NOTRE DAME, Ind. – No. 4 Notre Dame scored four of the game’s last five goals but it wasn’t enough as No. 12 Penn State spoiled the Fighting Irish home opener with an 8-7 decision in men’s lacrosse action Saturday afternoon at Arlotta Stadium.
Penn State (2-1) increased its two-goal (5-3) halftime edge to four with early third-quarter scores from Shane Sturgis and TJ Sanders. Sturgis tallied five goals and one assist on the day, while Sanders had two goals and an assist for the Nittany Lions, who never trailed in the contest.
Notre Dame (1-1) whittled the deficit down to one with three goals in less than two minutes during the midway point of the third quarter. The surge began when Irish goalie Conor Kelly made a save and found Tyler Brenneman who streaked down the field and fed Matt Kavanagh for his second of three goals in the game. Unassisted deposits from attackmen Conor Doyle and Westy Hopkins 32 seconds apart had the Fighting Irish within one (7-6) at the 6:30 mark of the third quarter.
A man-up goal from Sturgis with just over five minutes left in the third period gave the Nittany Lions an 8-6 lead that they would take into the fourth quarter. The game’s lone score of the final period came from Kavanagh with 7:25 remaining. Notre Dame had a man-up opportunity with under a minute left in regulation, but could not take advantage.
“We didn’t play well; we didn’t handle the ball well, we gave the ball away on clears and we gave it away at the offensive end,” Notre Dame head coach Kevin Corrigan said. “They (Penn State) ran some zone and we didn’t play well against the zone and that’s on me. We spent some time on it, but obviously not enough and we weren’t prepared to do that as well as we needed to.”
Penn State put the game’s first two scores on the board as Tom LaCrosse and Sturgis found the back of the net just over a minute apart in the first quarter. Notre Dame attackman Ryan Mix scored off a feed from Kavanagh with 3:58 left in the first period and the Irish tied the game in the opening minutes of the second quarter when Kavanagh assisted on John Scioscia’s man-up goal. Kavanagh, a sophomore attackman, has six goals and six assists this season.
Sanders put the Nittany Lions back on top, 3-2, with 6:43 left in the first half, yet Kavanagh answered back 27 seconds later with his first goal of the game. Two scores from Sturgis in a span of 40 seconds gave the Nittany Lions a two-goal lead at the intermission.
Penn State outshot Notre Dame 34-29. Kelly made seven saves for the Irish, while Austin Kaut had 13 stops for the Nittany Lions. Notre Dame held a 10-9 edge in faceoffs as junior Nick Ossello was 4-for-5 and senior Liam O’Connor was 6-for-14.
“We didn’t shoot well on him (Kaut) and he’s very good,” Corrigan said. “If you take poor shots on an excellent goalie that’s going to be the result. He’s very good and give him a lot of credit, but I didn’t think we tested him the way we’re capable of.”
Notre Dame will play its first-ever Atlantic Coast Conference game next Saturday at No. 3 North Carolina. Face-off is scheduled for noon (ET) in Chapel Hill, N.C.