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Penn State Men's Lacrosse: Trip To Final Four On The Line Against Loyola Maryland

by on May 16, 2019 2:40 PM

Penn State men's lacrosse finds itself a win from the Final Four and three wins from hoisting a national championship trophy in Philadelphia.

There is history to be made, firsts to achieve and there is pressure.

The Nittany Lions have been the best team in the country for the entire season, a relentless offense and a supportive defense coupled with elite faceoff specialists has left Penn State with little in the way of weaknesses.

It makes for a compelling product and a fun watch for even the casual fan. You scan the crowd at any given game and it's a who's who of notables from James Franklin to former Nittany Lion turned Carolina Panther Chris Hogan. Everyone wants to see this team in action.

Lost in the immediacy of the moment is the uniqueness unfolding on Penn State's campus, a place where nearly every team has seen some form of national success. There are the obvious: football, wrestling, women's soccer, women's volleyball and men's hockey. But there are the lesser known stories, Ally McHugh's swimming career the best example of how an internationally relevant athlete can fly under the radar. Track and field not far behind, fencing as good as anyone — Miles Chamley Watson and Monica Aksamit recent Olympians in the latter.

So for Penn State, seeing something succeed at the highest level for the first time is a unique opportunity in the athletic department's history. After this season, there will be few teams left that have never achieved a high level of success, the boxes left to check will be reduced by one.

"Penn State has so many successful programs across the board, so I do think there is a deep rooted tradition," coach Jeff Tambroni said earlier this week. "Certainly in football but in other sports, women's volleyball, wrestling you go right down the board. So it's nice to be in the conversation as some of these same student athletes."

Of course before those final chapters can be written Penn State will have to get past Loyola Maryland and its own talented offense at noon on Sunday. The tune-up meeting with UMBC the last 'easy' matchup in the Nittany Lions' hopeful postseason.

It will feature two national stars, a meeting of Pat Spencer and Grant Ament two players up for the honor of the country's best player. The winner likely knocking not only his opponent's team out of the tournament, but their opponent's name off the ballot.

“When you’ve got two players like those guys, it’s exciting,” Loyola coach Charley Toomey said. “You very rarely in the college game have two guys — Tewaaraton Award finalists — that have the opportunity to go at each other.”

“He’s got wonderful size, which is an extreme asset for him, and he uses it very well,” Tambroni said of the Loyola star. “He has the agility and vision of a Grant Ament and an ability to shoot and stretch the defense similar to Mac O’Keefe. He’s a really dangerous cover because he’s not limited to one skill set.”

It's one thing at a time for the Nittany Lions, but with history already being written, Penn State can't help but wonder how long the chapter will go, and what staying power in men's lacrosse might mean for a department that can already pride itself in having so much success already.

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