After trailing all day, it looked like top-ranked Penn State finally had its moment midway through the fourth quarter.
In the biggest non-conference game of the year, Jack Traynor had just tucked the ball into the cage from the edge of the crease to the tie game against No. 3 Yale at eight apiece. It was a goal that completed the Nittany Lions comeback from down 6-1, and momentum was finally on their side. Gerard Arceri was winning faceoffs, the offense finally looked like some semblance of its usual self, and Colby Kneese and the defense were continuing their great performance.
Then with the blow of a referees whistle, all that momentum seemingly evaporated. Penn State was offsides with seven players in the offensive end and the goal was rightly waived off keeping the score 8-7. Almost immediately Yale answered with two quick goals to extend the lead to three and from there it never felt like the Nittany Lions had a chance as the Bulldogs hung on for a massive 12-10 win that’ll likely send them to the top of the polls come Monday.
It’s been 665 days since Penn State has lost a lacrosse game to a school other than Yale. Trouble is, the Nittany Lions have faced off against the Bulldogs three times in that span. Two regular-season games, and most crucially the semifinals at Lincoln Financial Field last May in Philadelphia that ended Penn State’s all-time best season.
For a Penn State team that is hoping for the program’s first national championship, Yale is probably a hurdle it's going to have to clear come May if it does reach that point. Both teams are currently considered favorites to make it to Championship Weekend, so there is a good chance they’ll see each other again.
While the Nittany Lions will be frustrated in the short term by missed chances and sloppy play on the offensive end on Saturday afternoon, it’ll also give everyone the belief that they could win in a rematch. If they could have gotten their offense to produce at its normal rate, that win could have even come on Saturday.
But for now, questions about what could have been will remain until a potential rematch. Instead, the Nittany Lions will shift their focus to several other Ivy League teams coming up in the short term. The next two contests against tough Penn and Cornell teams will give them a chance to bounce back and re-establish themselves. Should they take care of business, they will once more solidify their place among the title favorites.