By Matthew De George
For Phillylacrosse.com, Posted 5/27/23
PHILADELPHIA – Will Costin knew the assignment would be daunting.
Penn State was down a key defenseman in Jack Posey, the senior who had started all 15 games before a leg injury in Nittany Lions’ NCAA quarterfinal win over Army. Duke would bring to bear one of the nation’s best attacks in the NCAA Final Four Saturday, led by 90-point man Brennan O’Neill.
Costin wouldn’t be in a mood to celebrate after a 16-15 overtime loss to the Blue Devils at Lincoln Financial Field. But someday in the near future, he would perhaps see consolation in the performance authored by him and his fellow Nittany Lions in keeping O’Neill and company relatively under control.
“It’s tough. He’s such a good player, probably one of the best defensemen in the country,” Costin, a Haverford School grad, said of Posey. “We moved some pieces around, but at the end of the day, we still played with our team, core principles – team defense, playing with all seven. We trust each other and keep playing for each other.”
That group included three freshmen – Costin, Alex Ross and LSM Ryan O’Connor. Tasked with shutting down O’Neill, who had a relatively constrained three goals and one assist, was sophomore Kevin Parnham. And goalie Jack Fracyon, just a sophomore, was outstanding with 12 saves.
Fifth-seeded Penn State trailed 9-7 at the break, but the Lions adjusted in the second half, trying to force top-seeded Duke to move the ball. They threw varied zone and man-to-man looks at Duke, with varying degrees of success. But it slowed down a potent attack enough for the Nittany Lions to crawl back into the game.
“That’s one of the best attacking units in the country, and we’re down there with two freshmen and two sophomores, and they played their tails off today,” Penn State coach Jeff Tambroni said. “It was a one-on-one matchup in the first half, and they scored nine goals in the first half and three of them were assisted.
“So we wanted to force them to throw the ball to the next man, and we weren’t taking away angles. We adjusted at halftime, tried to get out front of them, take away the strong hand a little bit and force them to play a little more team than individually. … Six goals in the second half for that group out there I thought was a tremendous effort.”
Outshot 41-29, with Duke’s Jake Naso willing 22 of 34 draws, Duke eventually wore them down. But the defense created space for the comeback.
Both Costin brothers stepped up Saturday. Mac Costin supplied a goal and two assists, the middie’s speed off dodge helping shift the game in the first half. His goal, scored in the first quarter, came on his only shot. Will Costin picked up a pair of GBs.
The brothers playing together wasn’t necessarily the plan, Mac starting his college career at the University of Utah in the spring of 2020. A senior, he has one season left to play with his younger brother.
“It’s absolutely awesome having Will by my side,” Mac said. “One of my best friends, closest guys. And we rely on each other when things get tough. Pretty much everything we do is together, on and off the field. It’s very cool to be with him and go through all those for two years.”
“It’s been awesome,” Will Costin said. “Playing with your brother, it’s all you can ask for, especially in the Final Four in your home city. We’ve got another year together, so trying to make the most of it.”
Optimism was in short supply in the Penn State locker room, after Garrett Leadmon’s overtime winner where he may or may not have been in the crease. But there will come a day, Will Costin knows, where the experience of this year’s group of veterans and the youthful defensive talent will meld for a brighter future.
“It’s definitely exciting to look at the future,” Will Costin said. “Right now, you’re thinking about the seniors and it’s obviously really tough for them. You feel for them, but they left their legacy. … It’s trying to carry on the senior’s legacy next year.”