By Jackson Thibodeau, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - While Saturday's game against Hofstra won't be the final home game for the Penn State men's lacrosse team, it is sure to be an emotional night for the seniors.
The CAA matchup and final regular season game will serve as "Senior Night"
for Penn State's five graduating players.
All five seniors have played influential roles for the Nittany Lions at one point or another, each with at least a season's worth of starts under their belts.
"It is going to be a weird feeling putting that jersey on for the last time," said attackman Matt Mackrides (Newtown Square, Pa.). "Being with these seniors for the past four years has been a great journey and it means everything to me."
Mackrides is entering Saturday's contest with 96 career goals, which is tied for sixth all-time in program history.
As for his plans after graduating from Penn State, the consistent scorer plans on pursuing a career with Major League Lacrosse. He was drafted 26th overall in the 2012 MLL Draft by the Chesapeake Bayhawks.
"I am excited for the opportunity and the experience to play for the Chesapeake Bayhawks but for now my focus is on Penn State lacrosse," Mackrides said.
Mackrides has not been alone on the attack for Penn State throughout his four prolific seasons--he is joined by fellow senior Jack Forster (Jenkintown, Pa.), who is in the midst of a career-high season in multiple statistical categories.
"It has been the best part of my day everyday to come in here and compete with these guys," said Forster.
The redshirt senior has been plagued by injuries throughout his career, losing the 2008 and 2010 season to knee injuries. This season has been injury-free for Forster and he is leading the team in all offensive categories.
"It has been a relief [to be injury-free], knock on wood, and I feel a hundred times better than last season," he said.
On the other side of the ball, seniors Dave Baker (Havertown, Pa.), Ryan McGarvey (Lower Gwynedd, Pa.), and Ryan Link (Englewood, Colo.) are also starting to feel the emotions arise as their collegiate careers wind down.
"I feel like we are never really done with Penn State lacrosse," said Baker. "We may be graduating but we will always feel like a part of this team."
Baker started 13 games in 2010 in the goal for the Nittany Lions and remains an integral part of the team as he provides leadership and motivation on the sidelines.
Following graduation, Baker plans to pursue a master's degree in education.
Helping Baker out on the defensive side of the ball is defenseman Ryan McGarvey, who scored his first-career goal this season from nearly the length of the field in a loss to Bucknell.
The preseason All-CAA defenseman has appeared in 40 games for the Nittany Lions over the course of his career and has been the foundation of the tenth-best scoring defense in the country during 2012.
Joining McGarvey in a consistent career of appearances is midfielder Ryan Link, who has appeared in 43 games in his career and leads the team in caused turnovers.
Link is a diverse player, whose abilities include playing on both sides of the field and switching from short-pole to long-pole at points during games.
The relatively small senior class, making up only five of a 38-man roster has been influential in the team's late season push towards the playoffs.
"From start to finish they have done an unbelievable job," said head coach Jeff Tambroni. "They set the culture for this team on and off the field."
Coach Tambroni, in his second year as head coach, joined the program after this group of seniors already had two seasons under their belts.
"They are leaving this place better than they found it," he said. "Their legacy is embedded in a very strong foundation and I hope when they look back they will see their footprint on Penn State lacrosse for years to come."
Faceoff against Hofstra is set for noon on Saturday. Win or lose, the team will host a first round game of the CAA Tournament on May 2 at 7 p.m.