By Maria Canales, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - After defeating Cleveland State last weekend, senior captain Nick Aponte gave some perspective to the season the Nittany Lions have had so far. For Aponte, despite a perfect 9-0 to start to the year, the Nittany Lions will look at Big Ten play as a blank slate, an opportunity to continue to fight for wins and learn from past adversity.
Senior defenseman Peter Triolo said Tuesday afternoon that through all four campaigns he has been a part of, the Nittany Lions have traditionally separated the nonconference schedule from league games in hopes of getting mentally fresh before facing difficult opponents in the Big Ten.
"It's definitely interesting with this season and the success that we've been having," Triolo said. "Looking at this Big Ten slate, every team is going to be a competitive game, so that's why as a senior class, we sat down yesterday and throughout the weekend to talk about it. We wanted to make it very clear that these next few games coming up are the most important games of our season."
Triolo said the senior class spoke to the rest of the team and emphasized that now is the time to stick to the system and continue working hard day in and day out, both in and out of practice, so the Nittany Lions can focus on winning games.
"We had a team meeting on Monday, just to clean the slate and talk about things that we want to improve on and talk about the potential that we have coming in with the Big Ten games," Triolo said.
Despite improvements the defense can make in the coming weeks, Triolo said the majority of the team's success would come when every member of the team is trying their hardest but most importantly, enjoying the game. For Triolo, if Penn State is passionate on the field, the level of competition increases, making the Nittany Lions very dangerous against any competitor.
Triolo also emphasized that since the freshmen haven't played a Big Ten game yet, it's up to the leadership to make sure the rookies settle into conference games quickly, continuing to possess the poise they've had all season.
"I hope they're going to have a lot of confidence," head coach Jeff Tambroni said of his team's mindset going into this weekend. "I think the game plan was to set our guys up week in and week out both home and on the road, with opportunities. We felt like if we could day in and day out compete against each other, that preparation regardless of result was going to get us prepared for the Big Ten."
Tambroni praised the leadership on the team for hosting their fellow teammates on Monday for the team meeting to emphasize what the second half of the season means for the Nittany Lions before they open against Ohio State Sunday. He also stressed that in order to remain aggressive among other outstanding teams, Penn State will have to remain both physically capable of high-octane games while continuing to make smart plays all over the field."We feel very fortunate to be in the position that we're in right now in terms of our record, but I think that our guys have worked very hard and are very excited for the conference play that remains," Tambroni said. "I think the key is that they realize there's still a lot of work to be done but on the other side, I think confidence is high based on what they've been able to accomplish thus far."