By Joseph Santoliquito
For Phillylacrosse.com, Posted 5/26/19
They sat there side-by-side, as it always seems they have. Grant Ament and Chris Sabia are lacrosse lifers, starting from their time at Haverford School and ending at Penn State.
Both wished it could have been a better finish.
Yale got out to a 10-1 lead and never looked back in closing an amazing season for the No. 1 Nittany Lions (16-2) in a 21-17 NCAA Tournament semifinal loss before 32,612 at Lincoln Financial Field on Saturday.
Yale (15-3) will attempt to win consecutive national titles on Monday when the Bulldogs take on Virginia (16-3), 13-12 double overtime winners over Duke.
Penn State, which is comprised of locals like Sabia, Ament, TJ Malone and John Nostrant of Haverford, Nick Cardile and Braydon Peck, both from Avon Grove, among many others, tries to remember the good that occurred this historic season.
Prior to this year, Penn State never won a Big Ten title, never beat national powerhouse Maryland, never even won a postseason game. The Nittany Lions achieved all of that this year.
“I just want to say, this group of guys that I’ve been with is the greatest group of guys I’ve ever been with in my life, from the players to the coaches,” said Sabia, one of the few senior starters and a First Team USILA All-American. “I’m so thankful that I had this opportunity to play with them for four years and learn so much and have this opportunity. It means the absolute world to me.”
The setback was particularly hard on Ament, who smashed the Penn State record book and finished the season with an NCAA-record 96 assists this year. But Ament, also a Tewaaraton finalist, is a red-shirt junior who has another of eligibility.
“Kind of at a loss for words just based off the fact that the season is over. But I do want to give credit to the two guys sitting next to me (Nick Spillane and Sabia),” Ament said. “This senior class, the class of 2019, they decided to just be a little bit different than we were in years past.
“I came in with these guys, and they just — they created a standard in and around the locker room that was held accountable every day.
“That’s something that I have not been on a team — I’ve been on a lot of good teams. I’ve never been on a team quite like that. We’ve definitely had our ups and downs but I would say the resiliency of the group is something that I’m most proud of, given that we never really had to see it to believe it, to get to this moment: lacrosse’s biggest stage.
“Obviously, we didn’t finish the job, but incredibly proud of how they led us and how they’re going to leave Penn State a lot better than they found it.”
After losing 10 of 13 faceoffs in the opening quarter, Penn State got within three three times, 12-9, 13-10 and 16-13. Other than that, it was an afternoon of catch-up against the defending national champions who beat Penn State earlier this season.
“Offensively we’re a bunch of guys that not necessarily were all highly recruited, kind of blue-collar way. Just happy with without we battled back,” Ament said. “Unfortunately, we just couldn’t get the ball rolling our way.
“Every time we seemed to score in that second half, they had an answer. Credit them. Their offense played incredible. Their defense played well.
“It’s just tough to go out like this, especially for the seniors. That’s my priority and my focus. I wanted to do this for them. That’s what hurts the most.”