By Erin Neri, GoPSUsports.com student staff writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Focusing on the positives from the season opener, Penn State men's lacrosse is ready to bounce back and take on Hobart this weekend.
Putting away 16 goals last weekend, there's plenty to be optimistic about, but The Nittany Lions were in an interesting position playing without a key veteran piece of their attack, missing an injured Grant Ament.
"With losing that big piece of our offense it was just important to really keep the confidence in the offensive group," senior captain Tanner Peck said. "We can do it, we have to work together as a six man unit and it's not just going to be one guy."
Bolstered by its senior leadership, the Nittany Lions made the most of a limited amount of practice time with their shifted lineup, with Penn State's off practice day typically falling on Thursday.
It was junior midfielder Nick Spillane who was called on to fill the missing piece of the lineup, playing alongside starters sophomore Mac O'Keefe and junior Matt Donnelly.
"Nicky has done a great job in his role over the past couple years as a midfielder and we have played him [at attack] in various situations over the last year," Penn State head coach Jeff Tambroni said. "He was the next best option for us."
As the next best option, it was a no-brainer for Tambroni and his staff when it came to who had the experience and the skill needed to get the job done.
"It wasn't like you were just replacing anyone, you were replacing our top goal scorer and we needed someone down there who could manage that with a little bit more maturity, manage the ball and complement Matt Donnelly and Mac O'Keefe," Tambroni said. "With the experience that Nicky has given us over the past few years, he was the clear cut and easy choice down there."
Although the jump from midfield to attack can be challenging for some, as Tambroni noted, Spillane has experience at the position, having also played there his whole high school career.
The New York native was actually recruited to Penn State as an attackman, but when the team had an overabundance at the position and needed middies, Spillane was more than willing to switch positions to help the team and see more time on the field. Now back on attack, Spillane does have to make some adjustments to get in the mindset of his new but old position.
"My role changed a little bit," Spillane said. "I would say I have to carry the ball a little bit more and be more of a presence consistently in our offense, which is ultimately the biggest difference between attack and midfield."
Spillane did just that Saturday, making his presence known to the defense, coming up with four shots on goal along with two goals to help to spark momentum.
Headed into this week's game, Spillane will be tested again against a difficult opponent in Hobart. The Blue and White registered a 21-15 win over the Statesmen last season, but Spillane noted they haven't played Hobart as well as they would have liked to in recent years.
Coming off a season-opening loss, the Nittany Lions will be going into the game looking to earn their first win in 2018.
"Coming off an opening week loss is pretty difficult and I've never experienced that as an upperclassman," Spillane said. "Hobart is a tough team they're going to come ready to play."