04/18/2019 3:45 PM
Meet the new Penn State all-time goals leader.
Photo courtesy of Penn State University.
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Mac O'Keefe didn't go through the recruiting process with thoughts of broken records in his mind, and it wasn't until a few weeks ago that he realized that he was closing in on breaking one of Penn State's biggest marks.
The Team 91 2016 alum by way of Syosset has been helping goalies perfect their turn-and-rake technique this year to the tune of a 45-goal campaign, tied for second best in the country. He's on pace to break the single-season mark of 51, set in 2017 by... Mac O'Keefe.
Despite that, O'Keefe didn't know that he was nearing the all-time scoring record until the Nittany Lions played Penn a few weeks ago, a one-goal win for Penn State. That was when PSU coach Jeff Tambroni introduced the team to Will Driscoll, who broke the mark in 2002.
"Coach Tambroni said, 'this is Will Driscoll, and he holds the all-time scoring record here," O'Keefe said. "Then he said, 'Mac is on pace to beat that,' and it kind of hit me then."
Driscoll's record stood for six more games. Last week, in a 17-7 win over Big Ten foe Michigan, O'Keefe took a great pass from teammate Grant Ament and went behind the back for his 128th career tally, good enough for No. 1 all time. He added three more for good measure, and with the way Penn State's offense is playing this year, he'll have plenty of opportunities to put the record out of reach.
Oh, and he comes back for another season after that, so it's likely to be a record that stands for a very long time.
"This was never even a thought when I was getting recruited. I was just interested in the school and what it had to offer," O'Keefe said. "As time went on, I found my role within the team, and I saw that it was something that could potentially happen. It's definitely pretty special. The guys on my team made it special. I tried not to let it affect the way I play, though. I just wanted to come in and do whatever I could to help out."
Great shooters are always better when they've got an exceptional feeder playing with them, and O'Keefe has one of the best by his side in Ament, who is first nationally in assists and third in points. Blessed with incredible vision and the ability to thread inch-perfect passes through traffic, Ament has had a hand in more O'Keefe goals than not, and the duo are a huge reason why the Nittany Lions' offense averages 17.3 goals per game, a cool 2.4 goals per game more than the team behind them. The two actually met at the Team USA U19 tryouts when Ament was going into his freshman year at PSU and O'Keefe his senior campaign at Syosset, and since then, they've been almost impossible to shut down.
"We first started developing that relationship and chemistry at the U19 tryouts, and ever since I got here on campus, he's known where I'm going to be, and it makes that much easier," O'Keefe said.
Individual records are incredible achievements, but O'Keefe and PSU are chasing a national title. The top-ranked Nittany Lions are 10-1 with a one-goal loss to defending national champion as their lone blemish, and there's plenty of reason to believe that they could be the ones celebrating on Memorial Day.
"I think what separates us from past years is that we have those complementary guys who know their roles and play them really well," O'Keefe explained. "When the bigger-name players aren't playing well, they step up and fill that role."
At the same time, it helps to have O'Keefe filling those nets.