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Mac O'Keefe celebrates one of his five goals against his alma mater in a 16-9 victory for the U.S. men over Penn State.

Building Process Continues for USA Men in Win Over Penn State

October 14, 2023
Brian Logue
Riley Rumbley

SPARKS, Md. — Less than 24 hours after losing a heartbreaking 12-11 overtime game to rival Canada, the U.S. men’s national team was back on the field to play 2023 NCAA semifinalist Penn State. There was no letdown as the U.S. team raced out to a fast start in a 16-9 victory at the USA Lacrosse Fall Classic.

“We had a great meeting with those guys this morning,” said assistant coach Seth Tierney, who helped lead the U.S. to gold at the world championship in 2018 in Israel and this past summer in San Diego. “We told them about the process and sometimes you need to lose to learn how to win.”

The 2018 team’s run to the world championship was fueled in part by a humbling loss to the Major League Lacrosse All-Stars in Boston. That 2018 team learned lessons from the loss and Tierney saw this group of mostly Premier Lacrosse League players relatively new to the national team program learn lessons after just one game.

“Sharing the ball, one mores, shooting it smart,” Tierney said. “This international game is very different from what they do over the summer.”

An attack unit down to just three players — Asher Nolting, Mac O’Keefe and Logan Wisnauskas — after an injury to Xander Dickson on Friday night did most of the damage. Playing from X, Nolting had six assists while O’Keefe and Wisnauskas each scored five goals.

O’Keefe had a first quarter hat track against his alma mater and the U.S. never trailed. Penn State’s Liam Matthews scored with 21 seconds left in the first half to cut the USA lead to 6-5, but Matt Campbell answered with eight seconds left to put the U.S. up 7-5 at the half. Penn State never got closer the rest of the way.

The U.S. dominated possession as Peter LaSalla (12 of 15) and Mike Sisselberger (9 of 14) controlled faceoffs and goalies Matt DeLuca (4 saves) and Colin Kirst (3 saves) were both solid. T.J. Malone (2g) and Matt Traynor (1g, 2a) paced the Penn State offense.

The result mattered, but what mattered more was getting comfortable in the U.S. system as the team gets ready for the next world championship.

“Last year at this time was my first time [in a USA uniform] and it was super special,” Nolting said. “Every time you get to put this on its unbelievable. You never take it for granted to put this jersey on. That was our message all weekend.”

Cole Kirst, who won a gold medal with the U.S. U21 team in 2022, knows what an honor it is and it’s been an extra special few weeks for him. In late September, he and three of his brothers — CJ, Colin and Connor — helped the USA box team win the title at the North American Invitational. This weekend, he Colin and Connor all played together again.

“Everyone’s in different locations, so to unify and continue to compete with USA across our chest with so many talented individuals is amazing,” Cole said.

With the world championship still four years away, it would be easy to think of the weekend as just an exhibition, but Tierney well knows how rare it is to find times for the U.S. players to get together to compete. The building steps are crucial.

“It starts from the moment of that final whistle in San Diego,” Tierney said. “There are guys from the San Diego team that are going to try to make another run at it without question. And there’s a couple of guys on the next team and a couple of guys still in college that in two, three, four years are going to be those guys. We got a chance to teach 23 more guys what USA is all about and the chemistry. I think it was another successful weekend.”

Canada Rallies Past Penn State

In the second men's game on Saturday, Canada limited Penn State to just one goal in the second half to rally from a 6-4 halftime deficit in a 9-7 victory.

Dyson Williams, who scored the game-winner against the U.S. team on Friday night, had a pair of second-half goals, including the go-ahead goal early in the fourth quarter to break a 7-7 tie and give Canada the lead for good.

Sam English and Graydon Hogg also had two goals for Canada and Thomas McConvey had a pair of assists.

Mac Costin and T.J. Malone both scored twice for Penn State.