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TJ Sanders: More Than Meets the Eye

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11723466.jpeg By Maria Canales, Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Since his freshman season in 2013, TJ Sanders has become a constant and dominating force at attack for the No. 12 Penn State men's lacrosse team (3-0). While Sanders knows how to put points on the board, he also has the ability to connect with teammates and make his worth far more than the numbers show.

"TJ certainly started his career as a finisher, he was extremely productive and extremely successful but I think he's had to adapt a little bit," said head coach Jeff Tambroni. "He's adapted more as a ball carrier, and has developed a game as a connector as well, getting the ball to other guys who can finish as well."

As a freshman, Sanders earned CAA Rookie of the Year, All-CAA Second Team and All-CAA Rookie Team honors. He ended his first season with the Nittany Lions with 44 goals and five-assists.

As a sophomore, Sanders scored a point in all but one game during the 2014 campaign, and recorded seven multi-point games on his way to being named a Big Ten Distinguished Scholar and Academic All-Big Ten.

Last season, the Ontario, Canada, native was named a USILA All-America honorable mention and All-Big Ten honorable mention after scoring 29 goals and notching 13 assists in just 14 games.

Now as a senior, the attackman has already scored nine goals in the first three games. Sanders has certainly made an impact on Penn State Lacrosse during the last three years, and doesn't look to let up his momentum any time soon, noting every game is an opportunity to improve from his last performance.

Tambroni noted that Sanders' instinctual abilities to read players, move the ball within the offensive zone, and his ability to adapt on a moments notice has become an essential part of the Nittany Lions' on-field success.

"I think IQ is underrated as an attack man because you're just involved with so many plays, not just in the offensive end but also the transition to offense, understanding the pace of play, and game management," said Tambroni.

During his career, the numbers Sanders has put on the score sheet tell the story of a determined young man who knows how to play the game of lacrosse at a challenging level. However, what the numbers don't show is how Sanders has progressed as both a leader and contributor to the team when not putting up points.

"TJ, to his credit, this year more so than any other years for obvious reasons as a senior has just done a wonderful job of not just being a productive player, but has become a much better game manager, a much better leader, and a wonderful role model," said Tambroni.

Off the field, Sanders may not be as outgoing as some of his teammates, but rather focuses on building relationships with his fellow Nittany Lions that contribute to their team's on-field successes. Sanders noted that they best way he can get other teammates to perform their best, is for him to set that example and to do the best he can, whether at practice or during a game.

"I think of myself as a pretty quiet guy so I may not be the kind of ray-rah leader that a lot of people are," said Sanders. "I like to connect with my teammates on a personal level, kind of talk to them more than yell at them, that kind of style. There's other guys in the room that will get everyone energized and excited so we have a pretty good mix in the locker room."

Sanders explained that although his authority style may deviate from the normal, he has been able to set an example for his fellow teammates just as effectively as the most vocal guys on the team. He explained that sometimes the most important part of being an exemplary leader is just being a good teammate.

"It's really the intangible things," said Sanders. "Being able to work well with your teammates, that makes the biggest difference."

Penn State hosts Villanova on Saturday at 1 p.m.    

Nittany Lions Earn Big Win on the Road at Cornell

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11712767.jpegBy Maria Canales, Student Staff Writer
ITHACA, NY. - For the third time in as many weeks, the No. 20 Penn State men's lacrosse team (3-0) came out with a big win over the weekend. The Nittany Lions took down No. 18 Cornell (0-1) in an 8-7 nail-biting victory at Schoellkopf Field.

Cornell got on the board within the first few seconds of the first quarter, and quickly scored a second goal minutes later. However, the Nittany Lions answered with two goals of their own, from junior midfielder Mike Sutton and redshirt junior midfielder Matt Florence.

It was a constant game of cat-and-mouse as the Nittany Lions and Big Red kept pace with each other for the first half of the game, ending the first half with Cornell leading 3-2.

"I believed in our guys coming out at halftime," said head coach Jeff Tambroni. "I knew that if we just settled down, played with a little bit more motion and been more selective in our shots we were going to have success. It was just a matter of could we get there."

Determined to return to Happy Valley victorious, the Nittany Lions came out in the third quarter relentlessly taking shots on net, and scoring five unanswered goals, including back-to-back goals from senior attack man TJ Sanders. At the other end of the field, the Nittany Lions defense held off the Big Red and kept them to just three shots in the third.

Starting off the fourth quarter leading 7-3, the Nittany Lions still were not in the clear. Cornell, determined to not give up a home loss, came back to score four goals, tying the game at 7 apiece.

Tensions were high as both teams fought for possession and just one more goal to edge the opposing team.

With less than four minutes left in the fourth, Florence found the back of the net to give the Nittany Lions the go-ahead. Unassisted, it was Florence's second goal of the game and seventh of the season.

"Thankfully through some transitional opportunities we started to open the door up a little bit and I think we just did enough in the second half to come away with a victory," said Tambroni.

Returning to Cornell for Tambroni, who was the head coach of the Big Red from 2001-10 was an emotional experience, but knowing this was a business trip for his Lions made his return very focused on the task at hand.

Although it was good to see past friends, fellow coaches and players of his, Tambroni was proud Penn State came away with a victory over one of the "blue bloods" of the lacrosse world.

"It was great to be here, I was thankful we were able to schedule a game not just in Ithaca, but against a premier program like Cornell," said Tambroni. "I think it's great for our program, I think it's great for our guys to see this kind of competition, so we were thankful and grateful that we were able to have this opportunity."

This Nittany Lions return home this Saturday as they face Villanova at 1 p.m.

Consistency, Communication Key Against Cornell

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11701152.jpegBy Maria Canales, Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - The No. 19 Penn State men's lacrosse team (2-0) travels to No. 15 Cornell (0-0) this Saturday to take on the Big Red, in what is the Nittany Lions' first ranked matchup this season.

The Nittany Lions started off their season with a 20-7 takedown of RMU followed by 17-12 win over Hobart. However, this time around the team is looking for to focus on consistency across the field.

"The first game we started out hot with offense but the second game we didn't start out quite like that," said senior midfielder Tommy O'Neill. "So this third game we want to come out strong and play hard for four quarters."

With several veterans this season on defense, including senior Ryan Guittare and senior James Chakey, the Nittany Lions have worked on developing their defensive strategy, focusing on having every defensive player remain an equal part of the defensive game, rather than favoring a few select players.

Head coach Jeff Tambroni said it's more of a team image, rather than spotlight defense.

"The unit back there is so just predicated on playing with all seven guys, goalie and six included," said Tambroni.

To add to this plan of action, Tambroni looks toward defensive midfielders to become the playmakers, by winning face-offs, controlling possession time, and looking for opportunities at both ends of the field.  

"They're probably playing the most challenging position on the field outside of the goalie," said Tambroni of defensive midfielders. "They're trying to defend people with a stick that's three feet shorter than a defensive stick and they've also adapted a new rule this year of creating more transition, being a little bit more confident transitioning the ball from defense to offense."

Being able to effectively play at both ends of the field is key to the Nittany Lions' game strategy.

However, when it comes down to it, there's one thing that everyone on the team would agree is needed for every position - communication.

Communication is needed on the field, for players to know which play is happening, where they need to be, who is covering whom, and what is coming next.

Off the field, communication is remains important for players entering or exiting the action. Teammates on the sideline also communicate to players on the field to help them know where the opposing team is setting up, or where a ball might have gone out of bounds.

All this communication breaks down into choreographed madness, which includes lots of systematic yelling that might otherwise seem unusual. But it all has a purpose.

"If there's one thing that needs to get better as a team, not just defensively, as a team as it relates to our defensive end, it is communication," said Tambroni. "That is the key to starting to build a foundation for defense because for us it connects their understanding, knowing your job, knowing your defense, and communicating to your teammates."

Tambroni explained that if you lack communication, the team would play less as a unit and more as individuals, which would make for a scrambled style of play.

The Nittany Lions have embraced this communication-focused practice strategy this week and has credited this for helping them effectively prepare for Cornell.

"I definitely think coach challenged the older guys this week, they've really stepped up communication, they've been kind of yelling at us but we honestly need it," said sophomore goaltender Will Schreiner. "They've set the tone and hustle that we look up to."

Although not a focus of this weekend, but definitely a notable point, this matchup between Penn State and Cornell marks Tambroni's first game against his old team. Tambroni coached Cornell from 2001-10 and coached them to three NCAA Final Four appearances, including the 2009 national championship game.

Returning to Ithaca on Saturday, Tambroni looks forward to seeing some familiar faces, but knows this is a business trip for his team and doesn't think that his history of coaching at Cornell will provide any leg-up for the Nittany Lions.

"When you have a program like that, like Cornell, they tend to replace not rebuild, so I'm sure there's a lot of guys that are juniors or sophomores that just have not played because of the talent, that will step into those shoes and play playoff level of lacrosse," said Tambroni. "Our job is to respect their tradition and respect their team and understand we're going to see a few new faces, but focus more so on us than them and just play Penn State Lacrosse."

Penn State will faceoff at Cornell on Saturday at 3 p.m.

Lions Command Fourth Quarter To Defeat Hobart

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11691183.jpegBy Maria Canales, Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Despite constant lead changes, the Penn State men's lacrosse team (2-0) was able to spark a scoring streak during the fourth quarter of Saturday's contest to defeat Hobart (0-1), 17-12.

Penn State struck first as senior attack man TJ Sanders found the back of the net for the Nittany Lions. Sanders has seven goals in just two games.

During the first half of the game there were five ties and two lead changes as the Nittany Lions faced off against the Statesmen. At the start of the third, the Nittany Lions led, 7-5. Hobart led, 10-8, after three.

However, the momentum shifted in favor of Penn State as the clock started for the fourth quarter. Despite trailing by as much as three goals, the Nittany Lions were quick to pounce at the opportunity to rally for a win. The Lions outshot Hobart, 16-4, in the final frame en route to a nine-goal period.

"We came out and we knew it was going to be a tough game, but we started off a little slow in the offensive and defensive zones," said sophomore defenseman Mike Aronow. "We kind of figured it out after the second half and in the fourth quarter we really started putting up goals and we really worked together, that's what it came down to."

Aronow explained that the selflessness fellow teammates displayed during the fourth quarter was what allowed the Nittany Lions to score nine goals in the last 15 minutes of the game. The ability of the team to work together, communicate, and set up efficient plays is what Aronow credits to the team's late run of success.

During the fourth quarter, freshman Grant Ament got the Nittany Lions rolling as he scored less than 30 second in. Ament, in just two games, has scored five goals and has had seven assists.

To continue the momentum, Sanders followed suit just 10 seconds later, netting his second of three goals.

The Nittany Lions relentlessly dominated the rest of the fourth quarter. Sophomore Ryan Keenan scored twice, as freshman Kevin Fox, redshirt junior Matt Florence, and junior Dan Craig all found the back of the net once.

Head coach Jeff Tambroni noted how important the faceoff unit was at giving the Nittany Lions' attack men the opportunity to set up plays by winning vital face offs at the end of the game.

"Between the wings, Tommy Wright, Kevin Fox, and our faceoff guys in particular, I thought they just did a really good job of getting the ball up off the ground, getting us possession, and we turned them into goals," said Tambroni.

Junior Billy Lombardi went 11-for-22 at the faceoff "x", while sophomore Josh Wellman went 5-for-11.

Despite an early back-and-fourth between the Nittany Lions and the Statesmen, Penn State was able to light a spark in the fourth quarter to rally and defeat Hobart. Tambroni noted how important finding motivation toward the end of a game is to net necessary goals and get points up on the board.

"That's our goal every time we could out here to play, to make sure that we're playing for a greater purpose which is your teammates," said Tambroni. "It didn't seem like we had a lot of great focus or energy coming in and it was just nice to know that when things weren't going our way and we we're battling some adversity, that these guys could find a way, especially with two captains sitting on the bench here, find a way to collect themselves and find a way to win." 

Freshman Class Looks to Make Impact Early On

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11681342.jpegBy Maria Canales, Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Coming off a 20-7 win to open the season, the Penn State men's lacrosse team (1-0) looks to continue its success on Saturday against Hobart.

With 16 freshmen on the team, head coach Jeff Tambroni as well as returning veterans have embraced the large class and look forward to their continuing impact on and off the field.

The 16 young men who have joined the ranks this season hail from as far as California or as close at within the state of Pennsylvania. Many of them played at the same high school or on the same club team as fellow teammates, both within their class and above them.

Since their transition into college life last fall, the freshmen have taken advantage of playing a spring sport and have been able to take the time adjusting to academics before taking on a full season of lacrosse.

"They've been an extremely hardworking group and we've been very pleased, very impressed with this particular group," said Tambroni. "At this point in the year typically these guys have gone through the fall and in a lot of ways there's so much on their plate that they tend to kind of cap off whereas the veterans understand the scope of the entire year, but this particular group has a ton of energy."

Tambroni continued to explain how this freshman class put in extra work during their free time during the fall semester, including working in the weight room and spending time on the field improving their skills. He also noted how this freshman group has been able to fall in behind a dynamic senior class and contribute in any way they can.

"I think it was tough," said freshman defender Chris Sabia of the transition from high school to college lacrosse. "The seniors did a good job of bringing us into the Penn State family right away and that really helped a lot."

Prior to the start of the fall semester, the senior class reached out to the freshmen and took them under their wing. Senior defenseman James Chakey explained that since there are eight seniors, they each took two freshmen to reach out to and make sure they felt comfortable coming onto campus and into the college lacrosse lifestyle.

During the preseason the team somewhat separated the freshmen from the rest of the team, to let them make their mistakes and learn from them. Now that the spring semester is in full swing, and the season just started, team members see the freshmen less as a class and more as playmakers.

Their ability to transition into their freshman season and listen to upperclassmen from the start has made the class of 2019 an impactful team on the field quickly.

During last Saturday's game against Robert Morris, six freshmen scored their first collegiate goal to help the Nittany Lions take down the Colonials, 20-7.

Several freshmen have already stood out even with just one game under their belt, including attack man Grant Ament. Ament was named the program's first Big Ten Freshman of the Week on Feb. 10. Ament had two goals and five assists against Robert Morris.

"Coming in and playing strong, a lot of us getting playing time and being able to make a difference, that was definitely something really special to be a part of," said Ament.

As Penn State looks ahead to Hobart on Saturday, the freshmen class is eager to contribute wherever needed. Despite being able to separate by grade, the team prefers to treat the team as one unit. This unit, Chakey explained, if they work together and focus, can make a serious impact this season.

"At this point in the year, in fall you're a freshman, but come springtime you should know your role, know your role in the depth chart, and it's more of a whole team rather than classes," said Chakey. "These guys have really pushed us beyond our expectations and they've pushed us to not only play better, but to make the team better."

Penn State hosts Hobart on Saturday in Holuba Hall at 3 p.m. 

Lions Dominate Robert Morris in Season Opener

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By Maria Canales, Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - In front of a large hometown crowd in Holuba Hall, the Penn State men's lacrosse team (1-0) took down Robert Morris (0-1), 20-7, on Saturday afternoon.

The Nittany Lions' unrelenting offense notched six goals in the first quarter, alone. Redshirt junior attack man Matt Florence scored two of the six goals, notching his third goal later in the second period.  

Penn State's second scoring streak of the day came during the second and third periods, with the Nittany Lions finding the back of the net 11 times before the Colonials were able to answer.

"I thought our guys came out of the lock room and onto the field today at that first whistle and just played a very inspired game of lacrosse, gained a ton of momentum in that second and third quarter and I'm just happy that those guys were able to kind of get that first win and start to move ahead," said head coach Jeff Tambroni.

Penn State had several standout players on the field at attack, including senior TJ Sanders who tallied four goals for the Nittany Lions, as well as three assists.

In addition to their veteran offensive prowess, the Nittany Lions had six different freshmen score during Saturday's contest.

Freshman Grant Ament notched two goals and five assists, with Tambroni noting how much Ament reminds him of a young Sanders when he was a freshman.

"It was a pretty incredible feeling," said Ament of his first collegiate goal with the Nittany Lions. "I got the assist from James Chakey who went to my high school, Haverford. It was really cool to share that moment with him because he was always looking out for me and always kind of has my back and that was kind of just a special way to start the season off."

Tambroni was quick to praise how immediate of an impact the freshman class has made even with just one game under its belt. Tambroni looks forward to seeing just how much this class can do with the rest of the season still upon them.

Another standout performance from Saturday's contest was that of sophomore Will Schreiner in net for the Nittany Lions.

Schreiner played more than 40 minutes between the pipes and made six saves.

"I think we communicated really well, we played as a team extremely well and I think we also kind of brought the power as well as the up-tempo of play," said Schreiner of the team's defensive play.

Tambroni noted earlier how one of his goals for the season is to have his players work hard for all 60 minutes of play and to not lose momentum. With almost the entire active roster having seen playing time on Saturday, the team was able to stay fresh and keep a disciplined eye on the bigger picture of Saturday's game.

"I thought they did a great job, the tendency when you're up by that much in the third or fourth quarter is to start thinking about yourself, how can you pad your stats, how can you do something that's in your best interest versus the team's best interest, and we said to these guys at halftime one of the things we wanted them to do us," said Tambroni. "Just stay disciplined, stay focused and this was going to be a true sense of their character to see if we can at this moment stay true to what we tried to do in the first half."

With the first game and win in the books the Nittany Lions look ahead to their next opponent, Hobart, on Saturday.

"I think we've got to evaluate the film and go back to work," said Tambroni. "I know that our team in the true sense of the cliché of taking it one day at a time believes in that, and I think it'll be important for us to step back from this, keep things in perspective and go back to work and tack it out Monday."

Nittany Lions Gear Up for 2016 Season

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10947939.jpegBy Maria Canales, Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - After making their way to the inaugural Big Ten Tournament last season, the Nittany Lions enter the 2016 campaign with high goals and strong motivations.

In 2015, the Nittany Lions tallied a 5-9 record, going 3-1 in conference play on their way to a spot in the Big Ten Tournament after an intense takedown of Michigan to end the regular season.

Head coach Jeff Tambroni pointed out that although their record might not show it, the team had many high points to the season, based on individual improvements as a team.

"Going into the Big Ten was a big move for Penn State lacrosse and lacrosse in general but we faced that first year with so many young players at so many different positions," said Tambroni. "It was a great learning experience at the same time that we had to go through some lumps, so I look at the entire year and of course we were disappointed by the product of our record but very excited about the group as they mature throughout and continue to keep fighting."

At the conclusion of the 2015 season, the Nittany Lions graduated nine seniors, including captain midfielder Kyle Zittel and defenseman JP Burnside. With the departure of such consistent players, Tambroni is expecting dedication and leadership from his returning upperclassmen, and for them to set the tone for this season.

Some of those players Tambroni will look to continue to make an impact on the field include redshirt junior midfielder Matt Florence, who had 16 goals last season, as well as junior attack player Nick Aponte. Aponte, who during 2015 moved from midfield to attack, registered 14 goals and 13 assists last season.

"From my transition from midfield to attack, really benefitted our team in one way that most of our dodges were coming from our midfield and we had a bunch of our top scorers from attack," said Aponte. "So what we worked on was by moving me behind and transition the ball from down the alley to 'x' and then hitting the backside to our big shooters which were attack, really worked well for our team."

While Penn State returns many big names this season, the Nittany Lions also welcomed 16 freshmen to the team, filling many spots throughout all positions in need of some depth with seven at midfield and five at defense.

"I personally think that first semester freshmen were the freshmen, they would make their mistakes," said junior defenseman Peter Triolo. "But now moving into the season we're not essentially looking at rank within freshman to senior we're basically just looking at them as another player on the team and everyone has to contribute in order to get wins this season."

The 2016 season has shaped up to be one of the most challenging seasons to date for the Nittany Lions. Their schedule is packed with matchups against many highly regarded opponents within the lacrosse realm, including a game against reigning national champion, Denver, slated for the end of March.

Also included at the second half of the season are all Big Ten contests, with both Maryland and Johns Hopkins having a preseason top 10 ranking. Other Big Ten opponent, Ohio State, also ranks within the preseason top 20.

When it comes to designing a schedule, the coaching staff takes into consideration many different parts to the logistical process, including the ability to challenge their team while also providing opportunities for them to gain valuable wins.

As the Nittany Lions look to start off their season strong against Robert Morris on Saturday, the team knows how important these early games on the schedule are.

"A win at home would be huge going into this season," said Triolo. "We want to make the Penn State lacrosse community a very dangerous team at home and I think it would be essential to get a win at home this first coming game."

In 2015, Penn State only lost one home game, and now looks to continue its home success against the Colonials this weekend.

"The keys to success, really just playing hard, being disciplined, opening up the offense for ourselves and our teammates and really just going out there and communicating and playing hard," said Florence.

Penn State takes on Robert Morris this Saturday at noon in Holuba Hall. 

Men's Lacrosse Caps Off Alumni Weekend

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_MG_2523.JPGBy Maria Canales, Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - The Penn State men's lacrosse program welcomed back alumni and introduced the 2016 freshman class over the weekend.

The fifth-annual Alumni, Family and Friends event kicked off with an alumni scrimmage Friday night, followed by the Blue-White scrimmage. For graduated members of past Penn State lacrosse teams, this night gave them the opportunity to once again put on their beloved jersey and play on a field with their former teammates one more time.

The next morning, the weekend kept rolling with Penn State men's lacrosse's annual golf outing at Mountain View Country Club. Despite chilly temperatures, it was all smiles as the alumni and current players battled it out on the links.

As member of the 2014 class of Penn State men's lacrosse, Steven Bogert flew in from California to attend the weekend's festivities.

"The weather for golfing was definitely not ideal, but it was great to see some of my old teammates, coaches and friends," said Bogert. "It's weird to think that my time at Penn State is over, but it was great to be back for a weekend to be a part of it again."

A team banquet hosted at the Penn Stater capped off the weekend. The coaching staff summarized the 2015 season, handed out season awards, and introduced and welcomed the class of 2019.

Head coach Jeff Tambroni delivered a passionate speech about what it means to be a part of Penn State lacrosse. Tambroni told of how grateful he is to coach many years of tremendous young men and how the impacts of their time with Penn State will reach far beyond the lacrosse field.

Tambroni told a story of how the young men who collect rocks along their journey in life are the unselfish ones who collect lessons, learn to work hard and succeed down the line.

He explained that awards banquets are great, but it's the time spent with fellow teammates and former teammates that make weekends like this so special.

Tambroni urged his young players to ask themselves about their relationships with current and past team members and what they mean to each other.

"When I took this job five years ago I knew there was going to be an opportunity to travel on that journey today and now it's gone way beyond my wildest dreams to be a part Penn State lacrosse," said Tambroni.

The banquet concluded with a highlight film of the 2015 season, which spotlighted fond memories of the program's first Big Ten Conference win against Rutgers, and being a part of the first Big Ten Tournament. But Tambroni quickly brought the room of over 150 people back into focus.

"Awards nights are great and you hand out those awards and everyone claps but I think the true legacy is in those rocks, collecting rocks about what it really means to be a part of Penn State lacrosse," said Tambroni. 

Men's Lacrosse Announces 2016 Captains

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11326379.jpegBy Maria Canales, Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - A trio of midfielders will lead the Penn State men's lacrosse team during its 2016 campaign. Seniors Tommy O'Neill and James Burke and redshirt junior Drake Kreinz have been voted as captains to lead the Nittany Lions during their 103rd season.

O'Neill, who played in all 14 games during the 2015 campaign, is honored to be named to the highest position within the program. 

"It's definitely a humbling opportunity to be named captain for this team," said O'Neill. "It's a special year for us, our senior year and everything that's gone on this summer, I think all three of us are really excited to lead this team."

The New Jersey native collected 11 ground balls last season, a career-high, and hopes to only improve on this number come spring.

Alongside O'Neill serving as captain will be Burke, a fellow senior midfielder. Burke, who had his most successful season in 2015, caused a team-best 12 turnovers in 11 contests.

To finish off the trio, it's only fitting that head coach Jeff Tambroni's go-to faceoff man would fill the spot. Kreinz appeared in 13 of 14 contests in 2015 and notched a .544 win percentage at the 'X.'

The process for choosing captains has remained unchanged for years and Tambroni is confident in the system he has in place.

"There are a number of different factors going into the captains process," said Tambroni. "One is a consensus vote from last years team, we want to get exiting seniors, graduating seniors opinions on who they believe will lead this team most effectively."

After the team vote, Tambroni and fellow assistant coaches evaluate upperclassmen during the fall semester before making a final decision. Usually this announcement comes a few weeks after the players arrive back in Happy Valley. However, this year Tambroni chose to announce the names sooner than usual.

"With this years group we just really felt comfortable with James and Tommy and Drake and we announced them on day one of the fall," said Tambroni.

Penn State men's lacrosse has experimented with the number of captains the team has every year. In 2014 three seniors led the team but in 2015 the task fell solely on senior Kyle Zittel. In 2016 the magic number will once again be three, a number Tambroni is confident with.

"I think it's good that we have three captains this year just to have three different minds going into it," said O'Neill. "We can always bounce ideas off each other."

O'Neill was quick to add that just because there are three captains, doesn't mean other seniors don't get a say in what happens among the team. Burke, O'Neill and Kreinz emphasized they always relay ideas to other upperclassmen members of the team.

Another task the captains will have to rely on their fellow upperclassmen for is delegating responsibilities. With all three captains being midfielders, there are some obstacles that can present themselves. During practices, when the team breaks off into position drills, Tambroni and the captains will have to look to other upperclassmen to set the tone for their respective groups.

"You hope that they delegate some responsibility to some upperclassmen in the offensive end, like a TJ Sanders, like a Matt Florence, who we believe will manage a lot of what goes on offensively when the groups are split," said Tambroni. 

Veterans setting the tone early is what Tambroni is confident will happen during this offseason. As the team welcomes 16 freshmen, the eight seniors will certainly be looked at to set the standard, but the captains said this is a challenge they are up for.

"[Sixteen freshmen] are a lot to handle but they've been great so far," said Kreinz. "They've been a great addition to the team, a lot of great players, really good guys who came to work and are competitive kids. There are only eight seniors so a little outnumbered but nothing that we can't handle and so far it's been amazing."

O'Neill explained that although each individual is unique, the captains have a few things in common when it comes to displaying the characteristics of a leader.

"We're not the most vocal but we all lead by example, on the field off the field, especially with academics," said O'Neill. "We're not ones to say something, we're more of the players see us do it and then they do it."

This concept of leading by example is something Burke and Kreinz agreed with.

"We're definitely more the doers, the opening faceoff it's us three, the guys in between the 30's, not the guys always making the flashy plays but just getting the job done," said Kreinz.

Tambroni expanded on his reasons for believing the three captains set to lead his team will be reliable young men.

"I think if you blanketed all three you'd say that they all fulfill the mantra of 'well done is better than well said.' All three of these guys are soft-spoken leaders and they all are in that top one percent of team in terms of work ethic both on and off the field," said Tambroni.

The average fan of Penn State men's lacrosse may see hard working young men on the field in Burke, O'Neill and Kreinz, but most fans don't see the hard work the three put in when not wearing a lacrosse jersey.

"The quality that's seen least in the exterior that is valued the most on the interior is their compassion for their teammates," said Tambroni. "They really care about one another on this team and they have a great deal of passion for Penn State lacrosse and the way we run our program."

The passion that drives the three young men is derived from the love of their teammates, coaches, and program. This passion and dedication will be the cornerstone for their 2016 season.

Before their first game, however, Burke, O'Neill and Kreinz will have to prepare their team the best they can during the offseason. Burke explained the methodical means of getting a team ready in the months leading up to game day.

"We're working on just getting in to practice, being competitive and working on bringing a good energy to practice," said Burke. "Just getting in the weight room, making sure people are bringing a focused and driven attitude to everything we do before January and the upcoming season." 

VIDEO: 2014-15 Year in Review with Sandy Barbour

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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - talks with Director of Athletics Sandy Barbour to review a superb 2014-15 season for Penn State Athletics.

Follow's Tony Mancuso on Twitter @GoPSUTony