Penn State has never won a single NCAA tournament game in the history of their lacrosse program. Like not even one just accidentally. Never once has the Penn State Nittany Lions Men’s Lacrosse Program gone to the NCAA Tournament and won their 1st round game. At least not in this universe. But after they smacked the shit out of Hopkins 20-9 on Easter Sunday? They are clearly the favorites to win the National Championship on Memorial Day.
Twenty (20!!!) to nine. Against a team that they had just beaten for the first time in program history last year. One year removed from Penn State beating Hopkins for the first time and now they’re out here hanging a 20-spot on the Blue Jays. And that was the 3rd time this season that Penn State has put up 20 or more goals in a single game. Granted, putting 27 up against Robert Morris and then 24 against Jacksonville aren’t overly impressive. But to put up 20 goals against Johns Hopkins? A team coached by Dave Pietramala? That’s the type of game that the rest of the country has to look at and pray that they don’t have to figure out a way to stop them once the tournament gets going.
The thing about this Penn State team is that they just have so many different guys who can do so many different things. Obviously it starts with Grant Ament who can do it all. He has at least 10 more assists than anybody else in the nation right now so clearly being a feeder is the role that he thrives in the most. But he can also shake the shit out of the best defensemen in college lacrosse and stick the ball in the back of the net whenever he wants to as well.
So if you want to force him to get to the cage himself? Well then he’ll just go out there and stick a quick 4 goals on you while also picking up 3 assists along the way. Then you have Mac O’Keefe who gets labelled as a finisher with 46 goals and 12 assists on the year. The only thing, though, is that the label of a “finisher” usually just means you catch the ball in the crease and put it away. What makes O’Keefe a little different than the majority of “finishers” out there is that he can bring the ball from 15-yards out with ease. He also has great hands inside and can finish around the crease. But considering he’s lethal anywhere from 15-yards out right down to the crease? Yeah, it’s a little difficult to contain that.
Then you have Nick Spillane at the midfield after playing a ton of attack last year. He can score the shit out of the ball. Dylan Foulds and Jack Kelly are a couple of Canadians who can score the shit out of the ball. They have a couple of freshman in TJ Malone and Jack Traynor who are probably on the 2nd page of the scouting report, and they’ll still find a way to kill you by putting a few in the back of the net when Penn State goes on one of their patented runs.
And on top of it all? They have one of the best faceoff specialists in the nation in Gerard Arceri, Colby Kneese is a beast in the cage, and their defense is a full blown bully squad out there.
They’re too good. They’re too deep. They’re 11-1 right now on the year and their only loss came to the reigning champs by 1-goal in late February. I’ve already said this before but if that game was 30 seconds longer, they would have tied it up and then beat Yale in overtime to be undefeated on the year. I’m just thinking back on some of the best college lacrosse teams in recent history. There were those back-to-back years in 2005 and 2006 when Hopkins and Virginia went undefeated. Those were probably some of the best college lacrosse teams ever assembled. And at least on April 22, Penn State looks like they’re on that path. Obviously they’d still have to win the B1G tournament and then the National Championship to be in the same sentence as those teams. But they’re definitely on the way. Only thing that could possibly hold them back is guys on that roster who rock black cleats with white socks. Just a horrifically tragic look.