State College, Pa. –Seventh-ranked Penn State used a 6-1 second-half run to gain a lead and then held off a late rally by the Canisius College women’s lacrosse team for a narrow 14-13 victory in the first round of the NCAA Tournament on Friday afternoon. The Griffs finished their season with a 14-5 record, while the Nittany Lions improve to 13-6 and advance to face either Massachusetts or Connecticut on Sunday.
“I’m very proud of our team today and how we battled to the final buzzer against a very talented Penn State squad,” said Canisius head coach Scott Teeter. “I’m really going to miss our four seniors and wish them the best of luck in their future endeavors. We were once again so close to beating a nationally-ranked team and I look forward to seeing if we can take it one step further next season.”
Despite the loss, two Griffs set single-season school records in Friday’s game. Sophomore Tori Quinn led Canisius with five points on the afternoon, recording two goals and three assists. She finished her sophomore campaign with 79 points on 47 goals and 32 assists, one more than the previous school record of 78 set by Carly Quinn last season. Quinn also became the 11th player in the program’s history to record her 100th career point and now has 104 during her two seasons at Canisius.
Senior Morgan Leonard netted a hat trick for Canisius to go along with game highs of six caused turnovers and six ground balls. Leonard finished her final season in the Blue and Gold with a program-record 59 goals, one more than the previous mark of 58 set by Megan Oosting last season.
Senior Lindsey Morgan and junior Maria Kotas also recorded four points to lead the Canisius attack, each scoring three goals to go along with one assist. Sophomore Meghan Cuddy rounded out the scoring for the Griffs with two goals.
Sophomore Kayla Scully helped anchor the Canisius defense, stopping 11 shots. Scully finished the season with a school-record 7.81 goals against average to go along with a .515 save percentage.
The Nittany Lions started the contest strong and jumped to an early lead just 18 seconds into the game. Penn State’s advantage reached as many as three goals in the first half, 4-1, before the Griffs slowed down and got back into the contest.
Leonard and Morgan scored back-to-back goals to pull Canisius within one, 4-3, with 15:12 remaining in the opening half. After a Penn State tally, Kotas and Cuddy then netted consecutive goals to tie the game for the first time since the opening seconds of the half, 5-5. The Nittany Lions reclaimed their lead with 59 seconds remaining in the first period and had a chance to extend the advantage but a Scully save with less than 10 seconds remaining sent the schools into the intermission with Penn State ahead, 6-5.
The Nittany Lions outshot the Griffs, 21-12, in the opening 30 minutes of action but Scully was key in keeping Canisius in the contest with eight first-half saves.
Canisius started the second half much stronger than the first to claim its first lead of the day. Leonard scored back-to-back tallies in the first five minutes of the period for a 7-6 Griffs advantage, breaking the program’s single-season goals mark in the process.
However, Penn State answered back and took control of the game with a 6-1 run. The Nittany Lions answered Leonard’s two tallies with four goals in a 3:36 span for a 10-7 advantage. Quinn interrupted the run only to see Penn State net two more goals in a 13-second span for its largest lead of the day, 12-8, with 14:47 remaining. The teams then traded goals as the Nittany Lions went down the final stretch with a 13-9 advantage.
Canisius, however, did not go down quietly and got back into the game. Morgan scored off a feed from Kotas with 6:48 remaining and Kotas then buried a shot of her own just 70 seconds later as the Griffs pulled to within two, 13-11. Cuddy then netted her second goal of the day off a pass from Morgan as Canisius was back within one, 13-12, with 3:51 remaining.
Penn State, however, won the next draw control and then scored with a man advantage to go back up by two, 14-12, with 2:42 left in regulation. After another Nittany Lion draw control, junior defender Gabby Kotas forced a turnover with under a minute remaining and Canisius took advantage when Morgan scored off a feed from Quinn with just 11.4 seconds remaining. However, the comeback attempt was denied when Penn State once again claimed the draw to hold off the Griffs for the 14-13 victory.
The Nittany Lions finished the game with a 37-25 advantage in shots and really controlled the battle in the draw circle, winning 22-of-29 restarts. Canisius held the edge in ground balls, 18-13.
Mackenzie Cyr led Penn State with six points in the winning effort, recording three goals and three assists. Emi Smith finished with four saves to earn the victory in net.
Game Notes: Canisius’ 14 wins are tied for the most in school history, while the final .737 winning percentage is also the best in the program’s record book … The Griffs are now 0-18 all-time against nationally-ranked schools with five of the last seven being determined by three or fewer tallies … Leonard also became the first player in school history with at least 50 goals and 50 caused turnovers during the same season … It marked the final game for four Canisius seniors – Leonard, Morgan, Meghan McGunigle and Gina Molfetta. The Class of 2013 won 48 games during their careers, the most of any class in school history … The schools were meeting for the first time in women’s lacrosse.