By John Iadevaia, Staff Writer
The scene in the locker room was desolate. The assistant coaches sat against the wall staring at the opposite blank walls. The emptiness represented their feelings on another overtime loss, concluding a tough season for the Hofstra men's lacrosse team.
Yet again, the fourth quarter doomed the Pride. Ahead 7-3 entering the final quarter, Penn State rallied from a four-goal deficit. Gavin Ahern tied the game with 17 seconds remaining, while Shane Sturgis would tally the game winner in double overtime, 9-8.
"It's been the story all year long," said head coach Seth Tierney following the game.
Entering the final regular season game, it was a win-and-pray scenario for Hofstra, who finished the year 6-8. They had to win against no. 16 Penn State to keep their season alive. Conference cellar dweller St. Joseph's would also need to beat Towson, since the Tigers had the tie-breaker against Pride. Hofstra would have moved to 3-3 and clinched the fourth seed in the CAA tournament. Towson would have fallen to 2-4.
Minutes after Hofstra lost, the team learned that St. Joe's had won their first conference game in program history. Players stared at the ground in their chairs.
"Just devastating for our guys," said Tierney.
For three quarters, the blue-and-gold controlled the game. The offense generated scoring chances against Penn State keeper, Austin Kaut, who earned the win with 14 saves. Senior Mike DeNapoli buried four goals, while midfielders Mike Malave, Aaron Jones, Korey Hendrickson and Torin Varn each chipped in a goal each.
The defense was strong, limiting the Nittnay Lions to 3 goals on 25 shots entering the final quarter. Close defenseman Cody Solaja kept attackman Jack Forster silent most of the game. The Texas native finished with two groundballs and caused two turnovers.
Yet again, the Pride lost control of the game in the fourth. Penn State scored two quick goals, controlled the face-offs, eventually drawing to within one goal with under two minutes to play. Hofstra was winning groundballs in the fourth quarter, keeping possession in the offensive zone for long stretches. However, another late turnover with a minute left gave Penn State the opportunity to tie it.
Fans will look back on this season asking what could have been.
Except for Princeton, Hofstra was competitive in the other seven losses. Each game they had a fourth quarter lead. Six of them were one goal losses, four of them coming in overtime.
Against Notre Dame, North Carolina, and UMass, the Pride outplayed these top 10 teams, but not throughout the contest.
Whatever the reason, Hofstra could never win in the fourth quarter. It was outscored 43-26, allowed 142 shots, committed 61 turnovers, and lost 41-77 face-offs.
"It's been a little bit of a mudslide...we haven't been great in the fourth quarter," said Tierney.
With the end of a season comes a fond farewell for the departing seniors. Four-year starting goaltender Andrew Gvozden, attackman Mike DeNapoli, midfielders Steve Serling, Dan Pezzolla, Zachary Pall, Cole Koesterer and defender Brian Hogan all played in their last games for the Pride.
Despite the struggles, Hofstra returns a talented roster. Leading scorers Adrian Sorichetti and Lance Yapor return, along with freshman scorers Tyler Begely and Mike Malave.
The Three R's; Ryan Reilly, Steve Romano and John Reicheter return to the defensive midfield, while the starting close defense comes back with Solaja, Mark Mullen, Michael Hamilton and Corey Captuo.
It will be a long off-season for Seth Tierney's crew. A yearlong challenge to his roster awaits: Improve during the summer, play hard in the fall, tune up in the winter and the 2013 lacrosse season will be down the road.