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Penn State Men's Lacrosse: Nittany Lions Roll UMBC 25-10 For First NCAA Tournament Win

by on May 12, 2019 3:10 PM

Things that look easy rarely are.

For Penn State men's lacrosse, a 25-10 win over UMBC in the first round of the NCAA Tournament was as much the reversal and exorcism of past failures as it was the ongoing culmination of a dominant season of play.

It was the answer to a 12-8 loss to Towson in the 2017 tournament, a 10-7 defeat to Yale in 2013, a season ended to the tune of 14-10 at the hands of Maryland in 2005 and a 11-6 ending to Towson in 2003, Penn State's first tournament appearance.

Now just a win away from the Final Four, Penn State continues to eye much larger goals with much more meaningful history at stake, but the dominance and comfort that the Nittany Lions showcased on Sunday, en route to the program's first-ever NCAA Tournament victory, was not a moment to be overlooked on that journey.

"I'm really proud for anyone who has put a hand in this whole thing," Coach Jeff Tambroni said after the game, nearly 10 years after taking the job. "There were so many former players and alums that were here. So many friends and family that have contributed to this program."

"You see some of it on the field but there are so many things that go on off the field. I think I speak for all of us when I say that we are extremely proud of it. To know there was another first today, it will be nice to never have to hear people talk about Penn State having never won a playoff game. To get over the hump, to know that we continue to keep playing together, it's special."

UMBC would open the scoring as both teams found their footing in a downpour, the Retrievers burying their first four shots. But Penn State's offensive prowess, both at the faceoff dot and in the attacking zone was too great. By the end of the first quarter the Nittany Lions led 7-4, winning all 12 faceoffs, converting chances at will. By the end of the afternoon, Penn State had won 34 of the game's 38 faceoffs.

At halftime Penn State's newest piece of history during a historic season felt secure, the Nittany Lions ahead 15-6 as Jack Kelly and Mac O'Keefe combined for 10 goals, Grant Ament continuing to rack up the assists with four to his name.

Little changed in the second half except the margin of Penn State's eventual victory, two quick goals to open the half only further accenting what had been apparent for much of the year and nearly all of Sunday's game.

The Nittany Lions are the best team in the nation.

Being the best team in the nation doesn't always translate into a championship though. Penn State will lament UMBC's ability to score with the few chances that it had, a goalie change in the fourth quarter a not-so-subtle nod to that. The Nittany Lions will not take No. 8 Loyola-Maryland lightly either as both teams travel to East Hartford, Conn. for next Sunday's quarterfinal meeting, a team far better on a paper than Penn State's opening round opponent.

"I would say that if we went to our defense and asked them about today's performance they probably would not be that happy," Tambroni added. "There is a standard and a way we want to compete and play. The beauty is that we were able to pick each other up. There have been moments this year whether its the faceoff unit or the offensive unit or the defensive unit, have been able to compliment or pick up another unit."

But for a program that has waited a long time for its moment in the sun, the No. 1 team in the nation shone brightly, even as the clouds skimmed tightly across the top of Mount Nittany a few miles away. And after years of trying, and years of coming up short, the Nittany Lions embraced and celebrated as the clock expired.

And they may have been the only ones not to notice the rain.

Ben Jones covers Penn State football and basketball for He's on Twitter as @Ben_Jones88.
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