‘Nova fights No. 15 Penn State to double overtime

Michael Zipf

After scoring the final two goals of regulation and having momentum on their side, the Villanova men’s lacrosse team had reason to feel confident heading into overtime against the No. 15 ranked Nittany Lions of Penn State. Unfortunately, the Wildcats would endure a heartbreaking 12-11 double overtime loss on Saturday, which marked their third overtime loss this season.

Head coach Randy Marks commented on the difficult defeat: “Any time you lose a close game in double overtime it’s tough to take. We were in this one all the way. It would have been great to have some momentum going into our first round Colonial Athletic Association Tournament game next week.” Saturday’s defeat placed the Wildcats with a 5-9 record heading into their conference tournament game.

Villanova started the scoring affair with freshman attacker Tim Driscoll connecting on the game’s first goal at the 12:50 mark of the first quarter. Nevertheless, Penn State would rally, scoring three consecutive goals to take a 3-1 lead by the end of the first quarter. The scoring fest continued in the second quarter as ‘Nova responded to Penn State’s charge, recording four straight goals, giving them a 5-3 lead with 9:32 left in the second quarter.

“The team really excelled in transition and riding,” senior captain Matt Starker said. “We were able to ride the Penn State clearing unit very hard and once they turned the ball over we were able to make two or three passes down the field and get a high quality scoring opportunity.”

However, Penn State fought back, ending their scoring drought with Andrew Mackride’s goal at the 6:28 mark. The Wildcats continued to maintain their lead until Penn State’s Nate Whitaker recorded back-to-back goals to tie the game at seven. With a 9-7 lead heading into the third quarter, the Wildcats’ sound and consistent play began to unravel as they saw their lead dissipate. First, the ‘Cats were called for having an illegal stick during the third and fourth quarters, forcing them to kill a three-minute non-releasable penalty. The Nittany Lions capitalized on the penalty and a couple of Wildcat miscues with Greg Gurenlian igniting a four-goal rally to give Penn State an 11-9 lead. However, the Wildcats valiantly clawed back, notching the final two goals, one by junior Chris Mercer and the other by sophomore Matt Panneton, to send the game into overtime.

During the first overtime, both teams’ defenses shone, holding both sides scoreless. Each team generated great scoring opportunities, but neither one was able to capitalize and secure the victory. Unfortunately for the Wildcats, Penn State in the second overtime would connect on one of their scoring chances when junior Pat Heim rifled a shot past senior goaltender Joe Cansuo to give the Nittany Lions a thrilling 15-14 victory.

Although the team suffered a gut-wrenching loss, overall they were pleased with their performance and their ability to battle against the highly ranked Nittany Lion team. “Overall I think this is the best effort we put together this year,” Starker said. “We played a full 60 minute game and just fell short against a very good Penn State team. We’re going to take the momentum we got from this game and hopefully keep it rolling right into the CAA semifinals.”

As the team prepares to face Hofstra in the opening round of the Colonial Athletic Association tournament, they are focusing on limiting mistakes and capitalizing on good scoring opportunities that arise. Overall, the team feels confident and prepared and seems poised to be very competitive at the CAA Tournament.