Wildcats Down No. 17 Penn State 9-7 in State College
March 29, 2014
STATE COLLEGE, Pa. - Steadied by the hat tricks of Kevin O'Neil and Austin Frederick, the Villanova Wildcats (4-5, 2-0 BIG EAST) downed No. 17 Penn State (4-5, 0-1 CAA) 9-7 at Penn State Lacrosse Field on Saturday afternoon. The Wildcats turned a two-goal, 6-4 lead at halftime to an 8-4 lead in the third quarter and held off a late rally by the Nittany Lions to claim their second win over a ranked opponent in 2014.
The victory marked the 20th overall meeting between the two schools and the first win for Villanova over Penn State dating back to March 8th, 2011. The two sides have met every season since 2008 and 10 out of the past 11 years. It also marked the third straight win for Villanova this season: the Wildcats have posted victories over Marquette (W, 10-8), Georgetown (W, 13-8) and Penn State (W, 9-7) as part of their streak.
Following today's contest, Villanova also has three players who have provided points in all nine games this season: freshman Austin Frederick (Baltimore, Md.), junior Eric Gartner (Malvern, Pa.) and senior Kevin O'Neil (Cockeysville, Md.). Senior LSM John LoCascio (Fairfield, N.J.) has also provided points in all but one game in 2014.
The Wildcats and Nittany Lions traded goals early to start the game following scores from Eric Gartner (Malvern, Pa.) and Michael Richards to knot the score at 1-1, but Villanova went on a three-goal run to bridge the first and second quarters following a score from O'Neil and two from Frederick to give the Wildcats a 4-1 advantage with 10:56 left in the half.
Penn State broke a nearly 15 minutes scoreless drought at the 7:25 mark, while Frederick responded once again just 24 seconds later to make it 5-2 VU. PSU notched another two scores from Shane Sturgis and TJ Sanders to make it a one-goal contest at 5-4, but Villanova went on the offensive after a Penn State turnover and closed the first half with an O'Neil score off a John LoCascio (Fairfield, N.J.) assist to close the half at 6-4 in favor of the Wildcats.
Coming out of the break, Villanova continued to capitalize on their chances and doubled their lead on scores from Jack Curran (Fair Haven, N.J.) and Gartner to post their biggest lead of the game at 8-4. Penn State responded next, snapping another nearly 15 minute scoreless streak when Tom LaCrosse closed out the third quarter to make it an 8-5 game with 15 minutes left to play.
PSU's Sturgis recorded his second goal of the game to open the fourth quarter and closed the Villanova lead to 8-6 with just over 12 minutes left in regulation, while O'Neil notched his third of the game just over two minutes later. Following nearly seven minutes of back and forth possessions for both sides, PSU's Richards made things interesting when he scored with 3:45 left on the clock to close the Villanova lead to two at 9-7.
Penn State found themselves with a 30 second extra-man opportunity at the 1:05 mark, but two outstanding saves by Villanova freshman goalkeeper Dan Willis (Moorestown, N.J.) in the last 30 seconds of the contest preserved the Wildcat lead and gave Villanova the victory.
Defensively, LoCascio registered a game-high seven ground balls and one caused turnover while Willis collected nine saves in the win. The Wildcats were 1-for-2 on EMO attempts on the afternoon.
Villanova will return to conference action this coming Friday when the host Denver at 7 p.m. in Villanova Stadium. The BIG EAST Conference tilt will be broadcast live on the CBS Sports Network.