After losing every single faceoff in the first half, the Penn State men’s lacrosse team picked just the right time to turn around those misfortunes.
Clinging to a one-goal lead to start the second half, Drake Kreinz won the faceoff, sprinted down the field and within eight seconds found the net.
The defense did the rest.
Thanks to a run of six straight goals, highlighted by Kreinz’s sprint, No. 2 Penn State turned aside No. 5 Ohio State 9-4 Sunday night at the Penn State Lacrosse Field to open the Big Ten season.
“We just finally played a full 60-minute lacrosse game,” senior defender Peter Triolo said. “We knew we had all the components to be a successful team and a top-tier team in the NCAA.”
Winning the top-five showdown, coupled with No. 1 Notre Dame’s loss to Syracuse on Saturday, means the Nittany Lions (10-0) could vault to the top of the national rankings Monday. They join Hofstra as the only undefeated teams remaining in Division I.
While they are trying to ignore “the noise” of the rankings, as Triolo described it, they also put on a scintillating display in front of a record 3,172 fans.
“It was definitely hard to control emotions,” Triolo said. “It’s a 7 o’clock game at night and you wake up in the morning and you are ready to go. I woke up at 7:30 this morning and I couldn’t fall back asleep I was so excited for this game.”
Eight different Nittany Lions netted goals, with two scores for Mike Sutton and one each for Kreinz, Nick Aponte, Mac O’Keefe, Nick Spillane, Dan Craig, Kevin Hill and Grant Ament.
It was the defense that made the win possible, shutting out the Buckeyes over a span of 37:23. Freshman goalkeeper Colby Kneese made 13 saves, but got a lot of help from his teammates.
“It was unbelievable,” Kneese said. “We scouted three of their best players and they probably had under eight shots. When all their second guys are getting off shots from distance, that’s just part of my job that I have to do.”
He was tested, though, with a number of denials on high-quality Ohio State (9-2) attempts for the fewest goals allowed in a game by the Lions this season.
“He looked like he was seeing the ball very well,” Penn State coach Jeff Tambroni said. “They’ve got some really sharp shooters on that team, so that’s not an easy task. But I thought he was surrounded by a group of defenders that really just competed with a ton of heart tonight.”
The decisive shutout span lasted from 10 seconds into the second quarter, when Ryan Terefenko scored to give the Buckeyes a 3-2 lead, to the 7:27 mark of the fourth quarter, when Tre Leclaire scored his second goal of the game as his team trailed 8-4.
Meanwhile, Penn State was horrendous in faceoffs in the first half, losing all nine draws, but somehow still had a lead at intermission.
“We just kind of held our ground early in not winning any faceoffs,” Tambroni said. “Credit the defense because that could have gotten out of hand early with the way they were facing off.”
Then it was time for Kreinz to turn his magic, winning that opening draw and racing to his first goal of the season.
“That was a huge momentum boost for our guys,” said Tambroni, whose team won just 4 of 17 draws for the night.
“We weren’t going to do anything different than we started the game,” Krienz said. “We just wanted to put a full game together.”
The victory starts a run of the final five games of the regular season all against ranked teams, and all in the Big Ten. Three are on the road starting with a trip to No. 9 Maryland on Saturday, while only one home game remains.
The Nittany Lions could not ask for a better way to start the final stretch.
‘We knew it was going to be an emotional night,” Tambroni said. “I thought the atmosphere was phenomenal here tonight.”