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Underclassmen Adding Depth

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By Erin Neri, student staff writer

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - For Penn State men's lacrosse, last weekend's season-opening scrimmage against Navy was all about taking risks and trying out new combinations to establish chemistry in preparation for the regular season.

Testing out new lines and units will also be the game plan heading into this weekend's scrimmage against Army, with the added challenge of trying to add some depth on both offense and defense.

"We feel we have that front line of 10 guys that is fairly consistent," Penn State head coach Jeff Tambroni said. "We think we have a lot of decent options but we really need some guys to step up to create some much needed depth." 

Even with the Nittany Lions returning key individuals on both attack and defense, finding young dependable underclassmen to back them up will be the top priority heading into February. Tambroni is not only looking for skill to achieve success, but also consistency.

"We have to rely on some of these guys week in and week out to be great," Tambroni said. "Our seniors have to be great and the guys that have been around for the last two or three years have to be great in order for us to be great."

While the coaching staff is still heavily depending on the seniors and other veterans on the team to lead production, they have also left the door open for freshmen and other underclassmen to fight for their own spot in the lineup.

Freshman defenseman Jake McCaughan took full advantage of the opportunity given to him against Navy. The New Jersey native picked up three ground balls against the Midshipmen as well as playing a key role on the wing during faceoffs to help faceoff specialist Gerard Arceri. His stellar performance did not go unnoticed by Tambroni.

"I felt of all the freshman he probably played with the most poise," Tambroni said. "There were probably four or five plays that he was asked to make throughout the course of the game and he made every one of them. Some were a little bit more challenging than others but he never wavered." 

Tambroni also gave some insight to the kind of hardworking Nittany Lion McCaughan has established himself as so early on in the year. In addition to the coaches though, McCaughan's debut also impressed his fellow defensemen, including redshirt junior captain, Mike Aronow. 

"He's a good player, he had a great scrimmage," Aronow said. "I think he's going to start to have a way bigger role, which is good to see."

McCaughan, who is joined by three of his cousins at Penn State including two who play on the men's tennis team, was happy with his performance, glad to see he is hitting his stride early and blending well with the upperclassmen. 

Playing with such a strong defensive unit with veterans like Aronow, Chris Sabia and Kevin Fox can be intimidating for a first year Nittany Lion, but McCaughan was able to rise to the high expectations.

"I like to learn from [them], watch and just see how they play," McCaughan said. "I can always learn from them, they have experience out there so it's just good to always have them to look up to."

It is still early in the year and McCaughan still has a long way to go, but taking it one step at a time, he is ready to learn and grow throughout the regular season. 

"It's just been an opportunity you could say," McCaughan said. "It's a learning process so I just have to keep going with it."

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