By Eric DeBerardinis, Special to GoPSUsports.com from The John Curley Center for Sports Journalism
Pa. - Leadership is paramount for Penn State men's lacrosse head coach Jeff
Tambroni. The third-year coach believes his team possesses the necessary talent
to succeed this upcoming season, but says developing leadership has been the
Nittany Lion's biggest challenge. The program lost captains Matthew Mackrides
and Ryan Link to graduation, leaving a leadership void both on and off the
"Urging them to take another step within their role is going to be key," said Tambroni. "I think if these guys come back and see themselves in the same role that they were in last year, we will have not moved forward."
Midway through the team's fall practices, Tambroni was unable to identify potential captains for the start of next season. He does expect Jack Forster, Gavin Ahern and Shane Sturgis to lead from the attack position. Forster, a redshirt senior attackman, understands his role as the oldest player on the team.
"We want to show them [the underclassmen] by how hard we work," said Forster. "Hopefully they will follow."
Tambroni also referred to Austin Kaut, a junior goalie, who has already established himself on the field and accumulated various accolades including All-American honors. The head coach expects Kaut to take on increased roles in terms of his leadership and orchestrating the defense.
Nick Dolik, a senior midfielder, wants to increase his leadership skills as well.
"I've tried to grow a lot as a guy who can be reliable," said Dolik. "Someone who the younger guys can look up to."
Penn State's leadership abilities were tested by its fall schedule. During the first weekend in October, they traveled to Bethesda, Md., for the Capital Lacrosse Invitational, which included two tune-up games against perennial powerhouses Johns Hopkins and North Carolina. Tambroni viewed the weekend as a time to experiment, while getting looks at younger players on the team. Tambroni labeled the tournament as a great experience but also recognized the team must keep the games in perspective.
Tambroni says he believes his team has enough pieces to compete within the Colonial Athletic Association. The ultimate goal would be qualifying for the NCAA Tournament, a feat that Penn State has not achieved since 2005.
"There are certain issues that are going to need to go to the top," said Tambroni. "But there are certain issues that our upperclassmen can educate our young kids, academically, socially, with leadership in the community, and performance on the field."
If the desired leadership emerges, Tambroni is sure his team can take the next step.