The Drexel University men’s lacrosse team suffered its first Colonial Athletic Association loss of the 2011-12 season when the No. 16 Pennsylvania State University Nittany Lions defeated the Dragons 10-9 April 7 at Vidas Field.
This was the fifth one-goal loss the Dragons have experienced this season.
“The one-goal games are driving me crazy,” head men’s lacrosse coach Brian Voelker said. “All of our losses are to ranked teams, and five of the six [losses this season] are by a goal.”
The Dragons began the competition with a commanding offense and an effective defense. Though Penn State earned the first goal, offensive powerhouses Kyle Bergman, Brendan Glynn and Aaron Prosser managed to score one goal each to put the Dragons ahead 3-1. The first quarter ended shortly after PSU’s Matthew Mackrides, who finished with three points for the day, put one more on the board for his team— closing the first with the Dragons ahead 3-2.
With a close score looming over their heads, the Dragons kicked it into high gear. With efforts from the defensive players, the Dragons prevented the Nittany Lions from reaching the net for nearly 15 minutes. With a solid defensive wall, Glynn and Robert Church took advantage of the situation and gave their team some breathing room with a 5-2 lead. The half closed with one more Penn State goal, bringing the score to 5-3.
To kick off the third, Drexel’s Ryan Belka and T.J. Foley scored back-to-back goals and expanded their lead to 7-3, the largest of the competition. Unfortunately, that is when the tide started to turn in favor of the Nittany Lions — Penn State proceeded to score five goals in a row, four of which came in the third period.
“We knew they would make a run [in the third], but we were able to regain the lead in the fourth,” Voelker said. “Then we made some bad plays [and] decisions clearing the ball and gave them a bunch of second-chance goals.”
After Penn State’s Nick Dolik gave his team the lead for the first time since early in the opening quarter, Prosser responded with a goal for the Dragons, tying the score at 8-8.
Church then took the lead and put the last point on the board for the Dragons with just under 10 minutes left in play. From that point on, the Navy and White dominated the field. Scoring two goals within the final six minutes of play, the Nittany Lions pushed ahead and snagged the one-goal win.
“It came down to us not clearing the ball after getting stops in the fourth quarter,” Voelker said. “They scored two goals in the fourth when we played great defense but couldn’t clear — I’d say that was the difference in the game.”
With the fresh loss to PSU, the Dragons’ overall record has fallen to 5-6 (3-1 CAA). These losses haven’t been easy to swallow for the team and have left a bad taste in the mouths of the players and coaches.
“There’s a lot of reasons why we’re 5-6 right now,” Voelker said. “We’ve made some mistakes, we’ve caught a few bad breaks, we’re missing a really important player at attack, [and] we’re playing a really tough schedule.
“The bottom line is we haven’t made enough plays to win these games. But the team has a great attitude, and we’re working to get it done. We’ve proven we can play with anyone. Now we have to go out and get the Ws.”
Even though the Dragons fell to Penn State, Mark Manos held his own in the overly anticipated battle of the goalies. Going up against fellow nationally ranked goaltender Austin Kaut, Manos finished with 10 saves for the day while Kaut had nine.
“Mark played well,” Voelker said. “He made some big saves.”
Another player who really stepped up to the plate was Church. He managed to score his 78th career goal, which has bumped him up to 16th place on Drexel’s all-time scoring list.
Next, the Dragons are set to take on the No. 2 University of Massachusetts.
“We need to play a great game on Saturday,” Voelker said. “Towson is also playing well and is a huge conference rival. If we win one of the next two, we’re in the CAA playoffs. If we win both, we have a good chance at being the No. 1 seed.”
Drexel faces the Minutemen April 14 on UMass turf, and as Voelker put it, “Our destiny is in our hands.”