(Inside Lacrosse Photo: Peyton Williams)
CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Penn State didn’t blink. Not when they jumped out to
No. 4 Penn State closed out a poised 19-13 win against No. 2 Cornell Friday in a rainy game at The Crown Classic.
It was hard to ask for a better start to the contest for Penn State. Their face-off specialist Gerard Arceri won 10 of 12 first quarter draws, and the Nittany Lion offense — led by star playmaker Grant Ament — capitalized on the skewed possession advantage. They finished the first quarter with a 9-2 lead.
“It felt like we got off to a great start,” said Penn State coach Jeff Tambroni. “A lot of possessions. But it never really felt comfortable. Even with the lead that we had in that first quarter, and that’s a reflection of how we feel about those guys. They’re good at both ends, but just so efficient with their offense.”
The Big Red steadily crawled back out of the deficit by winning key groundballs and coming away with extra possessions out of the riding game. They also got a handful of timely saves from goalie Chayse Ierlan. Cornell outscored Penn State 8-5 in the second and third quarters, and came within three goals of Penn State early in the fourth.
Needing a steady hand late, Penn State leaned on Arceri again, who won 7 of 9 draws in the fourth quarter and jumpstarted a key goal off the draw that threw a dagger into Cornell’s comeback. Arceri finished with a career-best 25 wins at the dot, and his 18 groundballs matched a career-high.
It was also a massive night for Ament, who finished with a career-high nine assists, a feat which tied a single-game program record.
“I think what you see on the stat sheet certainly is nice, but what he provides in terms of leadership and IQ and poise — he just makes everyone else around him better,” said Tambroni. “He keeps everyone on the straight path…He’s constantly having conversations with our coaches, with our guys as they’re going on and off the field. Just an elite IQ about what’s going on and what we should be doing on the field. So he really is a coach on the field, and we utilize him as such.”
While Ament ran the show, his complementary scorers came through at crucial times. Mac O’Keefe was hot throughout the game, finishing with six goals and an assist. Nick Spillane had four goals, two of which came in the fourth, and added an assist. Dylan Foulds netted four goals and Dan Reaume had two.
Cornell was paced by star attackman Jeff Teat, who had two goals and three assists. Jonathan Donville and John Piatelli each added two goals and an assist, while Connor Fletcher and Clarke Petterson scored two goals. The Big Red offense put together a few multi-goal runs down the stretch, but timely responses from Penn State quelled momentum.
It was a reversal of the 2018 decision between these two when Penn State let a three-goal lead slip away in a 9-7 loss.
“I was really proud of the way we did respond, because it did feel like the momentum after that first quarter was shifting towards Cornell,” said Tambroni. “Mac O’Keefe, Dylan Foulds, and Nicky Spillane in particular played with a lot of poise down the stretch. We knew it was going to be a tough game tonight. One of the things that we talked about was one of our keys and that was ‘not to blink.’ Last year we had a three goal lead on them going into the fourth quarter…Today, I just think we finished the game strong. We just didn’t blink towards the last eight or nine minutes, or even played with more poise down the stretch than we did in the second or third quarter. So I was proud, especially with some of those junior and senior leaders in terms of the way they played when it seemed like it was starting to slip away. I felt like they still had enough courage to make plays, and they did.”