Statesmen erase nine-goal deficit to close within two, but eventually lose 21-15 to Nittany Lions at Victor's Pinnacle Athletic Campus

VICTOR — The calendar said Hobart had a lacrosse game on Saturday but for a while, it resembled anything but.

But all of a sudden, it was. And what a game it was.

The Statesmen battled through a slow and sloppy start to make a contest of Saturday’s game against Penn State at Victor’s Pinnacle Athletic Contest. And even though they came out on the wrong end of the 21-15 score, the early stages had the hallmarks of an ugly season-opener for the orange and blue.

“They could have folded,” Hobart coach Greg Raymond said of his team that faced deficits of 10-4 and 12-5. “But I love our leadership. I love our resilience.”

Raymond said first-game jitters played a role in the start for his team, which was tied 1-1 after Bryan Hancock’s goal at 9:57 of the first. But the Nittany Lions scored five of the next six goals to open a 6-2 lead. By the time the halftime break commenced, the Statesmen were trying to figure out what to do with a 10-4 deficit.

“It was nuts,” Raymond said. “It was sloppy and crazy early. We wanted to play disciplined because Penn State is so fast … they have athletes everywhere.” 

That much was evident, and leading the way was sophomore midfielder Kevin Hill and freshman attackman Max O’Keefe, each of whom scored three times in the first half. And when sophomore attackman Grant Ament employed his ridiculously quick face dodge to shake the Hobart defense and score the first two goals of the second half, the 12-4 lead suggested this game would be a laugher.

Even when sophomore attackman Chris Aslanian got Hobart on the board at 8:53 of the third, the Nittany Lions responded with two more for a 14-5 lead. 

“We were man-conscious,” said Raymond. “We were so worried about our matchups that we were slower to slide for a team that needs support.”

But then something clicked for the Statesmen. Senior midfielder Tanner John got it started at 6:30 and his goal was followed by tallies from Frank Brown, Aslanian and Justin Scott to cut the Penn State lead to 14-9. 

After Dan Craig’s goal for Penn State, the Statesmen answered with another four-goal run, capped by Scott’s fourth of the game to make it a 15-13 game. Cleary, the Statesmen had discovered their confidence and it led to more creativity, which caught the Penn State defense on its heels and nearly cost it the game.

“We defended better in the first half,” said Penn State coach Jeff Tambroni, a Hobart graduate who helped the Statesmen win two NCAA Division III championships as a player. “We made it a 6-on-6 game and … then we were trying to do too much and that exposed our defense.”

The two-goal margin was as close as Hobart could get before the Nittany Lions regained their composure. And once the defense was back on track, the shooters followed suit. 

“Our guys had to fight back against a really motivated team,” said Tambroni. “It was good for us to face some adversity … against these Hobart kids who have tremendous fight in them. (Raymond’s) got this program going in the right direction.”

Penn State scored six of the final eight goals to restore the cushion and play out the clock to improve to 2-0. Hobart is 0-1.

Scott led Hobart with four goals and Hancock and Aslanian each scored three while Stanny Gilbertson scored two. Jackson Brown finished with 10 saves and Colby Kneese made seven for Penn State.

Ament, O’Keefe, Hill and Nick Spillane each scored four goals for Penn State, which was 12-for-13 on clears and had a 44-20 advantage on ground balls. The Nittany Lions also were 2-for-4 with the extra man while Hobart was 0-for-2.