It was an all-around impressive performance by the Villanova lacrosse team, as the Wildcats (4-5, 2-0 Big East) took down the No. 17 Penn State Nittany Lions (4-5, 0-1 CAA). The Wildcats managed to stave off a late rally from their foes from Happy Valley and came away with a 9-7 victory. This marked Villanova's first win over Penn State since 2011.
Freshman Austin Frederick and Senior Kevin O'Neil got the ball rolling early on, as the two combined for three goals in the opening 25 minutes; the Wildcats found themselves in an early 4-1 advantage. After a Penn State goal, Frederick would score again with around 7 minutes to play in the first half to secure his hat trick. Frederick has now registered a point in all nine games this season.
The Nittany Lions would go on to close the gap before half, netting two goals to bring the score back to 5-4. But after another Kevin O'Neil laser, it was the underdog Wildcats who went into the locker room enjoying a 6-4 lead.
Villanova continued to throw punches at the onset of the first half. Jack Curran and Eric Gartner scored back-to-back goals to extend the lead 8-4, the largest deficit in the contest.
Despite consistent pushes from the Nittany Lions, the Wildcats would bend but not break. Senior John LoCascio added to his resume for potential Big East Defender of the Year with another strong outing last night. He gathered a game-high seven ground balls and helped Villanova's defense weather Penn State's late push to bring the game back to a tie.
The Nittany Lions kept it close, bringing it to within a two goal game with just under four minutes to play. Presented with a 30 second extra-man opportunity and a Villanova turnover during the closing moments, the home team certainly had their chance to steal the win from the Wildcats' paws. But two brilliant saves from freshman goalie Dan Willis would help seal the win for the guys in Blue and White.
Kevin O'Neil and Frederick both recorded hat tricks during the game. After losing a multitude of last year's key offensive pieces, the freshman/senior combo has done a tremendous job of carrying Villanova's offense. In much of the same way, senior defender LoCascio and freshman goalie Willis provide the backbone to the Wildcats' defense.
Villanova is hitting their stride just at the right time as the team hits the meat of the season. After weathering some very difficult match-ups versus a number of the best teams in the country, the Wildcats are proving that they belong in the postseason conversation.
Up next, Villanova will take on Big East foe Denver in a huge mid-season contest at Villanova Stadium. The Denver Pioneers are currently ranked sixth in the country. The match will be aired at 7:00 PM on the CBS Sports Network.