Sturgis Powers Penn State Into CAA Finals
from press release
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. -- Shane Sturgis (Downingtown, Pa.) tallied five points and No. 9 Nittany Lion men's lacrosse topped fourth-seeded UMass, 10-7, on Wednesday at Penn State Lacrosse Field. PSU used a 5-0 run over the third and fourth quarters to overcome the Minutemen. The win was Penn State's 10th straight and first in the postseason, advancing to the CAA Final.
"I am very proud of our team's effort today. We knew we would have our hands full and I am proud of the way our team responded at halftime", head coach Jeff Tambroni said. "These guys have fought through a ton of adversity all year and we are very fortunate to be playing in the CAA Championship."
Penn State's offense was led by Sturgis who recorded four goals and an assist. Jack Forster (Jenkintown, Pa.) and TJ Sanders (Orillia, Ont.) tallied two goals each while Tom LaCrosse (Canadaigua, N.Y.) added a goal and an assist and Kyle Zittel (Eden, N.Y.) added a goal. Austin Kaut (Morton, Pa.) finished with 11 saves on the day and improved his record to 12-3 for the season.
Penn State opened the scoring just 56 seconds into the game as Tom LaCrosse notched his 23rd goal of the season, putting it past UMass goalie Zachary Oliveri (10 saves). Forster got the ball in front of the net a minute and a half later and bounced it past the UMass goalie to put Penn State up 2-0 just 2:23 into the contest.
UMass's Kyle Smith scored off of a feed from Will Manny to put it past Kaut with 9:12 left in the first quarter. Junior Steven Bogert (Carlsbad, Calif.) caused a huge turnover midway through the first quarter as Penn State was in a man down situation for two minutes due to an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty by Jack Donnelly (Toronto, Ont.). Penn State went on to kill the penalty. PSU held UMass 0-for-3 on the man-up and has killed off the last seven penalties over three games.
After several empty possessions by both teams to begin the second quarter, UMass's Grant Whiteway received a pass at the side of the net from Manny and his shot squeaked it in-between Kaut and the post to knot the game at 2-2 with 6:30 left. A little less than two minutes later, Zittel scored his eighth goal of the season unassisted as he cut to the middle of the field and buried his shot top corner as he was falling down to give PSU the one goal lead.
UMass ended the half with back-to-back goals from Manny and Connor Mooney and took their first lead of the game into the halftime locker room at 4-3. UMass dominated the faceoff circle in the first half, winning seven of nine faceoffs.
Penn State came out of the gate quickly as Sturgis notched his 21st and 22nd goals of the season to give Penn State a 5-4 lead with 8:55 left in the third quarter. Mooney rocketed a shot top shelf past Kaut to score his second goal of the game and even the game at five apiece.
With 5:49 left in the third quarter, Whiteway gave UMass the lead with a diving bounce shot that found its way into the net to put the score at 6-5. Penn State had the equalizer as Sturgis made a beautiful shot fake and bounced it by UMass's Oliveri to give him a hat trick as Penn State and UMass entered the fourth quarter deadlocked at six.
Penn State continued the 5-0 run as Sturgis and Sanders scored two goals apiece with Forster adding another to change the momentum and put Penn State in control the whole fourth quarter. The Nittany Lions defense suffocated UMass in the second half, holding the Minutemen scoreless for a combined 16:38 from the third into the fourth quarter.
Forster tallied his 38th goal of the year and second of the game early in the fourth quarter to give Penn State the 7-6 lead. After UMass was penalized for its third faceoff violation, Gavin Ahern's (Rockville Centre, N.Y.) shot was saved by Oliveri, but he left a rebound out and TJ Sanders picked up the loose ball and scored to put the Nittany Lions in front 8-6 just 35 seconds after Forster's goal.
Sturgis struck again as he recorded his fourth goal of the game to put Penn State up 9-6 with 9:28 left. Sanders kept the scoring rolling, scoring his second of the game assisted from Sturgis for a 10-6 lead with 5:18 remaining.
UMass ended their scoring drought as Whiteway scored his third goal of the game to cut the lead down to three. This was the closest UMass would come as the Nittany Lion defense shut the Minutemen down the rest of the game.
Penn State outshot UMass 41-38 and won the ground ball battle 31-24. Bogert led the Nittany Lions defensively, grabbing a game-high seven ground balls and checked a career-high five caused turnovers. Penn State's defense caused 10 of UM's 13 turnovers. PSU committed 10 turnovers.
UMass won the faceoffs, 13-8, but Danny Henneghan (Beverly Hills, Mich.) went 4-for-6 in the third quarter when the momentum shifted. Every starter had one ground ball pick up. Kaut and Sturgis notched four each, while Tyler Travis (Geneva, N.Y.), Michael Richards (Skaneateles, N.Y.) and Tom LaCrosse (Canandaigua, N.Y.) tallied two apiece.
Penn State moves on to host Towson in the CAA Championship Final on Friday at 3 p.m. The top-seeded Nittany Lions look for their first postseason title, while Towson is in search of its fourth. The third-seeded Tigers defeated second-seeded Drexel, 11-8, in the Wednesday nightcap.
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