All four Penn State coaches stood on the sideline with their hands on their hips and a blank look on their faces. It was less than three minutes into the game and Penn State was already in a tough position. The Nittany Lions had lost three straight faceoffs -- with zero opportunity of a possession -- and were down, 3-0, to Yale in the NCAA Division I semifinal Saturday at Lincoln Financial Field.
Penn State had few answers for Yale’s T.D. Ierlan in the eventual 21-17 loss. The finalist for the Tewaaraton Award, given to the top player in college lacrosse, showed why he was the top faceoff man in the country.
Ierlan finished 28-for-42 on faceoffs. With the help of his work, the Bulldogs are moving on to the NCAA Division I championship game Monday at the Linc. They will face Virginia.
“I just think I didn’t prepare our guys really well,” Penn State head coach Jeff Tambroni said. “There’s a lot that goes into this and I think our guys did such a great job all year of just getting out there and just doing it."
Although the Nittany Lions were down 10-1 in the first quarter, Penn State defender Chris Sabia had hope that the Lions could slow down Ierlan. By the second quarter, Sabia was making contributions on offense and defense. He dished an assist to Mac O’Keefe to make it 10-3, sparking the Nittany Lions on a fiery comeback. They ended the first half down only 12-9.
“We just knew we just had to stay the course,” Sabia said. “Obviously, that wasn’t the start we wanted, but we knew that if we could come together and stick to the game plan and stay the course we would start getting some stops sooner or later and go from there.”
Ierlan thanked his teammates for helping him as he grew tired in the second half battling Penn State’s Gerard Arceri on faceoffs.