Timmy Xi/Sun Staff Photographer

Charlie Box '26 locked in on defense against Ohio State, Schoellkopf Field, Mar. 2, 2024.

March 12, 2024

Men’s Lacrosse Crushed by Penn State in Top-10 Matchup

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Men’s lacrosse and Penn State have a deadlocked history –– entering Saturday afternoon, the overall series record was 23-23. 

Penn State was the victor of its last two matchups against the Red, while Cornell had won the pair before that, but neither the Nittany Lions nor the Red had won more than two consecutive games against one another since the mid-1950s. 

Until Saturday.

Penn State grabbed its third consecutive win against Cornell, trouncing the Red in State College on Saturday, March 9. Cornell failed to eclipse the double-digit mark in goals –– the first time this season –– with a 20-9 loss. 

Then-No. 10 Penn State (5-1, 0-0 Big Ten) never relinquished its initial lead and was aided by a first-quarter outburst en route to its fifth victory of the season. Then-No. 8 Cornell (3-2, 0-0 Ivy) couldn’t find an answer to Penn State’s phenom in the midfield, Matt Traynor, who tallied seven goals in Saturday’s contest.

Prior to Saturday’s game, head coach Connor Buczek ’15 emphasized the strength of Penn State, who entered the matinee on a four-game win streak.

“[Penn State is] a great squad. [They’re] obviously a perennial contender,” Buczek said ahead of Saturday’s game. “[They have] lots of great athletes [who] are well coached.” 

The game got out of hand in the first quarter, prompting a change in net before the first frame’s end. The Nittany Lions came out roaring, posting four goals in nearly six minutes. Senior midfielder Hugh Kelleher interrupted the onslaught, but two goals by Traynor before the quarter’s end gave the Nittany Lions a 6-1 lead after 15 minutes.

Freshman goalkeeper Matthew Tully checked in for the Red from thereon out, as junior goalkeeper Wyatt Knust finished with six goals allowed and just one save.

Penn State continued its blitz into the second quarter, finding the nylon four more times to rack an insurmountable nine-goal deficit for the Red.

It took until just over two minutes left in the half for Cornell to get on the board again. Senior attackman CJ Kirst notched two unassisted goals in just seven seconds to make it 10-3, before fifth-year attackman Spencer Wirtheim found Kelleher who converted to lessen the Penn State lead.

With three straight tallies and looking to harness the momentum at the end of the half, Cornell ultimately surrendered a crushing goal with 15 seconds left. Penn State’s TJ Murray beat Tully to bring the score to 11-4 before the teams entered their locker rooms.

The third quarter has been Cornell’s strong suit this season, but the Nittany Lions proved to be the anomaly. The Red surrendered seven goals in the third quarter on Saturday and only managed three of its own, marking its worst performance in the third frame this season. 

Traynor opened up the third quarter with his fifth goal of the contest, followed by another Nittany Lion goal 34 seconds later. Freshman attackman Willem Firth temporarily halted the Penn State attack, but Traynor and attackman Jake Morin tallied a pair of goals to make it 13-4.

Firth added his second goal of the quarter less than a minute later, and senior midfielder Andrew Dalton added a score with 1:11 left in the quarter, but three Penn State goals between those two made it a whopping 18-7 game heading into the final frame.

The fourth quarter was the closest as both teams tallied two goals apiece, but a penalty-ridden stretch ultimately barred Cornell from its much-needed comeback. Fifth-year attackman Michael Long and junior attackman Danny Caddigan factored into the fourth-quarter scoring, but the mountainous Penn State lead was ultimately too tall to climb as Cornell plummeted, 20-9.

Cornell slips to 3-2 after the loss.

Though Penn State fared worse than the Red in the rankings entering Saturday, the Nittany Lions have been off to a strong start this year. Just a week before Cornell traveled to State College, Penn State notched 12 second-half goals in a dramatic comeback and upset of then-No. 9 Yale.

Cornell’s next test will be momentous — the Red will open up Ivy League play on the road against Princeton next Sunday, March 17. The opening faceoff is slated for 2 p.m. at Sherrerd Field. 

“It’s a challenging stretch,” Buczek said. “But for us, the hope is not to get too big, not to take the focus bigger than it has to be.”