Men’s Lacrosse is 2-6 this season and are 1-6 against ranked opponents. (Kristina Sumfleth / The Villanovan)
by Andrew Moffa
The men’s lacrosse team battled the No. 16 Penn State Nittany Lions last Saturday, which marked their fifth straight game against a ranked opponent and seventh overall this season.
Coming off a monumental one-goal victory over the No. 4 ranked Syracuse Orange, the ’Cats had plenty of confidence entering their game against the Nittany Lions at Villanova Stadium.
In a closely contested game, the Nittany Lions pulled out a 7-6 road victory.
The first quarter of this game was very close and physical and only saw two goals.
Penn State junior attack Gavin Ahern gave the road team an early advantage before Villanova junior midfielder Kevin O’Neil tied the game and ended the first-quarter.
The Nittany Lions broke through again early in the second quarter, getting a goal by junior midfielder Tom LaCrosse to once again take a goal lead.
Just a few minutes later, Wildcat junior defenseman Chris Piccirilli made a great coast-to-coast run to tie the score at two.
After O’Neil scored his second goal of the game to give the Wildcats their first lead of the game, Penn State responded and finished the half strong by scoring three consecutive goals.
LaCrosse led this offensive charge for the Nittany Lions. They went into halftime with a 5-3 lead.
Trailing by just two, Villanova was right in wthe game, but Penn State started the second half strong and scored less than four minutes into the third quarter to extend the lead to three.
The Nittany Lions’ lead would not exceed this margin, however, as Wildcat senior attack Nick Doherty took a pass from fellow senior midfielder Max Hart and cut the deficit to two at 6-4.
This goal was scored on an extra-man opportunity for Villanova.The game went into the fourth quarter with the score remaining the same.
With over 12 minutes remaining in the game, impressive Villanova freshman midfielder John Kluh, who also had two assists on the night, scored his first goal of the game to bring the Wildcats within one at 6-5.
Now only up one, Penn State came up with a quick response to restore the two-goal cushion, as junior midfielder Kyle VanThof scored with just about 10 minutes remaining in the contest, making the score 7-5.
Throughout the next several minutes of this contest, both teams had numerous chances to score, but both goalies held strong.
Villanova sophomore goalkeeper Reed Carlson registered nine saves, while Nittany Lion junior goalie Austin Kaut, who had a particularly strong game for the No. 16 team in the country, made 16 saves.
The Wildcats were once again able to cut the Penn State lead to one when Hart connected with just over three minutes remaining in the game.
The last three minutes saw frantic action both ways as the ’Cats were frantically trying to find an equalizer.
Despite a possession in the last minute by Villanova, Kaut and Penn State were able to hold on for an important road non-conference win.
The difference in this game was the goaltending of Penn State’s Kaut. He was able to keep the Wildcats at bay throughout the game.
“Their goalie had 16 saves and at the end of the day I think he is maybe the best goalie in the country, or if not he is definitely right up at the top,” said Villanova head coach Mike Corrado.
“[Kaut] made some big saves tonight but we had six goals on 37 shots and that isn’t good enough,” said Corrado, recognizing his team’s missed opportunities to score on the Nittanny Lions.
“We didn’t shoot as well as I would have liked but we fought hard the whole game and the effort was good. It is frustrating because we have been on the short end of too many of these games.”
For the Villanova men’s lacrosse team, this loss marked the end of their non-conference schedule.
The Wildcats currently stand at 2-6. They have lost five of these games by four goals or less, but cannot seem to pull out late wins.
All but one of the first eight games for the ’Cats were against ranked opponents. This latest loss characterizes just how close Villanova has come to beating ranked teams throughout the first part of the year.
They have suffered two losses by two goals and another two defeats by three goals.
Their lone breakthrough against a ranked opponent was at home against the No. 4 Syracuse Orange a few weeks ago.
This game started the Big East schedule for Villanova, which continued last Wednesday, April 3 at Georgetown University.
Senior attack Jack Rice leads the Wildcats this season in goals, notching 14 thus far. Hart closely follows with 12 goals.
O’Neil is the squad’s top passer, tallying seven assists this season.
Villanova averages 9.62 goals per game, but allows 10.75 per game.
The Wildcats will host Big East rival Rutgers this Saturday night on 7 p.m. at Villanova Stadium.