UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - For Penn State men's lacrosse head coach Jeff Tambroni, the symbol of a great team comes down to winning the battles between the 30-yard lines. Come Saturday afternoon, the Nittany Lions bounced back from a disappointing season-opener with a 15-8 win against Hobart.
Following last weekend's overtime loss to Villanova, there was perhaps nobody more disappointed than Nittany Lion sophomore faceoff specialist Gerard Arceri.
"He felt horrible after last week's game and it wasn't on him, but he holds himself to such a higher standard," Tambroni said.
This week, Arceri spent time in practice keying in on communication with his wings, focusing on helping the defense by giving his team more opportunities for possession.
"In practice we do this drill where instead of the wings, traditionally in the game where they're so far out, we kind of bring the wings in and they give me a lot of pressure when I pull out the ball and they do a good job of boxing each other out so I think we really improved from last game on that," Arceri said. "It's something to be pretty excited about I'd say."
For Arceri and the Nittany Lions, the excitement didn't come easy, as Hobrt erased a 3-goal Penn State lead to tie the score, 4-4, at the end of the first quarter. At the faceoff x, Arceri was also just 2-for-8.
By halftime, the Nittany Lions were trailing by one, 7-6, as senior Ryan Keenan broke up 3-0 Hobart scoring streak with a wraparound goal off a feed from junior Nick Spillane with seven seconds remaining in the second quarter.
It was all Penn State out of the break, as the Nittany Lions put away back-to-back goals from junior Matt Donnelly and Spillane early in the third quarter to pull ahead, 8-7, igniting the offense.
The Nittany Lions saw Arceri win all five faceoff attempts in the third quarter as Penn State dominated possession.
"When I'm dealing with that adversity and stuff like that, I just try to stay true to my ability and I think that worked out for me," Arceri said.
Arceri also gave credit of course to his wings, who dialed up the toughness in the second half.
"We talked about in the second half trying to keep the wings off of me and just letting me go one-on-one with the other faceoff guy so I could direct the ball wherever I need to," Arceri said.
For Tambroni, it made all the difference.
"Last week, we just kind of lost focus in the second half and just played, we didn't execute, we just played," Tambroni said. "Today I thought for 60 minutes, we didn't win them all, certainly didn't win our fair share in the first half, but I thought we stayed the course and tried to at least execute a game plan and I thought today was just a much better start to finish job by those wing guys. They made a big difference, that's a unit. I know Gerard gets a lot of credit for what he does but I thought today, those guys battled when the ball was on the ground and kept it alive."
Penn State capitalized on the increase in offensive possessions, scoring four goals in the third quarter. The Nittany Lions kept momentum alive in the fourth quarter to widen the scoring streak to a 9-1 advantage that spanned the second half. Arceri also went 5-6 in faceoffs in the third quarter to finish 16-for-24 on the day.
"Bouncing off last week, the third quarter we had a bunch of goals and then the fourth quarter, we just fell off," Mac O'Keefe said. "We just wanted to stay together and not fall off like we did last week, it was something we focused on."
The Nittany Lions had little trouble executing a strong finish, as O'Keefe added three goals in the fourth quarter to conclude the day with a team-high five goals.
"Our message to our guys was lets reflect back," Tambroni said. "Remember what happened when we were coming out of the huddle and to use that experience to fuel a more cerebral second half. A more cerebral fourth quarter. Today I thought they played with a much better mindset, they were much more aware how the game was going situationally and took advantage of the situations that were available."