By Maria Canales, GoPSUsports.com student staff writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - For the first time in program history, Penn State men's lacrosse has gone undefeated in its nonconference schedule. Nine games down and the Nittany Lions have come out on top in all contests, with Saturday afternoon's 15-8 win against Cleveland State adding to the tally.
The Nittany Lions got off to a strong start, earning three goals in the first three minutes of the game. The talented trio on attack featuring freshman Mac O'Keefe, sophomore Grant Ament, and senior Nick Aponte, had a goal each in the scoring bout.
"I thought their focus coming out here today and the way they prepared in warm ups was dead on," head coach Jeff Tambroni said. "I thought we did a nice job of just getting prepared out here for all the right reasons."
Tambroni said one of the team's goals was to be prepared to compete from the starting whistle, and felt the team was able to perform when asked. However, he noted Penn State does need to work on developing more consistency before next weekend's Big Ten games.
"I thought there were just so many ebbs and flows emotionally," Tambroni said. "I thought we didn't hold our ground for longer stretches of time, which was a little disappointing, but it's something to build on. At the end of the day if you can just win a game and move on before you get into Big Ten, you've got to just take it."
Among the strong start for the Nittany Lions, for Tambroni, the highlight of the game was seeing players come off the bench and contribute.
"I think those guys, I mean everybody on the team just works so hard and I think these guys have to sit on the bench and on game day watch the others take those reps and get those opportunities," Tambroni said. "You can sense a genuine sense, a very authentic sense of appreciation when they make a play."
Two Nittany Lions able to add to the momentum on attack Saturday afternoon were freshman Conor Smith, who netted the 14th goal of the game, only his fourth of the season, as well as sophomore Jimmy Nowoswiat, netting his first goal of the season in the fourth quarter.
Tambroni also highlighted sophomore goaltender Trevor Scollins for making some great saves after he entered the game in the final 10 minutes of play.
"I think just the overall camaraderie in the locker room, that morale, that just really helps," Tambroni said. "It was nice that those other guys could give us at least a comfortable lead to get those other guys in there. I thought they did a great job when they were in there."
After their final nonconference game before heading into Big Ten action, the Nittany Lions are confident looking toward next weekend's tough matchup against Ohio State.
For Aponte, the Nittany Lions see their schedule as almost two separate seasons, divided in half between nonconference and Big Ten games. Looking at the schedule this way gives the team more perspective, as well as a clean mindset heading into league play."We start off 0-0 in the Big Ten, we have a lot of competition there that we're really excited about," Aponte said. "We have to start just like preseason, just get on it and see how far it takes us."