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Lions Look to Build on Historic Season

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By Maria Canales, GoPSUsports.com student staff writer

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Making its fourth NCAA postseason appearance in program history, seventh-seeded Penn State men's lacrosse's historic 2017 season came to a close in the first round of the tournament.

Equipped with multi-goal performances from arguably one of the top attack trios in the nation, Grant Ament, Mac O'Keefe and Nick Aponte combined for all eight goals, with Ament and O'Keefe scoring three apiece. 

For Towson head coach Shawn Nadelen, he knew coming into the matchup that the Tigers would likely meet their toughest attack of the season.

"We knew we were going to be challenged," Nadelen said. "It's hard to keep an attack like that at bay."

Without surrendering the lead until the midway point of the third quarter, Penn State battled from behind to tie the score at 7-7 early in the fourth quarter before Towson shifted the momentum and ran away with the win. 

Under the cloudy skies, the Nittany Lions lost to the Tigers 12-8, but as head coach Jeff Tambroni took just a moment to reflect postgame, there's still much to be proud of despite the final score. 

For Tambroni, Penn State lacrosse has plenty to build on and even more to look forward to in 2018. Proud of the progress the Nittany Lions have made throughout the last few seasons, it's what's still to come that will continue to drive motivation even with an unwelcome outcome.

"I'm excited about the future, I've got one on my left and one on my right here," Tambroni said, nodding to Ament and sophomore Chris Sabia. "They're going to be back for the next couple years and I'm hopeful that the sting of this game will help us look forward." 

Penn State returns several of its key contributors next season, including Ament who netted 30 goals this season in addition to O'Keefe. With a three-goal outing, O'Keefe set a single season program record with his 50th and 51st goals, surpassing a 60-year old record set by Bill Hess (49).

On the opposite end of the field, the Nittany Lions return freshman goaltender Colby Kneese, and important underclassmen defensemen in Sabia, Tommy Wright and Kevin Fox. Standout freshman faceoff man Gerard Arceri will also return next season. 

"It's obviously an exciting thing," Ament said. "We can learn from this, specifically Chris [Sabia] and I are going to be upperclassmen next year which is kind of scary to think of, but we're just excited, we have a lot of young guys who are excited to come back and grind in the fall, day in and day out, get better and hopefully we can get past this first round and more next year."

Among all of the optimism surrounding who's back and what's ahead, Tambroni, Sabia and Ament didn't end their media session without acknowledging the foundation for the success of the season - the senior class. 

"They've made the path for us, specifically with Nick [Aponte], I've learned so much from him," Ament said. "I've played alongside him the last two years, it's going to be sad to see him go but I know he left a great legacy that I think the entire offense can build off of." 

For Tambroni, the loss is just a little more bitter considering the impact the senior class has made on something a little more intangible, the culture of the program.

"They set a really high standard," Tambroni said. "In past years we've had some great kids that have done their very best to kind of push this thing forward and kind of taken incremental steps, and I think they've learned very well from the groups behind them, but then [this year's senior class] stood on top of that standard to try to raise the bar a little bit more."

Evident in the upward trajectory of the program even amidst the move to the Big Ten Conference, both Tambroni and the rest of the team are grateful for the positive leadership of such an impactful senior class.

Now ready to move forward with tremendous returning talent, that hunger to build on the strengths of the season and the foundation of those who have come before, the drive to reach the NCAA Tournament again for another shot will only grow stronger in time.

"This group that is coming back next year, the juniors, sophomores, and freshmen will learn from the optimism of [the senior class], the fun that these guys created," Tambroni said. "At the same time they worked really hard to get to that point and instill the sense of belief, the championship type culture that needed to be instilled here and I think is here now, we just have to take the ball and keep running with it."

Nittany Lions Ready for NCAA Tournament

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By Maria Canales, GoPSUSports.com student staff writer

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Penn State men's lacrosse head coach Jeff Tambroni addressed the media earlier this week ahead of the first Nittany Lion appearance in the NCAA Tournament since 2013. This will be Penn State's second appearance under Tambroni, and the fourth in program history, with the Nittany Lions securing the No. 7 overall seed.

"They had a goal coming in, back in the fall," Tambroni said. "To be here at this very moment, with an opportunity to compete and play in the playoffs."

Expanding on his statement, Tambroni noted the determination of this year's team has stemmed from the leadership of the senior class, specifically the example shown by senior captain Nick Aponte.

"They have done a wonderful job of just keeping us all on track," Tambroni said. "We've had our moments where I feel like we were really going in the right direction and some moments where I feel like we've gotten off track, but those guys have kept us focused the whole year."

Last year, Penn State concluded its season with a loss to Maryland in the Big Ten Tournament, marking a season where the Nittany Lions developed strength but opposing teams capitalized on areas for improvement. 

While Penn State ended the 2016 campaign with a winning record at 8-7, they worked hard in the months leading up to the 2017 season with a goal of playing in both the Big Ten Tournament and the NCAA Tournament as long-term goals. 

Undefeated in their nonconference schedule to start the 2017 slate, the Nittany Lions built on the early success of freshman attackman Mac O'Keefe, combined with the veteran presence of Aponte and sophomore attackman Grant Ament. Together, the trio has combined for nearly half of the team's 205 goals this season (97) with O'Keefe leading the way with 48 of his own. 

At the other end of the field, veteran defenseman Peter Triolo has provided a steady presence in front of freshman goaltender Colby Kneese, who earned the starting job earlier this season securing a .507 save percentage through 15 games. At midfield, Nittany Lions like Gerard Arceri and Billy Lombardi often do the dirty work to secure faceoff wins.

For Ament, this year's team has built great camaraderie, which is both important for the team's success early on, and continued success into the postseason.

"As time goes on our chemistry has grown," Ament said. "I think that's a big focal point for us."

As for last Sunday's selection show, senior midfielder Matt Florence said it was phenomenal seeing Penn State on the television screen, securing the No. 7 seed in the upcoming NCAA Tournament and another chance at a home outing Saturday against Towson.

"It was definitely exciting to hear," Florence said. "Just to have this tremendous opportunity presented to us, it definitely brings a smile to all the senior's faces knowing we have another game to play, another opportunity to continue our season, and really just strive for the goal we set out to accomplish all season." 

All About Details Ahead of B1G Championship

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By Maria Canales, GoPSUsports.com student staff writer

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Come Thursday, Penn State men's lacrosse (12-2, 3-2 Big Ten) is set to face Maryland once again this season, only this time in the first round of the Big Ten Tournament. The Nittany Lions earned the No. 4 seed in the tournament, while the Terrapins come in as the top seed. 

The last time the two teams met, Maryland came out on top with a 15-11 victory over the Nittany Lions. Despite the loss, the Nittany Lions are looking at this week's game with a new perspective and renewed confidence. 

"I think we've learned a lot from that time," head coach Jeff Tambroni said. "We lost a couple games to Maryland and Johns Hopkins, but then we won a couple of big games coming down the stretch. So I think this team is battle tested, not just physically but I think mentally, we're better prepared that if things don't go our way early I'm hopeful that we'll battle back." 

The tournament, which is being hosted by Ohio State, will be played at Jesse Owens Memorial Stadium, which is typically home to the Buckeye soccer programs. The grass field will provide a new challenge, as both Maryland and Penn State play on turf fields at home. 

"I think since both teams are field-turf teams, adjusting to grass is going to be a push," Tambroni said. "I don't think it will affect either team's advantage. It does take a little while to get used to it and having only two days, knowing we gave them [Monday] off because of exams and travel the day before, may not work in our favor but I think they'll adjust quickly."

The team will only have two days of practice on grass before Thursday's opening faceoff, but the Nittany Lions aren't too worried about an added challenge. 

"It's a little nicer on the knees," senior attackman Nick Aponte said. "It's just stuff like the ball kind of dies, it doesn't bounce that well, so it was great to practice on and I think the field [at Ohio State] is just like that. It's great to have that opportunity to play today and tomorrow before we get to Ohio State." 

Tambroni said he's looking for his team to make a few key improvements before Thursday too, specifically working on consistency in possession time. 

"There's a lot of different ways you can earn possessions, certainly the faceoff is the one that is going to highlight the majority of those possessions but ground ball plays, rides, clears, better possessions for us in the offensive end and eliminating careless turnovers," Tambroni said.

He expanded by explaining that Maryland exposed Penn State's weaknesses last time around, which allowed them to dominate possessions. Tambroni said that the team's likelihood of winning the first game in the tournament will go hand in hand with the small adjustments. With a victory on Thursday the Nittany Lions will either face No. 2 Ohio State or No. 3 Johns Hopkins in the Championship game Saturday.

"I think if we can just do a better job in each one of those areas, of just pushing the advantage towards Penn State, maybe just one in each one of those areas that makes a big difference, not just for offense but for defense," Tambroni said. "It gives them a chance to catch their breath against a really good offensive team, and it gives our offense another opportunity to be on the field."

Mentor Program Bringing Together Past and Present

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By Maria Canales, GoPSUsports.com student staff writer

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - The week of the Ohio State game in early April, Penn State men's lacrosse junior midfielder Ryan Keenan checked his email. "Play with an edge this week," read the text in his most recent email. It was from Joseph Staropoli, a former Penn State men's lacrosse student-athlete and Keenan's mentor.   

"Reading that was like, 'yes - we're playing Ohio State, we have to play with conviction, you're going to get your emotions up,' and knowing he was invested in how we worked through the week and not only the games, just shows how he knows what we're going through and what we're doing," Keenan said.

This academic year marks the first year head coach Jeff Tambroni, along with a board of Nittany Lion lacrosse alumni have implemented an alumni mentor program. In its current format, former Penn State men's lacrosse student-athletes get paired with a current Nittany Lion to guide them in handling all aspects of student-athlete life including internship searches or career path exploration.

The mentors often give feedback to their mentees regarding job interviews or help with cover letter and resume building. Mentors also provide networking assistance, connecting individuals in industries of interest, also serving as another outlet for student-athletes to seek advice.

Once an idea, the program is thriving in its first year, reaching sophomores, juniors, and seniors on the team. Next year's agenda even intends to expand to all classes. 

Although each Nittany Lion is paired with one mentor, since lacrosse is a relatively small community and many of the alumni either played together at Penn State or have crossed paths, it's common for several teammates and mentors to all become familiar faces.  

Sophomore midfielder Matt Donnelly said he and his mentor, Marty Coyle, see one another at games, but if Coyle can't make it he can count on other former players to always give him encouraging words of advice.

"When I first called my mentor it was just a typical introduction," Donnelly said. "He explained his experiences here, and basically he offered if I needed anything, roommates, something for school, something for lacrosse, he was all ears. He made it clear that he was someone who is here for me." 

Donnelly said it was very easy to connect with his mentor, noting that being from similar areas outside of Philadelphia, Coyle from Pennsylvania and Donnelly from southern New Jersey, gave both of them something instantly in common. 

"It was very easy to connect with him on breaks, Donnelly said. "I think that had a huge impact on why the coaching staff decided to pair me with him."

The coaching staff tries to pair the team with individuals who are located in similar areas, with similar career paths, or simply complimenting personalities.

Keenan and his mentor are both from Long Island, New York, but for Keenan, since they are both easygoing, it made the pairing a no-brainer. 

"He's just a great guy, it's awesome to have someone who really cares about how you're doing," Keenan said. "Someone just sending you a text or email saying good luck, or me calling him to talk, and sometimes seeing him after games, it's nice to have."

Donnelly and Keenan both said they speak to their mentors several times a week, especially during the season. Keenan said that Staropoli is very supportive, talking to him before and after games, always making the effort to provide uplifting words. 

"We also talk about everything outside of lacrosse as well," Keenan added. "He comes up a lot, he always comes to games. He's gotten to know my parents and sits with them during some of the games. It's pretty cool he's gotten to know not only me, but also my family." 

Penn State's mentor program isn't just a one-way street though. Several of the mentors themselves have said they've gained a lot from the experience. 

At the end of March, former Nittany Lions Rich Makover and Gary Martin, who both played for Penn State in the mid-80s and now serve as mentor program board members, came to Happy Valley to visit with the team. Together, they spoke with the team about how they have benefitted from the experience and where improvements can be made.

"The students have given us good feedback on what they want this program to provide for them," Martin said. "That's what we want as mentors."

Both Makover and Martin agreed that although the project was a little slow to get off the ground, they've seen the team excel both on and off the field because of the program in just the first year. 

"Really the stars of the show are the players, when you see them growing it's unbelievable," Makover said. "It's unbelievable to see the growth in their confidence and in their communication." 

Makover said that mentors often send emails or letters to one another bragging about their mentee and how they've done academically or on the field, noting that mentors keep up with not only the team's success, but individual athlete's successes too. 

Despite an age gap between mentors and mentees, the common bond of Penn State lacrosse bridges that gap and helps bring together decades of alumni with current student-athletes.

For Makover, he's thankful he has been a part of Penn State lacrosse not only as a student-athlete, but now an involved alumnus.

"I put a lot of time into this program, but I've gotten way more out of this than I put in, way more," Makover said. "This is highly rewarding for me personally. We all have busy jobs and busy lives but to really feel that you're giving back to something that, I believe I am who I am in large part because of playing lacrosse at Penn State, so to give back to that legacy is incredibly rewarding."

Arceri Guides Lions Back on Track

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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."

Lions To Honor 10 On Senior Day

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By Maria Canales, GoPSUsports.com student staff Writer

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Sunday marks the last guaranteed regular season home game for Penn State men's lacrosse's senior class. Despite the emotions that come with senior day festivities, the class of 2017 believes there are still many opportunities to make a lasting mark in the Blue and White.

Prior to the first faceoff, Nick Aponte, Tyler Chambers, Dan Craig, Matt Florence, Drake Kreinz, Billy Lombardi, Brian Prestreau, Matt Sexton, Mike Sutton, and Peter Triolo, will all be recognized for their contributions to the Nittany Lion lacrosse program. 

"This group has worked really hard," head coach Jeff Tambroni said. "I'm optimistic that their best is yet to come. I think if we look back at the past three and a half years, they've done some really nice things and helped change the culture of our program."

During their time as Nittany Lions, this senior class has made big strides in putting Penn State lacrosse on the map. Just last season, Penn State upset then-No. 1 Denver during a showdown in Dallas, Texas, showing the nation that the Nittany Lions are capable of playing alongside some of the most storied programs in collegiate lacrosse. That win is something senior midfielder Dan Craig said he'd never forget.

"That was a pretty cool feat that we got to accomplish," Craig said. "It was an amazing day, it was super sunny out and in a great location. It was a pretty fantastic win and I think that was our most complete game that we've played as a senior class."

This senior class also helped make history this season, helping the Nittany Lions earn their first ever No. 1 ranking earlier this month, storming out to an undefeated record in their non-conference slate. Despite these accomplishments and more, Tambroni said he feels there's so much the younger Nittany Lions can take away from this senior class that doesn't involve their winning record.

Tambroni emphasized that the underclassmen can model their compassion and drive after the 10 upperclassmen leaving the program in May, and says he's hopeful that through it all, the legacy of this class remains more than just wins and losses. 

"These guys came in and a lot of these guys played in their freshman year, but they've stuck together as a class," Tambroni said. "They lost a couple of their teammates in the sophomore and junior years but they've stuck together." 

Tambroni was reflective of the hardships this class has gone through also. 

"They were able to adopt a class that's gone through some tough times, both in their sophomore year when we had a losing record, that was a tough season to endure, and then the following year losing a teammate," Tambroni said. "They have fought back from great adversity." 

Senior midfielder Mike Sutton said he hopes that all the returners next year can take something from this senior class, including their leadership on and off the field. 

"Just looking back on it, we have a lot of guys who play," Sutton said. "If they can take a little bit of it, a little piece of what we do and add it to what they do next year I think that's one of the biggest things. Just using our leadership and building off of that, I think that would be huge for them."

Lions Look Toward Improvements

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By Maria Canales, GoPSUsports.com student staff writer 

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Despite a strong fourth-quarter effort, including five goals from the Nittany Lions in the final 15 minutes, Penn State men's lacrosse (10-2, 1-2 Big Ten) fell short against Johns Hopkins (7-4, 2-1 Big Ten), 13-11.

The Nittany Lions were down 10-5 at halftime and looking to spark a comeback. Freshman attackman Grant Ament started the Nittany Lion scoring streak in the fourth quarter, securing a goal only nine seconds in.

Ament, who earned his 100th career point during the Johns Hopkins game, is one of only two active Penn State lacrosse players to reach or be above the milestone. Fellow starter, senior attackman Nick Aponte has 124 points in his career.

With less than two minutes left, the Nittany Lions came within one goal of the lead, 12-11, but Johns Hopkins secured one final goal for the victory. Head coach Jeff Tambroni said he felt his team played with more heart in the fourth quarter than in the rest of the game, noting Johns Hopkins came out fighting for a win despite his team's best efforts. 

"We certainly knew both teams were going to come in here and put a great deal of emphasis on possession and possession time," Tambroni said. I think both [Penn State and Johns Hopkins] struggled against our previous opponents in the Big Ten and for whatever reason Johns Hopkins just imposed their will a little bit more so." 

Tambroni is now looking toward next week's outing against Rutgers, already knowing there needs to be a few changes if his team is going to come out on top. He's looking toward focusing more on the basics, making sure each possession is calculated and purposeful, as well as making sure transitional play remains consistent.   

For Tambroni, despite Penn State's late surge in the game, the Nittany Lions will also need to address a few problem areas that have been inhibiting the team's success lately. Tambroni said one of those areas is ground ball performance. The Nittany lions picked up 24 ground balls at Johns Hopkins, but Tambroni said there's always room for improvement. 

"Ground ball play just includes so many different things, picking the ball up off the ground takes courage especially in a crowd," Tambroni said. "But moving the ball from the point of the pick up and creating opportunity defensively, trying to create clears offensively, trying to create transition and I felt that's where we really struggled today."

Tambroni said he felt his team's efforts were respectable, but that Johns Hopkins just had the edge on Saturday afternoon. 

"We need to address it, we need to fix it, and the coaching staff needs to do a better job of preparing our team to just be a little bit more passionate, be a little bit more focused on that kind of stuff," Tambroni said. "So it'll definitely be a point of emphasis this week as we prepare for Rutgers."

Lions Getting Back on Track

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By Maria Canales, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Penn State men's lacrosse (10-1, 1-1 Big Ten) is keen to get back to its winning ways this weekend at Johns Hopkins (6-4, 1-1 Big Ten). Despite falling to Maryland (7-2, 2-0 Big Ten) last Saturday, the Nittany Lions have learned a lot from their first, and only, loss of the season. 

"I'm not sure we reserved enough preparation and confidence during the week of practice leading up to the Maryland game to get us over the hump," head coach Jeff Tambroni said. "Maryland is a good team, we certainly learned that over the course of the day, and it always felt like we were coming from behind, which is a challenging venture."

Tambroni noted the Nittany Lions could have done better in a few areas, namely ground balls. The Nittany Lions picked up only 16 ground balls against the Terrapins, compared to Maryland's 34. The previous week, Penn State picked up 34 in its first Big Ten win of the season against Ohio State.

Tambroni said he felt his team had also been extremely focused before facing the Buckeyes two weeks ago, but felt the Nittany Lions had been a little less intensive in practice for the Terrapins. For Tambroni, the key to success this weekend will be Penn State's ability to once again battle it out during the week and give 100 percent in the days leading up to Saturday 

"I think our guys have done a pretty good job at bouncing back and getting right back into a good mindset and having a focus for Johns Hopkins this week," Tambroni said." 

As for the Nittany Lions, senior and captain Nick Aponte said the attack needs to get back to the basics this weekend, focusing on quality of shots on net and communication on the field.

"We met with our leadership cabinet before [Monday's] practice and we kind of just said we need to do the simple things, but we've just got to do it harder," Aponte said. "That's our motto this week and just getting back to little stuff like ground balls and little details on every single play we make."

Aponte said that he and his fellow teammates can't simply save their energy for Saturday. Rather, they need to commit to every practice, even if it's tiring. He's looking toward every single member of the team, from starters to reserves, to be dedicated this week in practice before leaving for Baltimore. Aponte emphasized that this weekend's game will be a team effort. 

"Johns Hopkins just lost to Ohio State, so they're going to have a chip on their shoulder this weekend, we know that," Aponte said. "So we have to answer their attitude this week and we have to work a little bit harder. It's always great playing in Homewood, we always have great games when playing Johns Hopkins the last two years we went to overtime and double overtime, so we know it's going to be a good game."

Despite knowing the Blue Jays will come into the game determined to win, for Aponte, the Nittany Lions first and foremost need to focus on themselves and their game.

"Last week we focused a little too much on the weekend and weren't focused on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday," Aponte said. "So we have to focus on Penn State right now, and just preparing ourselves for Johns Hopkins and bringing everything we've got."

At Home in Happy Valley

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By Maria Canales, GoPSUsports.com student staff writer 

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - The summer before his senior year of high school, Penn State freshman goalie Colby Kneese had not yet committed to a particular collegiate program. At a tournament in Baltimore that June, Nittany Lion head coach Jeff Tambroni and his staff saw Kneese play, and knew Kneese could make an impact.

"We spoke back and fourth, had a visit with him over the course of the summer," Tambroni said. "It was late July or early August before his senior year that he made the decision to come to Penn State."

Kneese, who is a Dallas, Texas native, grew up in a lacrosse family. His grandfather played college lacrosse at Army and his uncle played at Navy. It was only natural that Kneese take up the sport around the age of six, finding a spot between the pipes as a goalie, the same position his grandfather played.

He quickly grew to love the sport and dedicated much of his young life to learning the game. In high school, Kneese earned All-State and Under Armour All-America honors in 2015. He also helped lead Highland Park High School to a state championship title in 2015.

After he corresponded with Tambroni in the summer of 2015, Kneese made his first trip to Penn State and immediately knew it was the place he wanted to spend his collegiate career. 

"I had always wanted to go to a big school," Kneese said. "I grew up going to University of Texas events because my whole family went there, so I liked the big school atmosphere, big football games and big athletics, and Penn State is also extremely respectable academically."

Since he was a bit of a later commit to his anticipated freshman class, Kneese had some catching up to do when it came to getting to know his future teammates. Upon arrival though, Kneese immediately forged friendships with guys in his freshman class, which made the transition from Texas to Pennsylvania much easier. 

Now having earned the starting spot between the pipes for the Nittany Lions, Kneese has settled in nicely behind a veteran defense that he says makes his job a lot easier.

"It's nice to know that the defensemen can handle some of the best attack players in the country," Kneese said. "I've definitely been getting more comfortable with the game setting and surroundings with my teammates and the defense," 

The defensemen feel similarly about Kneese's ability to do his job, knowing that the team's last line of defense has been so consistent this year for the Nittany Lions.

"It's nice to know that if I mess up or if someone misses something, or if someone shoots it, that there's a good chance of him saving it," sophomore defenseman Chris Sabia said.

With the pressure of his first Big Ten game out of the way, and his first conference win under his belt in last Sunday's win over Ohio State, Kneese is eager to get back out on the field and show more league opponents what he can do. 

This weekend, Penn State travels to Maryland for its first road conference game of the season, and first road game since March 11 at Harvard. The Nittany Lions look to remain undefeated, with Kneese coming off an outstanding Big Ten debut that including 13 saves and just four goals allowed for a .765 save percentage, earning him Big Ten Specialist and Freshman of the Week honors.

"You go into it with belief in your team because as of now we've done things pretty well and at a great pace," Kneese said. "We've trusted each other, and if we're all on the same page backing one another up, we haven't found a lot of teams that have given us trouble to possibly lose a game, because everyone's had each other's back."

Kneese, Defense Halt Buckeyes

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By Maria Canales, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Leading up to Sunday night, freshman goalkeeper Colby Kneese's preparation was locked on remaining focused and more determined than ever to be strong between the pipes. His preparation was on full display in the Big Ten opener, as Penn State men's lacrosse defeated Ohio State, 9-4, to remain unbeaten on the year at 10-0.   

"Coach really got on me about not taking a play off in practice," Kneese said. "He just stayed on me all week."

Visualizing every play in practice as a live scenario, Kneese prepped for the Buckeyes focusing his mind on the level of competition Ohio State would bring offensively. The mental preparation allowed him to come out strong from the start, blocking the first Ohio State shot on net to start the game. 

"I just thought he was really consistent tonight," head coach Jeff Tambroni said. "We weren't overly pleased with the effort we got last week and I feel Colby would be the first one to tell you he didn't play his best game. I thought he prepared really well in the middle to latter part of the week."

Both Tambroni and the staff had many conversations with Kneese leading up to Penn State's conference opener, all to help the freshman focus on the task at hand, letting him know the Nittany Lion defense would be there to help in his first Big Ten game. Kneese made 13 saves against the Buckeyes, securing a .765 save percentage on the night. 

"I thought [Kneese] was surrounded by a group of defenders who really just competed with a ton of heart tonight," Tambroni said. "They've taken a lot of abuse in terms of where they stand statistically this year and I thought they really stood up and stood the test of a very good offensive team with a lot of weapons." 

The defense in front of Kneese also put on a show. Holding the Buckeyes scoreless for more than 37 minutes spanning as many as three quarters, the Penn State defense combined for what Tambroni says, is without a doubt, the best performance all season.

"I think we just finally played a full 60-minute lacrosse game," senior defenseman Peter Triolo said. "We knew we have all the components to be a successful team, and a top tier team in the NCAA."

For Triolo, it was a team effort that propelled the Nittany Lions past the Buckeyes, without a single Nittany Lion effort left unnoticed. Senior defensive midfielder Drake Kreinz added that the win was the culmination of each and every one of the Nittany Lions putting in the work during practice.

"It's easy to do you job when the guys around you are doing their jobs," Kreinz said. "It's easier to do you job when the preparation started Tuesday and they were just knock-out, drag-out practices. The scout guys were doing their job giving us unbelievable looks. So when it came to game day it was easy to execute based on our preparation from that week." 

Kreinz also made an appearance at the faceoff "x," earning four faceoff wins as well as goal to start the third quarter, sparking a 5-1 second-half scoring streak that lifted the Nittany Lions to a 9-4 decision at the final horn.

"I'm just really proud of these two guys in particular," Triolo said of Kneese and Kreinz. "And our entire defense, our entire offense, and our entire team even from the guys on the sidelines played a full 60-minute game, competed our butts off the entire time and it was great to see."

@GOPSUSPORTS

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