By Erin Neri, GoPSUsports.com student staff writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - With a new season quickly approaching, Penn State men's lacrosse is ready to build upon the success it found last year.
From key returners to a packed and exciting 2018 schedule, there's plenty to be excited about as the Nittany Lions are merely days from getting back to competing. As with any offseason, there's still plenty of changes, with Penn State head coach Jeff Tambroni making staffing additions now charged as a unit with finding ways to replace some veteran production lost due to graduation departures.
Navy Exhibition Game
Come Saturday in Holuba Hall, the Nittany Lions will see their first action against Navy, hosting the Midshipmen in their first of two exhibition games. While Penn State is still trying to find its chemistry and solidify roles, this weekend is all about taking risks.
"This year we are still trying out a lot of different combinations in the offensive and defensive end," Tambroni said. "[We are] hoping to stabilize some systems offensively and defensively and trying some different things. [We're] going to take some chances as coaches and hopefully our guys are going to take some chances as players to find out who we really are."
Although Penn State is looking to take risks, the Nittany Lions also want to make sure their combinations and systems are solid on both sides of the field before the official season opener arrives. For Tambroni and the team, Navy will prove as a true early test of Penn State's ability.
"The scoreboard will matter to a certain degree, we want to find out if we can defend a very good offense, find out if we can score," Tambroni said.
Last season, senior attacker Nick Aponte was chosen as the team's lone captain, but this year the coaching staff took a different approach to the makeup of the leadership. Leading this year's team will be senior midfielders Ryan Keenan, Tanner Peck, Tripp Traynor as well as redshirt junior defenseman Mike Aronow.
Although Tambroni himself has never coached a team with four captains, he is confident the added leadership is the right change for where the program is headed.
"This year it's just a different benefit, all four are reflected in different ways and I think they all bring something different to the table," Tambroni said.
With more captains playing on both sides on the ball, Tambroni noted the leadership helping to build better relationships among members of the team on the field as well as off the field with different personalities.
Relying on Underclassmen
The Nittany Lions graduated several seniors on both ends of the field that played a key role in the team's overall success. While no one could replace what the special group contributed for the culture of the program, Tambroni and his staff are looking for younger Nittany Lions to step up and follow the strong legacy that was left behind for them.
"The freshman, we're hoping that they have a chance to adapt and learn through their first year," Tambroni said. "Sophomores and juniors, they've had that opportunity, were looking for some of those guys to really step into those rules and step up their opportunities to compete and play through both practices and games."
Tambroni stressed the importance of Nittany Lions like sophomore 2017 Inside Lacrosse All-America honorable mention faceoff man Gerard Arceri and sophomore 2017 USILA All-America honorable mention attacker Mac O'Keefe. Both made an impact in their first season in the blue and white, now returning with the expectation of a bit more responsibility in year two.
For O'Keefe in particular, he's coming off a stellar rookie campaign, which saw him set a program record dating back to 1957 with 51 goals for the most in a single season in Penn State history."I'm confident with the leadership of our seniors and with the development of our sophomores and juniors," Tambroni said. "The combination of that is going to help us with the graduation we left off from last year."