M. Lax fights off late Penn State comeback

By BRANDON WOLFE | April 20, 2017

Rebounding from a tough loss to Big Ten foe Ohio State last weekend, the Hopkins men’s lacrosse team was able to hang on after a second half offensive surge by the Penn State University (PSU) Nittany Lions to emerge victorious in front of a packed crowd at Homewood Field.

The Blue Jays were able to get off to a hot start very early on, as senior midfielder Cody Radziewicz found the back of the net to kick off the scoring for Hopkins. Grant Ament would be the one to start off the scoring for the Nittany Lions, with some help from an assist by Nick Aponte, taking advantage of a man-up opportunity after sophomore attacker Kyle Marr was called for unnecessary roughness.

Senior midfielder John Crawley followed up the PSU goal nearly 30 seconds later to give the Blue Jays back the lead at 2-1. Matt Florence would tie the game for PSU at two goals apiece.

The Blue Jays would end the half with two straight goals coming from attackers freshman Forry Smith and junior Shack Stanwick, as the first 15 minutes ended with Hopkins in the lead 4-2.

The quarter was highlighted by a strong offensive presence by the Jays, who outshot the Nittany Lions 14-5 through the first 15 minutes of play. This contributed to the two-goal lead that Hopkins was able to take entering the second quarter.

Just as he had closed out the first quarter, Stanwick started the second quarter with his second goal of the day after taking a pass from sophomore midfielder Robert Kuhn and flinging a shot past the PSU goaltender to extend the Jays’ lead to 5-2 just 22 seconds into the quarter. Penn State junior Ryan Keenan passed to senior Dan Craig just a minute later, who found the back of the net to stop the Jays’ streak of three straight goals.

Hopkins would respond to their first three-goal streak ending by simply going on another three-goal streak, starting with an unassisted goal by Marr to put the game at 6-3. He would then go on to assist on junior midfielder Patrick Fraser’s goal. This was followed by junior midfielder Joel Tinney scoring his 15th goal of the season with slightly under five minutes left in the half, putting the Jays in the lead 9-3.

Several of these opportunities for goals came from tight defensive pressure by the Jays, forcing six turnovers in the half to coincide with their 14 shots. Contrary to the pressure by the Jays that forced a combined eight first half turnovers, Hopkins surrendered the ball only twice in the first half.

The Nittany Lions would answer with two goals of their own. PSU freshman Mac O’Keefe scored his 39th of the season, assisted by Ament, who notched his 21st assist of the season. Keenan scored his seventh goal to cut the deficit to three. Hopkins would quickly extend their lead back to five, burying two goals in the final 40 seconds to match the Nittany Lions’ offensive advance.

Radziewicz would score an unassisted goal for his second of the game and ninth of the season, and Stanwick would close out the second quarter with a goal just as he had in the first quarter with some help from an assist by Marr, putting the Blue Jays on top 10-5 as the teams headed into the locker room for halftime.

Contrary to the eight-goal offensive fireworks show that was the second quarter, the third quarter was a defensive scrum, with only two shots finding the mesh after the closing of the first half.

After a pushing call against Penn State, midfielder Drake Kreinz gave the Blue Jays a man-up opportunity to start out the quarter, Fraser would use a pass from Stanwick to put Hopkins in the lead 11-5. After six goalless minutes, Penn State sophomore Nick Spillane would receive an assist from Aponte to find the net to answer Fraser’s goal and finish off the scoring for the third quarter with the contest at 11-6.

The fourth quarter was the only time in the game where Penn State led Hopkins in shot, with the Nittany Lions posting 12 to the Jays’ 6, which helped the Nittany Lions mount a comeback that had many faithful Blue Jays nervous.

The Nittany Lions would capitalize on the momentum from Spillane’s goal to start the fourth quarter scoring with three straight goals. Ament used another assist by Aponte to zing in a goal just nine seconds into the fourth, and Ament would follow with an assist to senior Mike Sutton. Midfielder Matt Florence would bury the third fourth quarter goal after receiving help from Aponte, who had his fourth assist of the game, to put the game at 11-9.

Forry Smith would ease the anxiety of the Hopkins fans after using a pass from Stanwick to bury his 10th goal of the season, but Penn State quickly answered with two more goals, with Sutton and Craig each scoring their second goal of the day to notch the game at 12-11 with only 1:20 left in the game.

With all of the momentum going Penn State’s way, the Blue Jays were able to find a way to hang on, with Tinney scoring another goal with just 37 seconds left in the game to secure the victory for the Blue Jays.

The loss takes Penn State to 10-2 with a 1-2 record in the Big Ten Conference, while the win gives Hopkins a 7-4 record with a 2-1 record in the Big Ten. The Blue Jays will next be in action this Saturday, April 22, as they take on the Michigan Wolverines in the annual homecoming game at Homewood Field.

Comments powered by Disqus

Please note All comments are eligible for publication in The News-Letter.