Taking care of Denver, Cornell and Harvard earlier in the season, the Penn State men’s lacrosse team had an undefeated mark against ranked opponents this season.
But instead of extending that streak, 3-0 became 3-1 on Sunday night.
The No. 14 Nittany Lions (7-4) fell in sudden-death overtime 11-10 to No. 5 Maryland (8-2) at the Penn State Lacrosse Field in front of a crowd that filled the bleachers and grassy hill alike.
Mike Sutton led Penn State with three goals, and Nick Aponte chipped a pair of goals and assists.
But the double-digit scoring effort wasn’t enough to down the Terrapins, as Maryland’s Bryan Cole netted the game-winning goal with 42.9 seconds left in overtime.
“You’ve got to put yourself in these situations, and hopefully we’ll learn how to win these games,” Penn State head coach Jeff Tambroni said. “It just wasn’t meant to be tonight.”
After falling to Maryland by seven goals last season, Tambroni was impressed with his team’s improvement in between meetings.
And in the first half, it looked like his players would do more than just come close.
Halfway through the first quarter Maryland snagged a 3-2 lead, but the Nittany Lions responded, rattling off three unanswered goals. In a matter of 41 seconds, Penn State took the lead after goals by Grant Ament and Kevin Hill, while an Aponte score with 1:15 left in the period gave the Nittany Lions a 5-3 advantage after one.
The roll didn’t stop, either.
Cole cut the deficit with an early second-quarter goal, but the Nittany Lions recorded three more consecutive scores.
The home side had an 8-4 lead, and momentum.
“Everything was moving,” Sutton said. “Everything was clicking.”
Unfortunately for Sutton and his teammates, that lead soon evaporated.
Maryland knotted the game at eight all with four straight goals, helped by untimely Penn State turnovers and a more relaxed Nittany Lion attack.
“I feel like we let our guard down offensively,” Tambroni said. “It opened the door. And give Maryland credit, they ran through that door.”
After 15 combined goals in the first half, the two sides traded goals in the final two periods to force overtime, where reliable goalkeeping was on full display.
Penn State sophomore Will Schreiner, who totaled eight saves, made his biggest stop of the evening in the opening minute of overtime, denying a shot destined for net by Maryland’s Colin Heacock.
A mere 80 seconds later, Maryland goalkeeper Kyle Bernlohr flashed his skill, making his 14th and final save of the evening.
The stop allowed the Terrapins to break out, set up an offense, and, eventually, notch the game-winner.
As the Maryland players piled on each other in celebration, the Nittany Lions huddled together at midfield.
Tambroni understands that the loss hurts.
But he also knows his team has another daunting task ahead of itself, hosting No. 16 Johns Hopkins at 7 p.m. Sunday, April 17.
“I think we have to hit the reset button immediately,” Tambroni said. “It’s going to sting. It’s going to sting for a little while, especially at this point in the season. But it’s going to be really important for us to just put it behind us, learn from it, and really start to prepare in an authentic way for Johns Hopkins.”