(Photo Courtesy of Penn State Athletics)
The end of February draws near and the first major, high-profile weekend of the college lacrosse season is in the books. Still, there are perhaps more questions that answers across the landscape of the game after four weekends of play. Perhaps one of the few things we do know is that Penn State can still survive Yale in February, Notre Dame’s offense can light up the scoreboard, and Virginia is the best team right now. Everything else might just be a crapshoot.
We’ll touch on those very things and more in this week’s notebook after what was, perhaps, one of the most telling weekends of a season with still so many questions as the month of March approaches.
Penn State Holds on in Upset of Yale
The Penn State Nittany Lions went into a snowy New Haven, Conn., on Saturday afternoon and took down the Yale Bulldogs, 13-11, to earn their second upset victory over Andy Shay’s program in as many years.
Despite starting fast and taking a commanding 8-1 lead into the second quarter in which the Bulldogs were unable to ever comeback from, it was perhaps the Penn State defense whom deserves the most credit in the victory. Anchored by a 15-save (57%) performance from Jack Fracyon, the Nittany Lions held the Bulldogs off the scoreboard for a 10 minute stretch during that first quarter of play and with Jack Posey on him most of the day, held Matt Brandau (1G/2A) without a goal until the final minutes of the game.
Yale scored 20 goals on 51 shots in its opener against Villanova a week ago. The Bulldogs, who return most of their talent on that end, averaged 47 shots per game last season. On Saturday, Yale was held to just 16 shots in the first half and 34 on the day. They also went 0-for-3 on man-up situations as the Penn State defense held strong on such instances.
Matt Brandau found Chris Lyons (4G) up top for the opening score of the second frame. Nicholas Ramsey won the ensuing faceoff and took it down the middle for a goal of his one. Soon, the Bulldogs would be within three (8-5) and on a four-goal run. Overall, the Bulldogs outscored the Nittany Lions 5-2 in the second quarter. The next Bulldogs’ offensive spurt, however, came too late. Yale scored the final three goals of the day, but ultimately was stopped more times than not down the stretch, leaving them unable to complete the comeback.
Penn State saw Jack Traynor score the first goal of the day but it would be the younger Traynor, Matt, who stole the show for the Nittany Lions’ offense. The sophomore led the way with five goals and one assist for a career-high six points in the win. Four of those goals came during Penn State’s seven-goal run to end the first quarter as he scored the final three of that stretch and put one home earlier, as well.
Often getting inside and beating their matchup, the Nittany Lions’ offense had a field day against the Yale man-to-man defense during that opening frame. Through two games now, the Yale defense has allowed a total of 15 and an average of 7.5 first-quarter goals.
TJ Malone (3G/2A) tallied five points on the day to aide that offensive effort while Jeb Brenfleck also had a pair of man-up goals which came consecutively in the first quarter. Penn State went 4-for-4 on the man-up in the contest.
Being tasked with all of the effort on Saturday, Chase Mullins went 14-for-28 (50%) at the faceoff dot for the Nittany Lions. That includes winning five consecutive scores during the first frame to help support that earl Penn State run.
Whether snow falling and the field appearing to be slick at times because of it playing a factor or not, the two teams combined for 36 turnovers on the day with 24 of those turnovers coming during the second half of play. 14 came during the third quarter alone as that third frame saw just three scores. The second half overall saw just eight goals; a big difference from the 16 seen in the first half.
Yale travels to UMass next week while Penn State will face another Ivy League opponent as it welcomes in the Penn Quakers.
Ruppel, Maryland Defense Lead The Way Past Princeton
Star goalie Logan McNaney went down with a season-ending knee injury in the Terrapins’ season-opening loss against Loyola. Last week, Binghamton graduate transfer Teddy Dolan stepped in between the pipes to fill the void in the win over Syracuse.
Going into Princeton on Saturday afternoon, John Tillman would call on his highly-touted freshman Brian Ruppel. And he answered it as well as anyone could’ve expected. The freshman anchored the Terrapins defense in an 11-5 road victory with 14 saves and a 74% save percentage.
Brett Maker (6GB/4CT) and Ajax Zapitello (3CT) led the way out in front of the cage at close. SSDM Jack McDonald recorded two ground balls and caused two turnovers.
A man-up score from Daniel Kelly (4G/1A) three minutes into the game and an Owen Murphy goal with in the final minute were the lone two scores of the opening frame, putting Maryland up 2-0. Daniel Maltz found the back of the net once in the second quarter as the Terrapins’ lone score of the frame.
It wasn’t until the third quarter where Maryland started to tear through the lid. The Terrapins put home seven scores during that the third to pull away and take a 10-3 lead into the fourth. That run saw the Terrapins score four straight at one point on a stretch that included a pair of man-up scores from Maltz and Jack Koras (3G/1A). The Terrapins went 3-for-6 on man-up situations in the win.
On the end, the Terrapins defense stood tall from the opening faceoff through the final whistle. That included holding the Tigers off the board for nearly the first 19 minutes and to just one score during the first half of play.
Coulter Mackesy was the lone Tiger to put one past Ruppel during those first two frames. Mackesy also scored two score half goals to get himself a hat trick on the day as the leader of the Princeton offense. Sam English (1G/2A) also had three points.
Griffen Rakower and Michael Ginaforcaro once again split halves in cage. Rakower made 11 saves in the first half while Ginaforcaro made five saves in the second half.
Maryland’s Luke Wierman went 13-for-20 (65%) at the faceoff dot.
Maryland welcomes in Notre Dame next week while Princeton moves to play Georgetown at home next week.
Notre Dame Downs Georgetown
Notre Dame has moved to 3-0 on the season after a dominating, 15-8 victory over the Georgetown Hoyas on Saturday afternoon.
Eric Doboson put home the first goal of the day during the first minute of play and the Irish seemed to never look back. Chris Kavanagh got the second score of the day and by the time the buzzer sounded at the end of the first, it was. 6-3 Notre Dame lead.
A pair of Graham Bundy, Jr. (3G) during the first quarter helped make it just a three-goal game heading into the second frame. However, the Hoyas weren’t able to keep it close for long. Notre Dame held the Hoyas off the board for nearly a full 20 minutes while subsequently finding the back of the net four times themselves during that stretch to make it a 10-3 game early in the third.
From the second quarter through the 6:03 mark in the contest, Notre Dame outscored the Hoyas 9-2 and that was all she wrote.
Notre Dame saw Eric Dobson, Chris Kavanagh, and Reilly Gray each notch hat tricks in what was a balanced scoring effort. Liam Entenmann made nine saves to anchor the Irish defense.
Along with Bundy, Jr.’s hat trick, Declan McDermott had two goals and one assist for Georgetown. James Reilly went 15-for-25 (60%) at the faceoff dot.
Notre Dame hits the road again next week as they face Maryland. Georgetown heads to Princeton next week.
Wilson Stephenson Keeps Handley in Check
Duke defeated the Penn Quakers, 14-12, on Saturday afternoon to end the first month of the season with a big win. And while the balanced scoring from O’Neill, McAdorey, Williams, Leadmond, and others was notable, the biggest storyline came from the Duke defense.
William Helm anchored the Blue Devils’ defense with 19 save to anchor a unit that allowed just one score in the dying seconds of the second quarter and held the Quakers for the majority of the third, keeping them off the scoreboard for nearly 20 minutes during the middle of the contest. Wilson Stephenson stole the show in front of the cage as he drew the Sam Handley matchup and held him to just one goal and two assist. Stephenson also grabbed six ground balls, caused four turnovers, and scored a goal in the contest.
Cormier, Virginia Handle Ohio State in Naples
Taking to the field under the lights in Naples, Fla., the Virginia Cavaliers showed further why they are the best team in college lacrosse with a 17-6 victory over the Ohio State Buckeyes.
Payton Cormier led the way with seven goals on the day for the Cavaliers while Xander Dickson had two goals and two assists. Matthew Nunes made eight saves with a 57% save percentage while Petey LaSalla went 10-for-21 (48%) at the dot.
Consecutive Jeff Conner and Patrick McIntosh scores got Virginia up 2-0 early and they never looked back, going wire to wire for the 11-goal victory. The Cavaliers turned the corner in the contest with a five-goal run from late in the second through early in the third, making it a 10-4 game and creating a nice cushion to be able to sprint through the end with no problem.
Jack Myers and Ed Shean each had two goals for Ohio State. Bobby Van Buren held Connor Shellenbeger in check, holding him to just two assists, in what was arguably the best performance of the day from any Buckeye. Drew Blanchard went 14-for-24 (58%) at the dot.
Three Winners, Three Losers
Winner: Penn State Nittany Lions
For the second consecutive season, Penn State has upset the Yale Bulldogs in February. This time around, however, it feels different. And in fact, this Penn State team is different. The Nittany Lions are older and through four games have shown look improved from a season ago.
Between the output of the Traynor brothers on offense and the likes of Jack Posey and goalie Jack Fracyon being able to hold down the fort on defense, plus Chase Mullin’s day at the dot, Penn State showed a lot on many different fronts Saturday afternoon. And the biggest may have been the improvement on defense holistically, which is where this program had arguably its biggest struggles in recent years.
Winner: Notre Dame Fighting Irish
The Fighting Irish went into Washington, D.C., and devoured the Georgetown Hoyas in a game that, for many, left little doubt about just how good this Notre Dame squad is. And that is especially true of the Irish offense, which has averaged 18 goals through its first three games.
Notre Dame saw seven different goal-scorers on Saturday, including a trio of hat trick getters between Eric Dobson, Chris Kavanagh, and Reilly Gray. Liam Entenemann and the Irish defense also stood tall. Is the faceoff dot one of the only areas where the Irish need to prove themselves against fellow top-10 teams?
Winner: Duke Blue Devils
Duke ends the month of February on a pretty good note. The Blue Devils beat Denver in overtime last week and took down Penn, 14-12, on Saturday in a game where Brennan O’Neill (2G/3A) led the way with five points while Andrew McAdorey (3G/1A), Garrett Leadmond (1G/2A), and Dyson Williams (3G) made sizable impacts as well.
Wilson Stephenson won the day against Penn’s Sam Handley, holding him to one goals and two assists. Stephenson took home a stellar stat line, grabbing six ground balls, causing four turnovers, and scoring a goal. Duke had arguably its best performance all around on Saturday.
Loser: Yale Bulldogs
Yale opened the season putting up 20 goals in Villanova. It appeared the Bulldogs offense had picked up where it left off last season. Even through the Bulldogs’ struggles on Saturday in the loss to Penn State, you could still say that. While Matt Brandau was taken out of the game by the Nittany Lions defense for a bit, you still had threats like Chris Lyons and Thomas Bragg able to make some noise.
Where the worry is with this Yale team is its defense, and that isn’t much of a surprise. This unit dropped off last season and through two games in 2023 it has had trouble and especially so early. Yale needs to show its ability to play a full complete game of good defense.
Loser: Princeton Tigers
Princeton opened the game committing four turnovers, failing three clears, and having just two settled possession during the first nine minutes of the contest. While things wouldn’t stay that sloppy throughout the frustration remained as Princeton scored just five goals in its loss to Maryland.
The Tigers saw 12 of their 16 total turnovers be caused by the Maryland defense and went just 7-for-20 (35%) at the faceoff dot. Griffin Rakower made 11 saves in the first half and anchored a solid defensive effort through those first two quarters, allowing just three goals. That success didn’t remain in the second half with Michael Gianforcaro anchoring things.
Loser: Syracuse Orange
The Orange lost its ACC opener in the Dome, 19-13, against the North Carolina Tar Heels on Saturday afternoon. Led by Joey Spallina (3G/2A) and Owen Hiltz (2G/3A) it does feel like this Syracuse offense is continuing to come together and improve. An all together, this Syracuse team is better than last season for sure. However, did the Orange defense regress Saturday?
Syracuse allowed an 8-1 run from early in the second through early in the third. A 6-3 run late in the game saw the Orange unable to get the stops they needed to compliment their comeback effort on offense. Will Mark is great but he can’t do it all.
Friday Recap: Defense Steers Richmond Past Towson
- Vermont will face Brown in a game moved to Sunday due to weather.
- UMass Lowell plays Siena in a game that also was moved to Sunday.
- UAlbany earned its first win on the season, knocking off Drexel 11-7 in a contest where Jack Pucci had four goals.
- Bryant defeated Quinnipiac 19-12. Kevin Groeninger (3G/4A) and Johnny Hackett (6G) led the way for the Bulldogs offense while Tegan Alexander anchored the defense with 14 saves.
- Bellarmine earned a comeback victory over Marist, knocking off the Red Foxes 13-10.
- Robert Morris faces Canisius in a game that was moved to Sunday.
- Saint Joseph’s pulled away from Providence in the second half to earn a 19-6 victory. Carter Page (5G/1A) had six points while Zach Cole went 100% (24-for-24) in the time he saw at the dot.
- High Point defeated Navy 14-13 in what was the first game of the day. Jack VanOverbeke had a career day with four goals and two assists for six points. They Panthers beat Hampton on Sunday.
- In a snow contest on the road, Hobart defeated Colgate 10-8.
- St. Bonaventure earned its first win of the season, defeating VMI 15-9.
- Richmond defeated Towson on Friday and then edged Fairfield 10-8 on Sunday, holding the Stags to 0-5 on man-up situations.
- Villanova defeated Delaware 13-12 in a tightly-contested battle on Sunday afternoon. Matt Campbell had five goals and one assist to lead the way for the Wildcats.
- Denver earned a nice bounce back victory over Merrimack, 13-9. Noah Manning had four goals on the day to lead the Pioneers.
- Marquette claimed a big win in Naples, Fla., over Michigan, 14-9. Griffin Fries (4G/1A) led the way for the Golden Eagles balanced scoring offense.
- Shane Knobloch broke through for seven points (3G/4A) in a 10-6 victory over the Loyola Greyhounds. Kyle Mullin anchored a solid defensive effort with 16 saves and a 73% save percentage.
- Johns Hopkins held off Utah in a 12-8 victory at Homewood in which Brendan Grimes, Matt Collison, and Ian Krampf each had hat tricks.
- Stony Brook defeated Sacred Heart 15-12 on Sunday after a win over Air Force on Friday.
- Monmouth defeated LIU 10-6 for its second consecutive victory.
- John Madsen, Griffin Turner, Rory Jones each had four points in Hofstra’s 16-12 win over St. John’s
- Dartmouth moved to 2-0 on the season with a 17-6 win over Holy Cross. Jesse Phelan had five goals while Hunter Binney (3G/3A) had six points.
- Harvard beat Bucknell 13-8 for its first win of the year. Andrew DeGennaro went 71% at the dot and Christian Barnard made 17 saves and scored a goal to break a 10-man ride.
- Cornell defeated Lehigh 12-5 in a game that saw CJ Kirst (3G/1A) and Billy Coyle (3G/1A) have identical stat lines for four points.
- Brown downed Vermont 22-12 in a snowy Sunday contest where Devon McLane notched nine goals and one assist,
- An eight-goal second half run helped lift Siena past UMass Lowell 16-12 on Sunday afternoon.
- Kyle Gucwa (3G/3A) passed the 100 points mark to lead Mahattan past NJIT 11-8.
- Wagner beat Queens 13-9 for its first win of the season. CJ Sweitzer had four goals
- Army West Point beat Mercer 16-5.
- Boston U. earned a 12-6 win over UMass in a game that saw Vince D’Alto net five goals while Louis Perfetto had one goal and four assists.
- Lafayette gained its second win of the season with a 10-4 defeat of Binghamton. Peter Lehman (3G/2A) had five points in the win.