By Max Sass, Sports Editor
The Hofstra men's lacrosse team entered last Saturday's game against Penn State with the phrase must-win on its mind. The Pride could not complete its goal, falling to the NIttany Lions 10-11 in overtime in Happy Valley.
The Pride fall to 1-3 in the CAA, which head coach Seth Tierney calls, "probably the toughest conference in the country." The Pride has lost all three conference games on the road and its only win has come against Delaware in the Big City Classic at the New Meadowlands. "With a year like this, playing on the road, it's not easy," Tierney said.
Penn State opened the scoring just over two minutes into the game with a man-up goal that bounced past Pride sophomore goalie Andrew Gvozden. Junior attack Stephen Bentz's goal tied the game for the Pride before Penn State sophomore Matthew Mackrides gave Penn State a 2-1 lead 12:32 into the game.
Hofstra answered by opening up a 6-0 run keyed by junior attack Jay Card's goal with less than one minute to play in the first quarter. Hofstra led 7-2 before Penn State rallied back.
The Nittany Lions scored two goals in the final 1:31 of the first half to go into half trailing just 7-4. "It's a game of momentum," Tierney said, "they got the momentum at the end of the half."
Penn State used the momentum to complete a 5-0 run of their own, to tie the game at 7-7. "We had a let down," Tierney said. "We didn't put them away and that's what you need to do against those kinds of teams."
Hofstra would take an 8-7 on a goal by sophomore midfielder Brad Loizeaux with 1:34 to play in the third period. Penn State would answer just 1:22 later to tie the game 8-8 entering the fourth and final quarter of play.
Penn State opened the first quarter with a goal before sophomore attack Kevin Ford, who had three goals in the game, answered for the Pride. Junior attack Jamie Lincoln gave the Pride a 10-9 lead that was soon matched by a Penn State goal to tie the game at 10-10 at the end of regulation.
"We were off. Throwing balls at people's feet, we weren't finishing," Tierney said. He added that, "I think we hit six pipes, which we haven't done all year."
In overtime, Penn State freshman Nick Dolik scored his last of three goals on a running, twisting shot that snuck over Gvozden. The Nittany Lions earned their second win in 11 games and their first CAA win. "I think we were all shocked. Shocked about what's going on." Tierney said.
Tierney's squad has beaten national powerhouse Johns Hopkins earlier in the year but has now dropped three of four CAA games. "It's been running through my head this whole weekend that as well as we have played at certain times, we have played poorly as well and I have to figure that out as a coach and become more consistent," Tierney said.
The Pride face Jacksonville on Saturday and Towson on May 1 to finish up its season. "If we lose one of the next two I think we're done, our season is over," Tierney said. He also said that, "We went from having control to no control. Things have to happen along with us beating Towson."
Last year's team went undefeated in the CAA before losing in the first round of the CAA Tournament. That team still made the NCAA Tournament and lost in the first round. This year's team may not have either of those opportunities and that frustrates Tierney. "By far this is the most talented team I've coached since I've been here," he said, "but this is also the worst situation that we've been in."
The Pride is going to need help from other teams to get into the CAA Tournament but Tierney knows that certain adjustments have to be made by his team. "We have to become more of a mental team than a physical team," said Tierney, "We have to make better decisions and then everything will come into play."
The players on the field will not change, as Tierney said, "The guys that are playing are the guys." Tierney expects to win though. "No one has more lofty expectations than I do," he said.
The Pride is next in action on Saturday when Jacksonville visits Shuart Stadium. The Pride then finish its season on May 1 when the Tigers of Towson visits and the Pride hope they have something to play for that day.