#5 Penn State took on #1 Duke in the semifinals of the men’s NCAA lacrosse tournament on Saturday, and ultimately fell in overtime, 16-15.
That headline, by itself, doesn’t do the game - or the outcome - justice.
Expected by virtually everyone to be a stress-free game for the Blue Devils, Penn State came out swinging. The teams traded goals early in the first before Penn State took a 3-2 lead. From there, Duke would slowly but surely build a comfortable - but not TOO comfortable - 3-goal lead.
At various points in the game, the Blue Devils like 7-4, 9-6, and 11-8. Each time the good guys would go on a one- or two-goal run, Duke had an equivalent answer. The first period ended 6-4 Duke, and the teams went into the half with Penn State trailing 9-7. A large part of Duke’s early success came from unforced turnovers, though the Lions did fare better than expected on faceoffs.
The tide started to turn in the third period, when Penn State was able to close the gap to 13-12, and were finally able to tie it up at 14, and then again at 15 with 5:07 left in the fourth. From there, the two teams went into a defensive stalemate, and no team was able to garner any offense.
A golden opportunity slipped through the Lions’ fingers, when a Duke player was called for pushing with 1:31 left to go in the game. Despite being a man up for 30 seconds, Penn State was unable to generate a single shot on goal. Locked at 15, the two teams went to overtime.
Here is where the controversy comes into play.
Like hockey, college lacrosse is a sudden death overtime. Golden goal, first team to score wins in the 4-minute period. Just over a minute into the extra period, Duke’s Garrett Leadmon made a diving shot from the right side of the goal, putting the goal past goalie Jack Fracyon, the officials signaled the goal, and the Blue Devils celebrated.
Not so fast my friend.
Penn State Lax gets HOSED in Philly pic.twitter.com/YkGxKmka2e— Crossing Broad (@CrossingBroad) May 27, 2023
Upon further review, Leadmon’s foot was on the line denoting the goalie’s crease when he took the game-winning shot, which should have meant the goal was waved off. The officials did not call it, however. And, in typical NCAA fashion, there is no rule in place to review such a goal, nor is there a rule for coaches to challenge such a scoring play.
Imagine if Penn State made a goal line stand against Alabama in the national championship game on 4th and goal, held up whatever 5-star monster running back the Crimson Tide trotted out at the time, but the refs called it a touchdown, then ran to the locker room with no way for anyone - not even James Franklin - to challenge or review the play and the Lions lost?
That’s what happened to Penn State, denying them the chance to play on, and perhaps make it to their first ever appearance in the national championship game.
I’m sure many of the players and coaches will think back to that powerplay with 90 seconds to go in the game and think “what if” and I’d be somewhat shocked if the rules aren’t updated for next season to institute review for this sort of situation. It is what it is.
Regardless, Penn State put together another stellar year on the lacrosse field. It’s not the end the team would have liked, but they have more than enough to hang their hats on.
Congrats on a fantastic season, and let’s get back to it next year!