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New-Look Penn State Men’s Lacrosse Poised For Success Through Skilled Freshmen

Penn State men’s lacrosse will hit the field looking like an entirely different team compared to last year, including a large incoming freshman class, when the season kicks off on February 20.

Even with the departure of attackman Grant Ament, the all-time points leader in Big Ten and Penn State history, the Nittany Lion’s attack group still looks like it’s going to be as strong as it has been in recent years.

Graduate student Mac O’Keefe, who was named an Inside Lacrosse preseason second-team All-American, is returning for his fifth season. The team’s leading goal-scorer tallied 28 goals in seven games during his senior season in 2020, amassing a total of 36 points.

O’Keefe additionally ranks seventh overall in NCAA history with 192 career goals, which places him third in program history. As the Big Ten’s leading goal-scorer, O’Keefe needs only 20 goals to break the collegiate record for goals scored, currently held by Duke attackman Justin Guterding.

Along with O’Keefe, attackman TJ Malone is expected to make large improvements during his junior campaign this season. Malone scored 16 goals in seven games last season, coming in second on the team right behind O’Keefe.

Malone ranks sixth in the Big Ten with a .432 shot percentage and eighth with 2.29 goals per game.

Returning goalie Colby Kneese made 78 saves last season and had a .517 save percentage with a 10.69 goals-against average. The netminder made three double-digit saves during the 2020 season and had a season-best .857 save percentage during the Nittany Lions’ win against Saint Joseph’s.

Faceoff specialist Gerard Arceri holds the Nittany Lions program record and ranks sixth in NCAA history with 509 ground balls. He also ranks first in program history and 10th in NCAA history with 779 faceoff wins.

The two-time Big Ten honoree, first team in 2018 and second team in 2019, should continue to be a valuable asset for the blue and white this coming season.

While the returning players are expected to continue to make an impact this coming season, a strong freshman class is sure to start off their collegiate careers strong. True freshmen Jeb Brenfleck was named an All-American, all-state, first-team All-EPLAC, and first-team All-Friends League while with the Academy of the New Church his junior season, where they had a 20-4 record and No. 4 state rank.

Brenfleck helped the team win three-straight Friends League titles as well as post 164 points, 96 goals, and 68 assists over his final two seasons.

Freshman attackman Mark Sickler was a two-time MVP and one-time Team Offensive Player Of The Year while at Hershey High School. Sickler helped lead the team to a 64-26 record and was selected as an All-American and Mid-Penn Conference MVP his senior year.

Face-off specialist Hudson Bohn is ranked No. 48 in the Inside Lacrosse Class of 2020 rankings, and the Florida native broke his own state record for ground balls in a season with 150 as a junior. Named team captain his senior season, Bohn was voted all-district twice and was an all-area selection as a junior. With Arceri leaving the program after this season, Bohn has the ability to take over for Arceri with proper development and drive.

Accompanying Bohn in being named to the Inside Lacrosse class of 2020 rankings is freshman midfielder Luke Mercer, who was ranked No. 66. The New York native earned all-state and all-section honors after putting up 70 points as a junior, as well as assisting in leading his former team, John Jay High School, to back-to-back Section 1 titles.

Despite starting their collegiate careers during a pandemic, Penn State lacrosse fans shouldn’t worry about this skilled incoming class.

The Nittany Lions kick off its season with a road trip to Rutgers at noon on February 20 before facing Maryland at home on February 26. The team’s home opener will be broadcast on the Big Ten Network at 5:30 p.m.

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About the Author

Acacia Aster Broder

Acacia is a junior from Philadelphia majoring in digital and print journalism with a sports certificate. Although she considers herself a Philadelphian at heart, she is a Toronto and Seattle sports fan. Follow her on Twitter @acaciaaster or Instagram @acaciaastr for hockey takes and mediocre analysis.

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