By Michael Renahan, GoPSUsports.com
Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - With former players from the 1950s to as recent as 2011 looking on, the Penn State Nittany Lions beat the Drexel Dragons, 13-6, at the Penn State Lacrosse Field Saturday afternoon to extend their winning streak to six-straight games.
Last season the Dragons knocked the Nittany Lions out of postseason contention with a 13-11 win in University Park. The team circled this matchup after the loss, and while this win does not secure a postseason bid, it does have a little more meaning to it.
No. 13 Penn State dominated early, outshooting No. 12 Drexel 23-11 in the first half, but only led the Dragons by one. The Nittany Lions had forced their opponent into more turnovers, and they seemingly played the entire first half in Drexel's defensive zone.
But only one goal separated the conference foes.
The Two Colonial Athletic Association rivals matched up well heading into the game. Both have been riding winning streaks, the Nittany Lions at five and Drexel at four and both were undefeated in conference play.
Early in the game, Penn State (8-3, 3-0) and Drexel (8-3, 3-1) took advantage of the offensive opportunities they had, but stellar goalkeeper play from the Nittany Lion's Austin Kaut and the Dragon's Cal Winkelman kept the game tight.
"They're a great shooting team, as you saw, they had a bunch of great shots, but we just locked it down and communicated on defense and made sure we played our brand of lacrosse, and that's what we did." Kaut said.
Kaut was the focal point of a defense that held the Dragons to six goals under their season average. They forced Drexel into a rare 13 turnovers and he turned away 13 shots to secure the win.
The junior entered the game ranked No. 14 in the nation giving up just under eight goals a game. He showed again why he is a top 15 goalie in the country. During the team's six game winning streak, Kaut has allowed just 28 goals and made 84 saves.
Despite just a one-goal lead at halftime, the Nittany Lions started the third quarter with new energy, new focus and dominated the Dragons. Penn State outscored Drexel 5-1, including four in a row, to end the period and take a commanding 9-4 lead.
"We just went in at half and knew we had to come out firing. We had to bring up the energy and that's what we did and the balls went into the net, it worked out for us," freshman attackman T.J. Sanders said.
Sanders, along with senior attackman Jack Forster, led Penn State with four goals each. It marked Forster's 11th career hat trick and kept his 23-game point streak going. Although he is just a freshman, Sanders is well aware of the season ending loss to Drexel a year ago.
"They knocked Penn state out of the playoffs last year and we ended up not making the NCAA tournament so that was a big game. We definitely used that as some motivation today," Sanders said.
Sanders has been a huge part of Penn State's offensive success. He currently ranks No. 2 among freshman with 2.4 goals per game. He leads the Nittany Lions with 28 goals this season.
Penn State was able to break down the Dragon's defensive zone with quick passes and an aggressive gameplan. The Nittany Lions capitalized on Drexel's defense and showcased their offensive abilities in the win.
"Against the zone I thought we just moved a little bit better. I thought they did a good job early, going into the zone, which they've done in each game that they've competed and played against when they've gone down," coach Jeff Tambroni said. "I thought we just competed a little bit more, which we didn't do against this team last year."
The Nittany Lions had seven players record a goal on Saturday, matching a season high.
Riley Lasda netted his first of the season and the bench exploded in celebration. Along with Lasda, Forster and Sanders, Shane Sturgis, Gavin Ahern, Tom LaCrosse, and Nick Dolik scored for Penn State.
Tambroni remembers last season's game with Drexel well and was pleased his team was able to beat the Dragons, especially in front of all the alumni.
"I say to our guys you can't change the past and I'm not sure we want to. It's made us who we are today. There has been some very difficult time in our past, certainly in my short tenure, two and a half years, there have been some very difficult moments but we have considered it adversary and I love the way our guys fight back after losses against teams the year prior. It's a little consolation because we can't go back and put that bid in for the playoffs," Jeff Tambroni said.
Penn State celebrated its 100th year of lacrosse on Saturday. Players from the 1950s to 2011 were honored during a halftime celebration. Each decade of lacrosse received an ovation from the crowd commemorating their Penn State careers.
"It's great to represent the brand of lacrosse that they made in those 100 years and were really proud to have them come back and support us," Kaut said.
"I think they had the significance of the 100-year celebration and the alumni that came back today. It added a little pressure, I would imagine, to our guys, but it adds a little bit of significance to this win having [the alumni] alongside of us," Tambroni said.
The win was the Nittany Lions' sixth in a row. During the streak they have outscored their opponents 58-29. A crowd of 1,007 fans came out to support the team on a sun-splashed afternoon, marking a new facility record.
The team now turns their attention to a showdown against conference foe Towson. That game gets underway at the Penn State Lacrosse Field this Saturday, April 13, at 1 p.m.
Recently in Men's Lacrosse Category
By Michael Renahan, GoPSUsports.com
Student Staff Writer
By Pat White, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. -- The No. 16 Penn State men's lacrosse team (6-3, 2-0 CAA) is beginning to look like a well-oiled machine coming off a dominating 11-3 road performance against Bucknell on Tuesday.
During a rollercoaster stretch to begin the season, Penn State struggled to balance out its play as a team. If the offense was clicking, the defense would struggle. If the defense was shutting down the opposing defense, the offense would sputter. Head coach Jeff Tambroni's concern throughout the season has been second-half play.
In the victory against Bucknell, it all seemed to come together. Tambroni said his team played the best 60-minute lacrosse game since the second game of the season in a win against Denver.
"In the second half our team did a good job led by our seniors and captains of just resetting the energy button," Tambroni said. "The second half has been our Achilles heel and our captains pulled the team together before the third quarter, and communicated to them with a very passionate speech. I thought they responded very well."
Finishing games strong has been a struggle for the Nittany Lions, especially on the offensive end. That trend changed with eight second half goals against the Bison, including five in the final stanza.
"The key was that they continued to grind through the course of the game and it finally broke through against a very talented Bucknell team," Tambroni said. "That is what we've been missing in several of the last few contests."
The defense also gave its best effort of the season. Freshman defender James Burke (Duxbury, Mass.) played a strong game, scooping two ground balls and causing two of the team's 14 caused turnovers.
"Our captains really kept the energy up going into the second half," Burke said. "For them to do that made it easier on us. It just kind of went through the team, from the kids on the field and on the bench."
Burke has added depth to the defensive unit as freshman, and is a key cog in the rotation. He said that the upperclassmen have helped him get acquainted with the system and more comfortable with the unit.
"We're just working off of one another well," Burke said. "We changed up some things here and there. Together as players we have built up together and created some chemistry on defense and it's really paying off."
The Penn State defense threw everything but the kitchen sink at Bucknell on Tuesday. They mixed in a nice variety of man and zone defense to shut down a prolific Bucknell offense. Junior goalie Austin Kaut (Morton, Pa.) was brilliant once again, making 14 saves and completing 18 of 22 clear attempts. Kaut has been the rock of the defense, but Tambroni credits his defenders for making Kaut's job easier.
"Austin has been more consistent as of late, but you can credit the whole defense," Tambroni said. "We have given up lower percentage shots for Austin to make saves. I hope it will be a momentum builder. So much changes from game to game. I believe our guys realize how important each day of practice is."
Penn State finishes up a daunting stretch of six games in 22 days on Saturday with a road matchup against Villanova (2-5, 1-0 Big East). Tambroni has been impressed with his team's poise and focus during the busy month of March with less practice time than usual.
"Not only have we played four games in 11 days, but we played three of them on the road at tough places to play," Tambroni said. "To the credit of our guys, they have handled it well, both the stretch and the travel. We would like to finish it off against Villanova."
Despite its record, Villanova is not a team to take lightly. All five of Villanova's losses were to ranked opponents and the Wildcats are coming off of an 11-10 victory over then-No. 4 Syracuse at home last weekend. Villanova has played six ranked teams so far this season and competed well in each contest.
Last season, Penn State defeated Villanova 13-8 in Happy Valley to improve to 15-3 all-time against the Wildcats. Although Penn State may be the better team on paper, Villanova is a dangerous team and will not be an easy opponent for Penn State.
Villanova features a high-powered offense that averages 10.14 goals per game. The Wildcats like to play an up-tempo game and have the offensive depth to do so. They are led on offense by Jack Rice and Mike Hart. Rice is the finisher on the attack with 14 goals, including two against Syracuse. Faceoff man Thomas Croonquist is winning 60.1 percent of his faceoffs and will give Danny Henneghan (Blooming Hills, Mich.) a tough challenge at the X on Saturday.
Penn State's offense faces a unique and aggressive Villanova defense. Although giving up 11.29 goals per game, the lack of practice time during the short week to prepare makes game planning difficult. Tambroni said he is focusing his team on playing Penn State lacrosse.
"We have a lot of respect for what they've done as a staff and a team," Tambroni said of Villanova. "We're trying to do the best we can in a short week of preparation to tie up the loose ends in the game plan."
The Nittany Lions will travel to Villanova on Saturday for a 7 p.m. faceoff.
By Pat White, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. -- No. 16 Penn State (5-3, 2-0 CAA) pushed its winning streak to three with a 9-2 home victory over Saint Joseph's on Saturday.
The Nittany Lion offense exploded in the first half and gave goalkeeper Austin Kaut (Morton, Pa.) and the defense a seven goal cushion going into halftime. Jack Forster (Jenkintown, Pa.), Shane Sturgis (Downingtown, Pa.) and Tom LaCrosse (Canandaigua, N.Y.) paced the team with two goals each.
For the most part of the season, the attack for Penn State has been the catalyst for the team's success. As of recently, the midfield has joined in on the action and has brought production that has the offense looking like a well-oiled machine. Against the Hawks, it was the defense's time to shine.
The two goals allowed by Penn State are the fewest they have allowed in a game so far this season. Sophomore defender JP Burnside (Garden City, N.Y.) said that it was the defenses mistakes in the beginning of the season that cost the Nittany Lions some games. They practiced last week with more intensity and attention to details.
"That three-game losing streak we kind of blamed ourselves," Burnside said. "In practice we have been going through a lot of details and forcing the offense to make some decisions. We want to focus on details and covering up the inside."
The defense has been susceptible around Kaut's crease and has given up easy shots from in tight. Burnside said there has been a change to more adjacent slides that force the offense to make more passes and take more outside shots.
Penn State's stingy defense has allowed only 14 goals in the past three games. Kaut has been the anchor for defense, making nine saves against Saint Joe's. Head coach Jeff Tambroni appreciates having a great backstop to take pressure off the defense.
"At times he will make our defense look a little better and clean up some of the mistakes we made defensively," Tambroni said. "I thought they did a great job. They did a good job of pushing transition as well."
Aside from being calming to the defense, Kaut also provides the offense with stability and the confidence to be aggressive when attacking, according to attackman TJ Sanders (Orillia, Ont.)
"Austin is always great," Sanders said. It's nice knowing he's back there because it's some security for the offense. We can take some chances because we know he is going to make some big saves during the game."
Kaut wasn't the only player affecting the team's offense. Sophomore defender Jack Donnelly (Toronto, Ont.) found a loose ball in the open field and ran down to score the first goal of his career. Burnside was on the sideline for a rest when he saw his roommate bolt up field with wide eyes fixed on the goal.
"Right when he picked up the ball, I knew it was his chance," Burnside said. "I was yelling 'shoot it, shoot it.' For a defenseman to run up and score is pretty rare. The sideline erupted. I'm sure he'll be bragging about it a little bit."
Tambroni is still searching for better second half showings from his team. The pace was slow and Penn State seemed to take its foot off the gas down the stretch, which led to two Saint Joe's goals late in the game.
"I'm proud that our guys have rallied from three straight losses to three straight wins," Tambroni said. "If we are going to be more consistent, as a staff and as a team, we have to work a little bit harder during the course of the game."
The Nittany Lions now put their three-game winning streak on the line with a road match against No. 7 Bucknell (8-1) on Tuesday. The Bison have defeated four ranked opponents including a road win at No. 2 Cornell on Mar. 19 and No. 20 Albany on Saturday.
Bucknell plays lock-down defense allowing only 7.56 goals per game. The Bison have stellar man-down defense, allowing just four goals on 27 opportunities and are adept at forcing turnovers.
On offense, Bucknell is led by midfielder David Dickson, who has 34 points, 29 of which are helpers. He facilitates an offense with five players with at least 25 points. Thomas Flibotte leads the team with 25 goals, followed by attackman Todd Heritage with 22 scores.
Bucknell also utilizes a 10-man ride, something Penn State saw against Saint Joe's on Saturday. The ride brings the goalie out to play an opposing attackman and forces the play down the middle of the field. Kaut had success in the first half, but clearing the ball was more difficult in the second half.
"[Saint Joseph's] push up an attackman and bring a defenseman up to cover the midline," Kaut said. "Bucknell has a 10 man ride so we have to make the simple plays. We have to come out Tuesday and go back to work."
Tambroni didn't think he team handled the ride very well, but it is something the team will work on in practice.
"It is an adjustment...it's not something we see every day," Tambroni said. "I'm glad that we had to prepare for it this week because Bucknell will do it quite a bit and it gives us a head start on that preparation."
By Pat White, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. -- No. 17 Penn State men's lacrosse (4-3, 1-0 CAA) will host CAA opponent Saint Joseph's (4-4) at 1 p.m. on Saturday at the Penn State Lacrosse Field.
The Nittany Lions are searching for their third consecutive win after defeating UMass on Saturday (March 16) and Binghamton on Tuesday. Head coach Jeff Tambroni was happy with his team's focus after a seven hour trip to UMass and also traveling Tuesday to Binghamton.
"I was extremely pleased and impressed with the way our guys came off of the bus and played," Tambroni said. "Driving up the same day and then asking to compete at the Division I level is not easy. I thought it was a good sign of maturity by our team."
Tambroni was also encouraged by the emergence of senior Nick Dolik (Bloomfield Hills, Mich.), who has scored four goals in his last two games, including a hat trick in the second quarter against Binghamton. After not scoring in the Penn State's opening six games of the season, Dolik came out of his shell and into the zone the past two outings.
"In terms of his contributions against UMass we were very impressed," Tambroni said. "Against Binghamton, he was our best offensive player. It's nice to see him play with the confidence he has in the past couple of weeks. He has not wavered even during his scoring slump."
Dolik said that the midfield as a whole is more confident within the offense now that the season has gotten into full swing. He is shooting the ball better and is a major threat in the offensive end. He looks for the midfield to carry over that recent success against the Hawks.
"I think we need to keep dodging with conviction and not being scared to make a play," Dolik said. "We have to keep working hard and play as a unit out there. It's not just one guy; it takes a whole team effort."
Tambroni hopes the recent success of the midfielders will inject some confidence throughout the entire unit. While the midfield was a bright spot, third-quarter letdowns still haunt the Nittany Lions. Penn State surrendered four goals to the Bearcats on Tuesday, an aspect Dolik said the team needs to focus on.
"We had a pretty good first half and then came out flat in the third quarter and didn't shut the door in Binghamton," Dolik said. "We were hoping to come out a little bit stronger in the second half than we did. That is something we need to improve on."
Penn State is starting to find some rhythm on the defensive end. Junior defender Steve Bogert (Carlsbad, Calif.) said the team has been efficient in their film and scouting of Saint Joe's during the week. Practicing and preparing with energy is the key going into the matchup this weekend.
"We've done a good job of getting back to the point that we were at in the beginning of the season playing team defense and good communication," Bogert said. "Now we are stringing it back together with a couple of wins. It has to continue throughout the season starting Saturday."
The Hawks are coming off of a 12-7 victory against Marquette at home last Saturday. They are 0-3 on the road this season, and 0-5 all-time against Penn State, including a 7-3 loss last season. Despite the numbers being Penn State's favor, Bogert said that Saint Joseph's is not a team to take lightly.
"It's a league game so you know it's going to be a blue-collar type of atmosphere," Bogert said. "We are going to come out focused and ready to play."
The Hawks are a dangerous team because they play a unique style that the Nittany Lions haven't seen yet this season, according to Tambroni. Their pressure on rides and zone defense are two aspects that Penn State has been game planning for during a short week of practice.
Although Saint Joseph's is winless on the road, Happy Valley has not been kind to Penn State so far this season. The Nittany Lions are 0-2 at home, both 10-9 overtime losses to Notre Dame and Ohio State. Tambroni hopes the team can change its fortunes.
"Our track record on the road is better than it is at home," Tambroni said. "We just have to secure our home field better than we have in the past... It will be nice in terms of wear and tear on our guys and allowing them to sleep in their own beds and focus."
Dolik said he likes playing on the road because he thinks the team focuses better and gives them an opportunity to bond. That said, as a senior, he wants to get some momentum established on home field.
"We're excited to play in front of our home crowd and hopefully get a win on our field," Dolik said. "We have to come out energized and enthusiastic."
Saint Joseph's depends on solid defense (8.25 goals allowed per game) and its man-up unit (34.5 percent). While Penn State boasts a prolific offense (10.29 goals per game) the man-up unit has struggled, scoring only six goals on 21 opportunities. Tambroni said the man-advantage unit is moving the ball well, but just isn't burying shots.
"Our guys are getting in good spots on the field," Tambroni said. "We've gone back to the basics and taken time in practice working on shooting and stick work. We just have to do a better job of putting the ball away when opportunities arise."
By Pat White, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. -- Penn State men's lacrosse (3-3, 1-0 in CAA) snapped a three-game losing streak with a 7-5 victory at UMass on Saturday.
The offense has been led by the attack so far this season, but it was the midfielders that shined in the victory against UMass.
Senior Nick Dolik (Bloomfield Hills, Mich.) scored his first goal of the season and sophomore Kyle Zittel (Eden, N.Y.) added his fourth. Junior Kyle VanThof (Penfield, N.Y.) scored the eventual game-winning goal in the fourth quarter. Dolik said it felt good breaking the ice with his first goal, but it was even better seeing the midfielders step up.
"It was good to take some pressure off of our attack," Dolik said. "They have been shouldering the load and in order to be success on offense you have to balance your scoring. It was good to get some production from the midfield. Hopefully it continues and we keep the offense going."
Senior Jack Forster (Jenkintown, Pa.) scored four goals for the Nittany Lions. Penn State attackmen have now scored 45 of the teams 61 goals. The midfield accounted for three goals, three assists and corralled 10 of Penn State's 18 ground balls in the game. Zittel said that the team was determined to get the win at UMass, and the middies were focused on making an impact on the game.
"We were getting harped on a little through the week," Zittel said. "Seeing the wealth spread throughout the lines was good especially in a low scoring game. It was definitely influential in our win."
VanThof's game-winning goal gave the team momentum with 5:54 left in the fourth quarter. The shot timer was on and VanThof said he just put the ball on cage and it went in. The midfielders were challenged by the coaching staff to step up their play and VanThof came up big down the stretch.
"We always try to settle for the best shot and not the first shot," VanThof said. "We are trying to get our midfielders to do that more."
Head coach Jeff Tambroni was pleased with the way the midfielders came to play and hopes it is a sign of things to come. He said that they need to continue to assert themselves, but the midfielders are becoming more of a factor in the offense.
"They have to have a little bit more confidence and dodge with a little bit more conviction," Tambroni said. "It was an incremental step, but a very important step to get more production from the midfield and take some pressure off the attack."
Last week, Tambroni said that his team wasn't making critical plays to finish out games. Against UMass, Penn State picked up three ground balls, forced a penalty and had a key clear in the last two minutes that helped seal the win.
"We have been in situations where we hadn't finished games before," Dolik said. "We had the extra focus, knowing that we'd been there before. It was awesome to finish the game with some ground balls."
Besides the encouraging play from the midfielders, Tambroni said that getting back in the win column could go a long way for the Nittany Lions.
"We need to take a little bit of confidence with us," Tambroni said. "Sometimes when you win, you just feel that you are playing better as an individual. We just have to start building a little bit more momentum and hopefully that will help us in this three game stretch."
Dolik said that while the win over UMass was a big one for the team, they need to forget about it and focus on the next task, a road matchup with Binghamton on Tuesday.
The Bearcats (3-3) are coming off of a 13-6 victory against Manhattan. Penn State won its only game against Binghamton, 9-7, in 2011, Tambroni's Penn State debut.
Tambroni and his players preached that efficiency in film and practice would be crucial in preparing for the two games this week. Tambroni wants to give his players a rest, but still wants them to stay sharp in preparation for Binghamton, without looking ahead to CAA opponent St. Joseph's on Saturday.
"Hopefully we just go up there and take care of business," Tambroni said. "Right now it's worrying more about Penn State than our opponents. We have to make sure that we block off each game and not look too far ahead."
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. -- It has been a season of streaks for the Penn State men's lacrosse (2-3) so far in 2013. The No. 18 Nittany Lions look to get back in the win column with trip to Amherst to face No. 19 UMass (3-3) on Saturday to open CAA conference play.
Penn State is coming off of its third-straight loss against Lehigh last Saturday. Senior midfielder Travis Crane (Parkville, Md.) said that the team has to put the focus on playing well in the CAA and not about the national rankings.
"Starting the CAA 1-0 is the focus and to get back on a winning streak," Crane said. "We want to improve all this week and then the result will take care of itself."
CAA play will be critical for the Nittany Lions, and UMass poses the tallest task right from the jump. Not only are the Minutemen reigning CAA conference champions, but they also defeated the Nittany Lions 9-8 in overtime last season in Happy Valley. Senior attacker Jack Forster (Jenkintown, Pa.) said there is a little extra fire coming into the game.
"It's our first CAA game it's a huge game coming up," Forster said. "Especially because [UMass] beat us at home the past two games in overtime. It's a little added motivation."
Head coach Jeff Tambroni isn't changing anything tactically or with personnel for the matchup with UMass. He said the factor missing the recent three-game slide is the ability to make key plays down the stretch.
"It has nothing to do with our effort or our talent," Tambroni said. "It has a lot to do with playing in the moment and with enough discipline, especially when the game gets tight, to provide us an opportunity to win games."
An encouraging sign for Penn State against Lehigh was its resiliency to battle back after trailing 5-1 at halftime. That resiliency to battle back must be on display against a UMass, especially on the defensive end late in games. The Penn State defense has given up 30 goals in the second half compared to 18 in the first.
"We're a resilient group, but we need to focus on finishing games," Crane said. "We put ourselves in positions to be successful. Now it's just about making plays in the moment at the end of games."
UMass is currently on a three-game losing streak, as well. After impressive victories against No. 4 North Carolina and Harvard, the Minutemen face the same challenges as the Nittany Lions.
The UMass offense is feeling the loss of 2012 USILA All-American and CAA Player of the Year senior Will Manny, who was injured in the victory against North Carolina. The diminutive attackman was the catalyst of the Minuteman attack, scoring 44 goals and dishing out 33 helpers in 2012.
The Minutemen score by committee, unlike Penn State's attack-driven offense. Five players have tallied double-digit points, led by senior attackman Kyle Smith with 15 points.
Penn State's attack trio continues to rack up the points, scoring 41 of the team's 54 goals this season. Freshman TJ Sanders (Orillia, Ont.) continues to impress, scoring five goals in each of his last two games. The three-time CAA Rookie of the Week leads Penn State with 18 goals.
"For a freshman he plays with such tremendous poise," Tambroni said of Sanders. "He is an extremely passionate and fiery young man. He is so invested in his teammates with the way he studies the game. Everything he does is about putting our team in a position to win.
On the defensive end, Penn State's experience between the pipes is an advantage. Junior Austin Kaut (Morton, Pa.) continues to look strong for the Nittany Lions, and is now 98 for 105 on clears this season.
UMass boasts freshman Zach Oliveri in net, who hasn't played like a rookie so far this season. The Ronkonkoma, N.Y. native is 21st in the NCAA with a 8.91 goals-against average and fourteenth in save percentage posting a .579.
The two CAA foes are similar in a variety of ways this season. Crane said that the two teams have a mutual respect for one another, and they are both going to come out hard to open up conference play.
"We try and take every game one at a time," Crane said. "When you play a CAA opponent you know it is going to be a dogfight. This being the first game, there is a little bit more incentive to start off 1-0 in the CAA."
Tambroni doesn't want to dub Saturday's matchup as a must-win game because it is still so early in the season. He knows his team can play better, and with more urgency in practice, the success will come.
"We have to keep grinding and that the mindset of the group is that every game is a winnable situation and a 'must win,'" Tambroni said. "I think these guys are competitive as a group and they know what's on the line."
UMass is Penn State's fifth-consecutive ranked opponent. The Minutemen lead the all-time series 10-4. The game will be play on Saturday at 12 p.m. at Garber Field in Amherst, Mass.
By Pat White, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. -- Lacrosse is considered a niche sport because of how minute details can affect the outcome of a game. It is not a sport purely dictated on speed and athleticism. There are many games-within-the-games in lacrosse that makes every matchup exciting.
One of the most critical, but sometimes overlooked, aspects of lacrosse is a faceoff. Possessing the ball is the only way of having a chance to score and assuring the other team doesn't. While Head coach Jeff Tambroni is still searching for consistency in all aspects of his team's game, he said that faceoffs are one of the main positives in the early season.
Senior midfielder Danny Henneghan (Beverly Hills, Mich.) has shouldered the load on faceoffs so far this season, taking 117 of Penn State's 118 draws. His .598 winning percentage is ranked twelfth in the nation among his fellow faceoff men.
"When he's been on, he has been really in the zone," Tambroni said. "He has given us ample opportunity to be successful as a team and has worked so hard this year alongside the other faceoff guys. He seems to be having a lot more fun this season."
Henneghan attributes his success to increased reps, both on and off the practice field. The healthy competition with his teammates while practicing faceoffs has helped prepare him for game days. The preparation has helped him so much that Henneghan feels his greatest competition comes on the practice field.
"The biggest help is the guys that are taking faceoffs with me," Henneghan said. "It's gotten to the point where the guys I'm practicing against, in my opinion, are better than the guys I'm going up against in the actual games. When it's time for the game it feels a little bit easier because they are so good in practice."
Competition in faceoff practice is nothing new to Henneghan. His brother, Charley, also went to Penn State and was a fellow faceoff man. Henneghan said that they started playing lacrosse at the same time and would practices draws in their backyard. It would be the start of successful careers for the Henneghan brothers.
"It almost natural because the first time I ever picked up a lacrosse stick, I was doing faceoffs," Henneghan said. "That was my first exposure I ever had to the whole sport. That's where I started and I had an older brother to practice against, so that played a major role."
Henneghan said that thorough preparation and a strong mentality play key roles in faceoffs. He said that "faceoffs are a game within the game" and that he scouts his faceoff combatant as much as the team scouts the opposition.
"I like to find out what they do specifically so I can see how I've done against their move," Henneghan said. "If I had the opportunity to go against the guy in years past, it helps me know if what I do will be successful."
Henneghan brings a sort of swagger to the faceoff X, and is confident that he can beat is man on every draw. The extra work this season and support of his teammates has helped him gain confidence.
"A big part is knowing that you will beat the other guy in every faceoff," Henneghan said. "This is the first year where I've kind of had that edge. The extra practice has paid off in that area."
Every faceoff man has a go-to move. Henneghan's is a pinch and pop, where he clamps down on the ball with the head of his stick and pulls the ball forward. He said it was the first move he learned and that he has been doing it since high school.
The pinch and pop is an offensively minded move that sparks transition is won cleanly. Penn State has relied heavily on transition this year, and Henneghan plays a major role. Penn State's attackers have been lighting the lamp at an incredible pace so far this season, and Henneghan feels his job becomes more important to the success of the offense.
"They finish on a lot of their chances," Henneghan said of the attack, "and it makes it more important for me to have a successful move because if I can consistently push the ball forward, it's going to lead to more goals."
By Pat White, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. -- No. 8 Penn State men's lacrosse (2-2) dropped its second-consecutive overtime game 10-9 against No. 16 Ohio State on Saturday at the Penn State Lacrosse Field.
After a slow first quarter that saw both teams trading blows in a 2-2 tie, Penn State's offense took form and unleashed a rally of goals. The offense went silent in the second half and could not muster the same flow as the first half. Head coach Jeff Tambroni said it is still early in the season and this is a good learning experience for his team.
"We came out strong in the first half, but this is three games in a row that we haven't been able to finish games," Tambroni said. "It's disappointing. We have some quality leaders here and we had opportunities to put this game away in the third quarter."
The Lions were backed behind five goals from freshman TJ Sanders (Orillia, Ont.). Sanders continues to build on his hot start to the season and now has 13 goals in four games this season. His 15 points are tied for the team lead with red-shirt senior Jack Forster (Jenkintown, Pa.). Forster scored a goal against the Buckeyes and added three assists.
The offense struck early and often in the second quarter and from a variety of ways. Sanders scored three of his five goals in a four minute stretch, all coming from inside five yards of the crease. His most impressive goal actually came on a play made by junior goalkeeper Austin Kaut (Morton, Pa.).
The Buckeyes ran an aggressive ride that pulled their midfielders and defense higher toward the offensive zone to force a turnover. Forster was left unguarded at his attacking restraining line and Kaut fired a missile that was right on the money. Forster made a quick pass to Sanders who threw a few fakes at Ohio State keeper Greg Dutton before scoring.
Despite the offensive outburst from Sanders, the freshman said it doesn't mean much to him because the team let the game slip away.
"Scoring five goals is great but it doesn't matter than much when we lose the game," Sanders said. "Winning is the most important stat. We played really well in the first half and the second half we were pretty stagnant. They made adjustments and we didn't adjust to their energy."
Junior Kyle VanThof (Penfield, N.Y.) continued his consistency as a depth scorer with a second quarter goal. VanThof dodged down the left and cut to middle, freed his hands and ripped an overhand shot that beat Dutton high.
VanThof's classmate Tom LaCrosse (Canandaigua, N.Y.) netted his sixth goal of the season during the streak and provided a dodging presence that opened up some space in the Ohio State zone defense.
Ohio State's zone defense kept the Nittany Lion offense in check in the second half and they came out with more energy in the second half. Junior Shane Sturgis (Downingtown, Pa.) scored in the fourth quarter, his first goal in seven quarters, to tie the game at 9-9.
Tambroni said that his team played too tentatively in the second half and they need to work on being more poised on offense to get better shots. He also credit's Ohio State for its resiliency and perseverance to fight back.
"If they can claw back from 8-2 and have a lot of energy coming out in the second half, they probably deserve to win," Tambroni said. "I think their goalie played well in the second half."
Tambroni will give his troops some much needed rest before preparing for a date with No. 19 Lehigh on Saturday in the Whitman's Sample Independence Classic at PPL Park in Chester, Pa.
By Pat White, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. -- Penn State men's lacrosse (2-1) aims to keep the Creator's Trophy in its trophy case with a matinee with No. 16 Ohio State (3-0) on Saturday at 1 p.m.
The Nittany Lions took home the inaugural Creator's Trophy last season in a battle between three Big Ten schools, Penn State, Michigan and Ohio State. The trophy goes to the team that wins both games against the other schools. Penn State is half way there, defeating Michigan 11-6 to open the season.
Penn State has had success over Ohio State recently with a 6-4 record over the past ten meetings. The Nittany Lions visited Columbus, Ohio last season and came out with a 5-2 victory. Sophomore midfielder Michael Richards (Skaneateles, N.Y.) said the fate of the trophy lies in the team's hands.
"It is a statement game for us knowing that they are a rival of our and that we are playing for the Creator's Trophy," Richards said. "Knowing that the trophy is already in our building is a huge positive for us. If we had to send that trophy to another school it would be devastating for us."
The Nittany Lions are amid a five game stretch playing top 25 opponents. Ohio State will be the third consecutive ranked opponent Penn State this season. The Buckeyes bring a high-powered offense into Happy Valley, having outscored opposing team 41-22 so far this season.
Richards said that the team needs to tighten up on defense to prepare for Ohio State's offense. Penn State needs to be more disciplined, but practice has helped the team adjust.
"Going against our offense every day and how high powered they are definitely helps us out," Richards said. "It shows us what we need to work on every day."
Penn State and Ohio State have a lot in common in terms of their personnel, strong goaltending and a balanced attack on offense.
Ohio State is led by senior attackman and preseason second team All-American, Logan Schuss, who has netted 10 goals and dished out five assists to begin the season. He is joined up front by freshman Carter Brown, who is making a name for himself with six goals and eight assists early in the season.
Penn State flaunts a freshman-senior duo as well. Senior Jack Forster (Jenkintown, Pa.) has scored nine goals already this season. He teams up with freshman TJ Sanders (Orillia, Ont.) and junior Shane Sturgis (Downingtown, Pa.) to form a potent scoring attack that scored 25 of Penn State's 35 goals this season. Forster led the Nittany Lions with a hat trick in last week's overtime loss to No. 3 Notre Dame.
Saturday's game will once again feature a battle of the goalkeepers. Second team All-ECAC goalie Greg Dutton is eighth in the nation with a 7.07 goal-against average. Facing a top-flight goalie can be intimidating, but focus will be key for the offense.
"Knowing that he's a highly ranked goalie makes me focus even more," Richards said. "I know that if I don't put the ball in a good spot he's going to save it and start the transition the other way."
Opposing Dutton on the other side of the field for Penn State is junior Austin Kaut (Morton, Pa.). Kaut has been a rock for Penn State between the pipes and brings a calming presence to the defense. His ability to make crucial saves and then spark Penn State's lethal transition offense is what makes him a spectacular goalkeeper. Kaut is allowing 9.21 goals per game, good for twenty-fourth in the nation.
Kaut and Richards chemistry on clears is a major reason why Penn State is operating at .951 clearing percentage. Both players are the major reason for the early success of the transition offense. Richards' speed and vision allow him to take the ball into the offensive end by himself and open space for his teammates.
"That's the biggest part of my game," Richards said. "We work on that every day making sure that we get goals off of transition. With the change in the rules, the game is so much faster that you have to convert on those opportunities."
Penn State and Ohio State is sure to be a fast paced game with no shortage of scoring. Richards said it may not be goals and saves, but the things not on the score sheet that will make the difference.
"We need to focus on the little parts of the game like groundballs, hustling and getting the ball off the ground," Richards said. "If we do that, we should be successful."
By Pat White, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. -- Coming down the stretch, the eighth-ranked Penn State men's lacrosse team was playing some its most inspired lacrosse of the early season against third-ranked Notre Dame. It appeared as though there might be an upset brewing in an electric environment at Holuba Hall in front of the Penn State faithful.
For the second straight season, the Nittany Lions (2-1) and Fighting Irish (2-0) duked it out and needed overtime to decide a winner. In a game that saw 18 goals, seven ties and three goals in 24 seconds to end regulation, Notre Dame ultimately prevailed with a game-winning goal by freshman Matt Kavanagh with 1:34 left in overtime.
Despite the heartbreaking loss for the Nittany Lions, head coach Jeff Tambroni was pleased with his teams' effort.
"There's a difference between losing a game and failing to create an effort on the field," Tambroni said. "Notre Dame was one goal better in overtime, but that's high praise because Notre Dame is a very good lacrosse team."
In a rollercoaster game, Penn State held an 8-7 lead in the last minute of play. Notre Dame tied the game with 24 seconds left, and took the lead on a goal on the ensuing faceoff just seven seconds later. Tambroni credited Notre Dame's persistence to tie and take the lead late in the game after trailing so late.
The Nittany Lions battled back with some fight of their own with 17 seconds left on the clock. Junior midfielder Tom LaCrosse (Canandaigua, N.Y.) had magic in his stick, dodging at the restraining line and letting fly a left-handed shot on the run that beat Notre Dame's All-American goalkeeper John Kemp to force overtime with .6 seconds remaining in regulation.
"My teammates [cleared] through because they realized there was no time left," LaCrosse said. "They let me get to my left and I shot it at the goal and hoped for the best."
It was a big goal for the junior, who scored three goals against Notre Dame and has stepped into a bigger scoring role this season for the Nittany Lions. Tambroni credits his team's mental toughness to not get discouraged after surrendering the lead.
"To have the peace of mind to win a faceoff and then to have the poise, knowing the clock is running down to get a good shot against a first team All-American goalie," Tambroni said, "that says a lot about [LaCrosse] and a lot about our team."
Tambroni said that Penn State did not lose the game due to a lack of effort. Both teams played an evenly matched game across the board and played in a defensive battle. Junior goalkeeper Austin Kaut (Morton, Pa.) is proud of the team's effort and said the game was decided on by one more good chance by Notre Dame.
"We knew it was going to be a defensive battle all day," Kaut said. "Both teams played really well and it just comes down to maybe working a little harder and getting one more ground ball."
The effort also came in large part from depth at the midfield. Redshirt junior Kyle VanThof (Penfield, N.Y.) and sophomore Kyle Zittel (Eden, N.Y.) scored key goals to give Penn State a two-goal lead at the start of the fourth quarter. Freshman Sammy Davis (Pittsfield, Mass.), sophomore Michael Richards (Skaneateles, N.Y.) and junior Steven Bogert (Carlsbad, Calif.) played great on the defensive end and provided Kaut with options in the clearing game that finished 23-for-24 on the day.
Tambroni hopes that Penn State and Notre Dame can rekindle a rivalry that stems from the epic battles on the football field in past years. Notre Dame has been a national powerhouse lacrosse program for the last six years and Tambroni can see a rivalry coming if Penn State continues to build as a program.
"I hope we get to the point where they consider us a rival," Tambroni said. "If we get to that point when people put us in that conversation with Notre Dame, then we'll take that as a compliment."
Despite playing well, the team has to put the emotional loss on the backburner and turn its focus to the upcoming game against Ohio State.
"We played real hard today and competed," Kaut said. "We just have to think about the next game, Ohio State this weekend, and put this one behind us."