By Maria Canales, GoPSUsports.com student staff writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - After a pair of difficult losses on the road, Penn State men's lacrosse (11-2, 2-2 Big Ten) bounced back to defeat Rutgers (9-4, 1-3 Big Ten) on senior day Sunday.
For head coach Jeff Tambroni, the 13-7 victory was the result of a hard week of practice and a focus on ground ball play.
"I thought the biggest thing was just effort," Tambroni said. "I thought our guys played with a lot of conviction today and it was just fun to watch. The last couple of weekends we just didn't give ourselves a chance in the middle of the field and we lost possessions, and it wasn't necessarily because of the faceoff 'x' it was just because of the way we were battling for ground balls."
In previous weeks, Tambroni has noted the Nittany Lions have needed to step up ground ball production but haven't been able to get the numbers he'd like. Against Rutgers, the Nittany Lions were able to turn that around, picking up 31 of 55 ground balls on the night.
Senior attackman and captain Nick Aponte said this week's practices were heavy on ground ball drills and that the team relentlessly practiced them day in and day out, knowing they needed to step up their competitiveness against the Scarlet Knights.
"We've just got to practice like we're going to play on game day every single day, and it'll show on game day like it did today," Aponte said.
Aside from ground ball improvements, Tambroni admired freshman faceoff specialist Gerard Arceri for bringing his 'a' game to Sunday's matchup, bouncing back from a tough conference battle last week at Johns Hopkins.
"Gerard was spectacular tonight," Tambroni said. "He certainly set the tone and then he was complimented by the wing play. I thought Tommy Wright really stood out tonight, he was one guy I thought stood out in terms of making simple plays throughout the course of the evening and making a lot of tough plays."
Arceri said he felt the strong effort from his teammates, especially Wright, in addition to other wing players, freshman Nick McEvoy, junior Tripp Traynor, and sophomore Kevin Fox. For Arceri, his own strong performance against Rutgers only help his confidence headed toward the next few games including the Big Ten Tournament, since faceoffs are such a mental aspect of the game.
"These past two weeks have been a learning experience for me, just having those rough days in the faceoff 'x' but I think it's all just really going to come to a point now so I'm really glad it all worked out," Arceri said.
As for senior day, Aponte was happy he could help his fellow seniors to victory, but since there are more games guaranteed in the postseason, there's still much to look forward to."It's awesome, it's a great feeling just doing it on senior day too and seeing the whole team come together and play for the seniors was great," Aponte said. "We've just got to keep this going and we have to remember what we did to prepare for this game because we need to play like this for every single game for the rest on, and hopefully we can get back and play another home game in the first round of playoffs."