There aren’t many program firsts left now.
After over a century of varsity lacrosse, Penn State has won an NCAA Tournament game for the first time in team history. On a rainy Sunday in Happy Valley, the Nittany Lions defeated UMBC 25-10 to keep their best ever season going. Over the next two weekends, Penn State will try to wipe out the final two program firsts that matter: a Final Four appearance and a National Championship.
Heading into the game there was more than a few jokes made about UMBC’s history as a 16 seed. As many will remember, the Retrievers were the first 16 seed to win a game in March Madness history as they knocked off Virginia.
Penn State quickly put to bed any thoughts of a repeat in May Madness. While UMBC scored first, the Nittany Lions raced away after that.
Arceri on another level
Gerard Arceri had one of the best days of his career. His 18-of-20 effort at Franklin Field in Philly against Penn last season stands out as another notable one. However, in an elimination game, this was bigger.
Arceri started 14-of-14 and while he lost one, he just kept winning them afterward and finished the first half 22-for-23. The one loss was a blip in the radar rather than an end to the trend. It allowed the Nittany Lions star-studded offense to play make-it-take-it and just get the score absolutely out of hand.
Arceri was taken out of the game early after finishing 25-of-27 and Jake Glatz came in relief and finished 9-of-11 himself.
Jack Kelly is a star
This has been a developing theme the second half of the season, but on Sunday Kelly really announced himself to the lacrosse world with six first-half goals.
He continues to be a matchup nightmare for short sticks and it’d be a surprise to see that change the rest of the tournament. While he might start drawing a long pole some times, Kelly is going to have plenty of advantageous matchups in May to help push the Nittany Lions towards their first national title.
Pat Spencer is smiling
Next weekend we’ll get the two Tewaaraton front runners -- Loyola’s Pat Spencer and Penn State’s Grant Ament -- on the same field battling for a spot in the Final Four. It should be quite the show.
But, watching the Penn State defense for the early parts of the game had to have put a big smile on Spencer’s face. With Arceri at 100 percent well into the first quarter, UMBC was barely touching the ball. However, the Good Boys were taking advantage of the few possessions that they had and it was impossible not to think the Nittany Lions were going to have to step it up or get shredded by Spencer.
They looked a lot better over the final three quarters, but either way, most people are going to be expecting a high scoring shootout next weekend with so much elite talent on the field.
Penn State will travel to Rentschler Field in East Hartford, Connecticut to take on Loyola (MD.) next Sunday with a spot in the Final Four on the line.