College Park — The Maryland men’s lacrosse program does not recognize losses to Penn State in 1916 and 1920 and has insisted that the series record is 36-0 in favor of the Terps.
There’s no dispute now. The top-ranked Nittany Lions exploded for eight goals in the first quarter, weathered a scoreless drought of 27 minutes, 57 seconds, and quelled a potential comeback to defeat No. 3 Maryland, 13-10, before an announced 3,837 at Maryland Stadium on Sunday night in the Big Ten opener for both sides.
Penn State improved to 8-1 overall and extended its winning streak to five games. It also secured its second win against a top-3 opponent in March after demolishing then-No. 2 Cornell, 19-13, on March 8.
Nittany Lions coach Jeff Tambroni quipped that the argument about his teams’ misfortunes against the Terps was rewarding.
“We hear it every single year that we come back here,” he said. “So I’ll be happy that we started a new streak. We’re very proud of our legacy at Penn State, and I know these guys really wanted to win it bad for us, but they really wanted to it bad for the history of Penn State. … This is a program win – not just the guys in the locker room. It’s a rewarding experience for the entire program.”
The Nittany Lions got four points each from sophomore midfielder Jack Kelly (three goals and one assist) and junior attackman Mac O’Keefe (two goals and two assists). Senior midfielder Nick Spillane also added two goals and one assist.
Penn State’s offensive prowess against a Terps defense that was tied for seventh in Division I at 9.0 goals per game was even more impressive considering the limited contributions from redshirt junior attackman Grant Ament, who returned to the starting lineup after missing a 15-11 win at Cleveland State on March 23 because of an unspecified lower-body injury. Ament, who entered the game leading all NCAA Division I players in total assists (46) and points per game (8.0), had two assists in the first quarter and appeared to be his usual swift, shifty self.
But with 7:12 left in the second quarter, Ament got crunched by a Terps double team, fell to the turf, and writhed in pain. He limped off the field and did not make an appearance for the remainder of the period. He did return for the second half, but was held off the scoreboard.
“Probably after that second quarter, I wasn’t at my best,” Ament said. “But Jack Kelly dodged his rear end off for those two quarters and did tremendously. [Redshirt freshman midfielder] Dan Reaume did very well [with one goal and one assist]. And [sophomore midfielder] Cole Willard gave us a spark when we needed it. It feels very good to lean back on because when it comes to the playoffs, we’re going to need to lean back on those guys. It’s not always going to be the top guys necessarily. Those role players did a phenomenal job tonight.”
Tambroni said Ament’s mere presence on the field opened shooting and passing lanes for his teammates.
“It does not sound like he had a spectacular game, but he takes a lot of attention off the other guys,” Tambroni said. “I’ve said this about Grant: he makes everybody else around him better, and I think that’s exactly what you see on the score sheet. While they didn’t fall under Grant’s goals or assists, I think there’s a lot of goals that are on here because of his presence tonight.”
The Terps fell to 8-2 overall and lost for the first time since a 14-13 overtime setback at No. 12 Notre Dame on March 3, ending a three-game winning streak.
Junior attackman Jared Bernhardt led all scorers with five points on three goals and one assist, sophomore midfielder Anthony DeMaio chipped in one goal and two assists, and sophomore short-stick defensive midfielder Roman Pugliese scored a career-high two goals.
But redshirt sophomore attackman Logan Wisnauskas, who led the team in assists (20) and points (46), was limited to one goal and one assist. And sophomore midfielder Bubba Fairman, who was tied for third in points (25), scored just one goal with zero assists.
Maryland was overwhelmed by a Nittany Lions offense that had outscored opponents 49-19 in the opening frame – which was not lost on coach John Tillman.
“They did the same thing to Stony Brook, they did the same thing to Cornell, and they did the same thing to Jacksonville,” he said. “They really come at you hard, and that’s a credit to them. When the whistle blows, that team is ready to roll.”
Penn State 8 0 2 3 — 13
Maryland 1 2 4 3 — 10
Goals: P—Kelly 3, O’Keefe 2, Spillane 2, Traynor 2, Foulds, Malone, Reaume, Willard; M—Bernhardt 3, Pugliese 2, DeMaio, Dubick, Fairman, Snider, Wisnauskas. Assists: P—Ament 2, O’Keefe 2, Kelly, Reaume, Spillane; M—Bernhardt 2, DeMaio 2, Wisnauskas. Saves: P—Kneese 7; M—Dolan 7.