Penn State Beats Towson, Claims First Place in CAA
from staff reports
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Buoyed by 1,037 fans and a five-goal showing from freshman TJ Sanders, the 11th-ranked Nittany Lion men's lacrosse team defeated Towson, 10-8, at Penn State Lacrosse Field on Saturday afternoon. Sanders shined and Jack Forster pitched in with four points on a goal and an assist in a battle of first-place Colonial Athletic Association teams.
Penn State (9-3, 4-0 CAA) won its seventh-straight game thanks to a 6-1 run spanning the second and third quarters for an 8-4 lead. Despite a spirited Towson (7-6, 3-1 CAA) comeback effort, a highlight-reel goal from Forster and Sanders's fifth tally of the day staved off the Tiger attack.
Rounding out the Penn State attack was Shane Sturgis who notched three points on two goals and an assist, while Nick Dolik had a two-point day with a goal and an assist. Austin Kaut won the battle of top goalkeepers, making nine saves. Towson's Andrew Wascavage had 11 stops. The two netminders came into the game third and fourth in national save percentage, respectively.
"It's nice to walk off the field, knowing our seniors in potentially last home game, were as winners," Penn State coach Jeff Tambroni said. "It's good for them. The CAA has been a very tough conference for us. Towson is a very good team and I think we're fortunate to be in the position that we are.
"A lot of these games could have gone either way, but I think the poise and leadership of our team has gotten us over the top. Hopefully we'll learn from this winning streak we're on right now and continue to stay hungry and prepare a little better than we did this week."
Sanders opened the scoring ledger just two minutes into the contest with a goal from Nick Dolik. The Tigers had the better start to the game earning a 2-1 lead after one period due to Brian Bolewicki and Greg Cuccinello tallying goals.
Penn State fought back in the second period as Sanders scored his second of the game to tie the contest at two. The man-up goal was assisted by Pat Manley a little less than 90 seconds into the period. Andrew Hodgson put the Tigers back on top seven minutes later to give Towson its final lead of the game at 4-3.
From there it was a Penn State flurry of goals ignited by defender Tyler Travis. Travis Crane checked Cuccinello and Travis picked up the loose ball, hustled down the field and dished to Sturgis who sat on the close right wing to beat Wascavage with 3:28 to play in the half for a 3-3 deadlock. The helper by Travis was his first point of his career and the second to come from the Penn State defense this season.
A minute, 16 seconds later, Sanders dodged a defender and tip-toed the crease for his third goal of the game and a Penn State lead the Nittany Lions would never relinquish. The two teams headed into halftime with PSU leading 4-3.
Sturgis continued the run to 3-0 on a Forster helper as Sturgis's close-range effort made the score 5-3 with 9:30 to go in the third period. After a Towson penalty, Dolik struck for Penn State's second man-up goal of the game, helped by Sturgis, for a 6-3 Nittany Lion lead with 8:34 remaining. PSU went 2-for-3 on the man-up.
After a Towson answer Sanders tallied his fourth marker of the game, his sixth game with four or more goals scored, to regain Penn State's three goal lead at 7-4 with 6:19 to go in the third. Midfielder Tom LaCrosse found the score sheet with a left-handed rocket from the right wing for the largest lead of the game at 8-4 with 2:10 left in the frame. Both Penn State goals were assisted by Forster.
From there on out, it was all individual efforts as Towson would score four of the final six goals of the game. Cuccinnello made it 8-5 right before the third period closed and Justin Mabus's second goal of the day made it 8-6 Penn State with 11:52 to go in the contest.
Forster unleashed one of the best goals of his career as he stood up his defender on the right wing, faked to his right and flung the stick behind his body and beat Wascavage top shelf for a 9-6 Penn State advantage with 10:56 to go. The Tigers responded quickly as Thomas DeNapoli scored his first goal of the game with 10:07 to go as Towson trailed 9-7.
Several Penn State defensive stands held the Tigers at bay and it was Sanders with the timer on who capped PSU's scoring with 91 seconds left in the game. Despite a Hodgson answer 19 seconds later, Penn State was able to fend off the Tigers, who saw their four-game winning streak snapped.
For the second time in as many games, Penn State broke its own facility record for attendance. Over the past two games, the Nittany Lions have had 2,044 attend games at Penn State Lacrosse Field. The Nittany Lions went 3-1 at their outdoor home facility this season and moved to 2-0 when wearing their ceremonial gray uniforms.
Penn State and Towson were knotted in shots at 33 apiece. Penn State won the ground ball battle, 27-24, while each team won 10 faceoffs apiece. The Tigers were a little more careless with the ball, committing 17 turnovers to Penn State's 13. Each team had nine caused turnovers and both teams went 2-for-3 on extra-man opportunities.
Steven Bogert was excellent on the wing, collecting six ground balls. Five Nittany Lions — Jack Donnelly, James Burke, Travis, Forster and LaCrosse — picked up three grounders apiece. Crane had a team high two caused turnovers on the afternoon.
Prior to the game, Penn State honored the careers of its 10 departing seniors. Conor Baucum, Drew Roper, Danny Henneghan, John Cugini, Eric Davidheiser, David Spadacene, manager Tyler Schmitt, Crane, Forster and Dolik ran out to the field during the starting lineups.
For Sanders, the four-time CAA Rookie of the Week, he has 33 goals and seven hat tricks through 12 games. The five-goal effort is his first since back-to-back five-goal games against Ohio State (March 2) and Lehigh (March 9).
Forster's four-point day pushes his career total to 132, moving him into 11th place at Penn State in career points. He sits two points behind Bill Hess (1956-58) for 10th place. Forster is also riding a 24-game point scoring streak, tallying 70 points since the March 3, 2012 game at Ohio State.
The Nittany Lions are one game away from matching the longest single-season winning streak, which occurred in 1981. Penn State last won 10 games in a season 17 years ago in 1996, which was the last time PSU started a season 10-3.
Penn State travels to Delaware in search of its 11th straight true road win for a 7 p.m. contest on Saturday, April 20. If the Nittany Lions beat the Blue Hens, they'll win at least a share of their first CAA regular-season title. Penn State last won a regular-season title in 2005 as members of the ECAC, sharing the crown with Massachusetts. That season was also the last time Penn State earned a trip to the NCAA Tournament.
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