Penn State came into Sunday's lacrosse game looking to defeat Army and advance to the Final Four for the first time since 2019. The Nittany Lions got the job done in a nail-biter as they defeated Army by a score of 10-9.
The squad had a rough start to the game as Penn State lost the first two faceoffs of the game and Army capitalized by scoring off of both.
The blue and white started the game down 2-0. It had multiple turnovers and the Black Knights seemed dominant.
The offense couldn’t get anything going in the early part of the game but once Chase Mullins won his first faceoff, the offense caught fire.
The Nittany Lions closed the first quarter on a 4-0 run. Chase Mullins also won the last 4 faceoffs of the first quarter.
TJ Malone opened the scoring for Penn State and in the first half he had a hat trick. He set the tone for the Nittany Lions offense throughout the game.
In the second quarter, Penn State's offense continued to dominate as it only scored four goals in the second quarter while Army only scored one. The blue and white led 7-3 at halftime.
Coach Jeff Tambroni’s defense also had a strong first half. After allowing two early goals, the defense proceeded to clamp down the Black Knights strong attack.
In the second quarter, senior captain defenseman, Jack Posey, got injured. He didn’t return to the game after the injury.
Tambroni felt this injury did a number on the Nittany Lions.
“You could tell it took the wind out of our sails. He's an emotional leader, he’s a leader by example and a terrific young man,” Tambroni said. “It was a challenge to see a teammate, a friend go down like that.”
Posey has been Penn State's number one guy on defense all season. After the injury though, Kevin Parnham became the main focus on defense and he rose to the occasion.
Parnham made major plays when Penn State went down two men. He forced a turnover, got the ground ball, and ran all the way up the field to get Penn State possession.
Senior long stick midfielder Sam Sweeney stepped up on Sunday — especially after Jack Posey's injury. Sweeney had a season high in ground balls with nine and caused a turnover.
Having a guy who can step in and be a leader is key for postseason success and Jack Fracyon raved on Sweeney’s ability to do just that.
“Sweeney came down and took the role in stride and he did pretty well,” Fracyon said.
A big factor during Sunday’s contest was Fracyon.
The goalie from Annapolis, Maryland, stepped up in his hometown as he had 11 saves and a .550 save percentage. Fracyon has been a key factor for Penn State all season and was a major reason for Penn State's victory against Army.
“We need our best players Jack Fracyon, TJ Malone,” Tambroni said, "we need them to make big time plays if we’re expecting to move on.”
Fracyon sets the tone for the defense and when he makes a big save, it gives the team momentum.
Malone scored almost immediately to start the third quarter for his fourth goal of the day and Matt Traynor contributed another key goal for Penn State in the middle of the third quarter.
Malone has been a key contributor for Penn State's offense all season long. He leads the team in points and is the number one option to have the ball in his stick.
Malone is the leader on offense. He’s the guy everyone follows and is a huge difference maker for the blue and white. Tambroni saw this and took advantage of Malone’s abilities in the contest.
“You got to have big leaders in big moments and TJ was terrific all game long,” Tambroni said.
In the fourth quarter, Army started off hot thanks to Jacob Morin. Morin has one of the hardest left-handed shots in college lacrosse, and he put it to use around the 14 minute mark — scoring his second goal of the game.
Both goaltenders made big save after big save to try and keep their teams alive.
Kevin Winkoff scored his first goal of the game at a crucial time for Penn State, but Army answered immediately to cut the lead to two.
Penn State attempted to put the game away in the second half, but Army continued to dominate possession time — keeping the Black Knights in the contest.
Army cut the lead to one to make the score a 10-9 lead for Penn State with 3:41 left in the game.
With less than 30 seconds left, the blue and white took a penalty and went man-down putting Army in position to potentially tie the game.
With the clock entering its final seconds, Army passed it in the middle and Penn State's defense went all out to make the game-winning stop, but the Black Knights put the ball through the net as the clock reached zero.
Despite Army’s efforts, it was called a no-goal since Morin didn’t release the ball before the clock expired, therefore Penn State won and advanced to the semifinal round for the first time since 2019.
MORE LACROSSE COVERAGE
ANNAPOLIS, Md. — A picture-perfect day for the NCAA Men’s Lacrosse Quarterfinal Round called…