would finish the half, 13-17.
Out of the break, Arceri would not take a face in the third after getting hit in the closing minutes of the first half. Penn State would look to its reserves to help. While Johns Hopkins went 4-6 at the face in the third, and close the gap by opening the third quarter on a 3-1 run, was the final seconds of the third that were the highlight. Penn State would gain possession with 1:31 left to play and would possess until Nick Spillane would find the back of the net with 6.7 left. On the ensuing face, sophomore Nick McEvoy would win the face-off on a JHU violation, and on the whistle, the middie would dodge his way through the Blue Jay defenders and snipe just his third goal of the season with just 1.1 left of the clock. Penn State took a 13-8 lead into the final quarter of action.
The fourth quarter was all Johns Hopkins as they out-scored Penn State, 4-1, but it was the one goal for Penn State that was critical. Senior captain Ryan Keenan would find the back of the cage on an unassisted dodge to right off the crease for the score at the 7:32 mark in the fourth. As the clock wound down, JHU would continue to pressure as two of their four fourth-quarter goals came with less than seven minutes left to play, but it would be three huge saves by Colby Kneese in the final three minutes, including a spectacular kick save with just 49 seconds left that sealed the game for Penn State as the sophomore goalie got his foot behind the shot, and the ball careened into the air, and Kneese scooped it up and Penn State successfully cleared the ball and maintained possession until time expired.
Penn State earned their first win over Johns Hopkins for a now 1-9 all-time record against the Blue Jays behind a seven-point performance from junior Nick Spillane. The attackman registered a tied career-best five assists, adding two goals. Mac O’Keefe finished the day with three goals and an assist, while junior Kevin Hill added three goals as well.
“When playing against the traditional powerhouses and you beat them, it helps puts you in the same breath as them. It’s a big win, and hopefully we can build on it for the rest of the season.” - head coach Jeff Tambroni pic.twitter.com/5gfoRiZtBz— Penn State Men’s Lacrosse (@PennStateMLAX) April 14, 2018
Senior Ryan Keenen scored the opening and the closing goal for Penn State and the Nittany Lions also saw Dylan Foulds, Brian Townsend, Nick McEvoy, and Cole Willard find the back of the cage. Townsend and McEvoy also added assist each to their stat lines, while Robby Black and Bobby Burns each added assists as well.
The Nittany Lions saw Colby Kneese register 14 saves and add a ground ball. At the ‘x,’ Gerard Arceri went 16-23, adding nine ground balls, while McEvoy went 2-4, and added one ground ball.
Penn State hits the road to take on No. 7 Rutgers on Sunday, April 22 for a 7 p.m. showdown in Piscataway, New Jersey.