Pat White, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. -- Head Coach Jeff Tambroni has his sights set on the successful season for Penn State (2-0) come playoff time, not just a quick 2-0 start right out of the gate.
But it is hard not to get excited after a monumental 15-12 victory over ninth-ranked Denver on Sunday (Feb. 16) in Jacksonville, Fla. at the Moe's Southwest Grill Lacrosse Classic. Denver had knocked off top-five opponent, Duke, the previous week. The Nittany Lions knew they had an opportunity to upset a potential postseason team and could do it on national television. Tambroni credited his team for preparing well and coming ready to play a well-established program.
"We have a lot of respect for them and their coaching staff," Tambroni said of Denver. "After what they did to us last year, that's why our team felt as good about the effort as much as, if not more than, the result on Sunday."
Goaltender Austin Kaut (Morton, Pa.) was wide-eyed at the sight of EverBank Field, home of the Jacksonville Jaguars. Kaut made 10 saves and the Nittany Lions rose to the occasion on the big stage and came out with a victory to be proud of.
"That was the biggest stage I've ever played on," Kaut said. "It was really cool to be in that stadium, on the grass and to have our team come out fired up and take care of business."
Tambroni stresses that preparation is a key to success. He evaluates each week the level and intensity of preparation. This week, it was Kaut that made note of the team's preparation and scouting report, especially on the defensive end, that paid off with a victory.
"Our defense played really well, both long-stick middies and short-stick middies," Kaut said. "[Denver's] three starting middies are some of the best in the nation and our guys were able to shut them down. I was really proud of them."
CAA Player of the Week Shane Sturgis (Downingtown, Pa.) led the offense. The junior netted four goals in the victory over Denver, bringing his total to a team-leading eight in two games. He was joined on attack by red-shirt senior Jack Forster (Jenkintown, Pa.) and freshman TJ Sanders (Orillia, Ont.), who combined for seven goals between them.
Sturgis said that his teammates helped create opportunities for him to score and his shots were falling. His ability to dodge from behind the net, causing the defense to slide, opened up shots for himself and hi s teammates. Sturgis added that it was a fun experience playing on a big stage, but more fun that the team finished shots and got the win.
"We have good chemistry and everyone is feeding off each other and playing around," Sturgis said of the offense. "The more we communicate the better the offense goes."
The sunny Florida sky can be a distracting environment, especially for a young team like Penn State. Tambroni was pleased with the leadership of his upper-classmen and the response by his players.
"I give the guys credit for the way they handled the entire atmosphere," Tambroni said. "It isn't something that we're accustomed to. That's not normal for the Penn State program. For them to play with poise and play hard says a lot about our leadership and our captains."
Tambroni admitted it was a fun weekend and great victory, but the team's focus now shifts to this weekend's opponent, third-ranked Notre Dame (1-0). Penn State faced off against the Fighting Irish last season in South Bend, Ind. and grinded to a 4-3 OT victory.
Notre Dame is also coming off of a victory against Duke and poses another challenge for Penn State in the early season. Hopefully the success from the previous two victories carries into Sunday's matchup with the Irish.
Penn State will get some much-needed rest after traveling the past two weekends to Michigan and Jacksonville. An extra day of rest coupled with a week of intense practice should pay dividends for the Nittany Lions against Notre Dame on Sunday.
"I think it comes down to preparation and that helps us for games on the weekends," Kaut said. "We practice really hard and it's paying off so far this season."
Preparation Key in Men's Lacrosse's Quick Start
Pat White, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
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