March 15, 2014

Behind Stout Defense, UMass Hands Penn State Third Loss

from Press Release

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — The No. 14 University of Massachusetts men's lacrosse team limited No. 5 Penn State's potent offense to record an 8-6 victory on the road at PSU Lacrosse Field in University Park, Pa., on Saturday afternoon. Goalie Zach Oliveri finished with 15 saves in the cage, including 11 made after the Minutemen took the lead during the second quarter. Nick Mariano led the offense with three points on two goals and an assist while Connor Mooney tallied twice as well.

UMass (6-1 overall, 1-0 CAA) also received multi-point efforts from Robert Lynott and Grant Whiteway as both Minutemen finished the day with a goal and assist. Jeff George and Brendan Hegarty each provided one tally to complete scoring.

James Fahey led the close defense with a career-high four caused turnovers to go with three groundballs for the senior. Aaron Madaisky and Austin Spencer helped to limit the Penn State attack as both finished with a pair of caused turnovers and one groundball apiece.

TJ Sanders had three goals for the Nittany Lions (3-3, 0-1) while Shane Sturgis notched two goals and helped out on one additional Penn State tally. Austin Kaut, the CAA Preseason Player of the Year, made 10 stops against eight goals allowed in the cage.

To start the Colonial Athletic Association (CAA) showdown between two top-15 nationally ranked teams, Penn State's Tom LaCrosse made a quick statement after the Nittany Lions battled to win the opening faceoff. LaCrosse's sole goal of the game came just 49 seconds into play. The Minutemen did not ripple the back of the Penn State net until late in the first quarter, when Mooney connected with five minutes, 30 seconds to play after he attacked the left side of the cage. Mooney juked the Penn State defender right, went to his left and tallied the Minutemen's first goal of the contest with a diving shot.

However, Penn State took the lead back with 2:04 left in the first quarter on a rocket from Sturgis.

The Minutemen responded on the attack with four consecutive goals during the second quarter to move ahead, 5-2.

Both defenses held strong until the 8:27 mark of the second when Whiteway followed Mooney's lead in attacking the left side of the net to tie the game at 2-2. Lynott's second goal of the season came with just 4:45 left in the half and gave UMass the lead for good at 3-2. George then fought through two defenders to tally for the sixth time on the season with 3:40 left in the half as he squeaked the ball just below the crossbar.

After Hegarty's goal - his second in as many games - Sanders edged the deficit down to 5-3 during a man-up chance when he scored with 47 seconds remaining in the second quarter.

The sides exchanged empty possessions following the break as neither team scored until Mooney netted another acrobatic goal at the end of a man-up opportunity with 4:39 left in the third quarter. Mooney circled the left side of cage from X to receive a Whiteway pass. After Mooney nabbed the toss in mid-air, he turned and fired in UMass' sixth goal of the game to push the lead back to three for the visitors.

Sturgis retaliated with a goal of his own with 2:54 to play in the third; however, Mariano needed only 44 seconds following Sturgis' tally to net his first of the day. Mariano then extended the lead to four with 9:30 left to play on a one-time feed from Lynott.

Penn State showed urgency on attack throughout the remainder of play as the home squad tallied 11 shots on net during the conclusion of play, one of which found its way by Oliveri with 1:53 left to play as the Nittany Lions moved within 8-5 of the Minutemen.

Penn State ended the contest on an extended man-up opportunity due to a non-releasable penalty leveled against UMass faceoff specialist Joe Calvello, who led the Minutemen with four groundballs against the Nittany Lions, with 1:53 to play.

James Fahey and Bob Fahey spearheaded the man-down defensive effort put forth by the Minutemen in the closing minutes. James Fahey caused a Steve Aitken turnover with 1:17 left in the game before Bob Fahey picked up the loose play. Following Bob Fahey's groundball, UMass was able to clear the play into its offensive zone and take a timeout with 43 seconds remaining.

Penn State's James Burke recorded a caused turnover to regain possession for the Nittany Lions with 36 seconds to play, but Oliveri notched his 15th save on an attempt by Kyle VanThof with 22 seconds to play to keep PSU from cutting the lead to two goals.

After VanThof picked up the loose ball following Oliveri's final stop, Sanders scored the game's last goal with only one second left on the clock.

Penn State earned positive margins for shots taken, 36-33 and groundballs, 28-21. UMass finished 19-for-20 on clears while the Nittany Lions went 20-of-21 in the category. Calvello won 6-of-15 faceoffs against Drake Kreinz of Penn State.

The Minutemen shift back to non-conference play with a trip to No. 19 Fairfield University (4-2) for a 3 p.m. contest in Fairfield, Conn. The game marks the final non-conference meeting between the sides as the Stags join the CAA for league play in 2015.

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