By Pat White, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. -- The Penn State men's lacrosse team (10-3, 5-0 CAA) looks to close out a perfect record in CAA play on Saturday when it faces a dangerous Hofstra team (7-6, 2-3 CAA) on the road.
It is easy to point at the usual suspects on the Nittany Lions roster that have led to the current eight-game winning streak. Freshman TJ Sanders (Orillia, Ont.) and senior Jack Forster (Jenkintown, Pa.) have been stellar leading a Penn State offense that is averaging 10.38 goals per game. Junior goalie Austin Kaut (Morton, Pa.) has shown why he is regarded as one of the top net-minders in college lacrosse, leading a defense that surrenders 7.23 goals per contest.
Aside from the stars on the team, it has been the roles of the emerging midfielders and defense that have pushed Penn State to a level they weren't at in the beginning of the season.
In the 13-7 win against Delaware last Saturday, head coach Jeff Tambroni said that the second midfield line of juniors Kyle VanThof (Penfield, N.Y.) and Kyle Zittel (Eden, N.Y.) and senior Drew Roper (Columbus, Ohio) stepped up and asserted themselves in a big way. The trio combined for three goals and three assists in the victory.
"We were extremely pleased with the second midfield of Kyle VanThof, Drew Roper and Kyle Zittel," Tambroni said. "I thought they provided a much needed spark in our offensive end. They also provided balance and a lot of punch."
Offensive production from the midfield was a concern for the Nittany Lions through the first six games of the season. The attack carried a heavy load of the scoring, and Tambroni wanted to see more balance.
Penn State looks as dangerous as ever after capturing the No. 1 seed in next week's CAA Championship being held in Happy Valley, due in large part to the emergence of the midfield.
"I think guys are just working harder on the field," Roper said. "Certain midfielders are getting better and playing off of each other. Finally all the hard work is paying off on the field."
Roper's work, especially, has been a bright spot for the Nittany Lions. He struggled to see playing time in the beginning of the season. Tambroni said that the senior approached the coaching staff and asked what he needed to do to get on the field.
Tambroni said that it takes longer than a week to earn playing time. The tryout begins during fall practice and continues on through the season. His challenge to Roper was to change little things and work hard for a month.
"To Drew's credit he went to work every day for about a month," Tambroni said. "His true colors really shined during that time being a senior, being a leader. Drew has continued to be consistent in his efforts. This is his doing and deserves the playing minutes that he gets."
Roper said he took the challenge and ran with it. He worked hard to get on the field and his confidence playing with Zittel and VanThof has provided another weapon at Tambroni's disposal.
"The opportunity finally arose," Roper said. "I have great chemistry with Kyle VanThof and Kyle Zittel and we are working well together."
The efforts of the midfield are not unnoticed by the team. Sophomore defensive midfielder Michael Richards (Skaneateles, N.Y.) said that he has seen the growth of the midfield unit as the season has progressed.
"You can definitely see the chemistry is starting to build with our midfield," Richards said. "They know where passes are going to go and what the next guy is going to do so the ball is moving."
Despite the success coming down the home stretch of the season, the Nittany Lions know that there is still work to be done and cannot get complacent.
Penn State faces a dangerous Hofstra team that is much better than its 7-6 record would indicate. They have wins against No. 2 Notre Dame and then-No. 13 Fairfield, both on the road.
It is also a must-win game for Hofstra in order to make the CAA Championship next week and possibly face Penn State in the opening round. Saturday's game is Hofstra's senior night, providing an extra spark for the Pride.
"The situation that presents itself to Hofstra makes them a dangerous team," Tambroni said. "Knowing that either their season or career could end or to move on and secure their place in the CAA makes them an extremely urgent team."
Hofstra's offense is led by junior attacker Torin Varn, who has upped his point production from nine points in 2012 to 34 this season, tallying 32 goals. Sophomore goalie Chris Selva has been stellar between the pipes, yielding 7.10 goals per game.
Tambroni said that his team must bring the same intensity into the game that they have had all season. He said that both teams are treating it like a must-win simply because it is the next game.
"We talked to our guys about playing at their best level every game," Tambroni said. "The key is to control what you can control, which is how hard we play and how well we know our opponent. I do think at this level you need to study the tendencies of the [other] team...to give yourself the best chance to win."
Although Penn State has already clinched a share of the top seed in the CAA Championship, Richards said there is no looking forward to next week and the focus is on beating Hofstra.
"The No. 1 seed means nothing with one more road game to play," Richards said. "If they win, they turn around and play us again [in the CAA Championship]. Being 6-0 is a lot better than being 5-1."
Tambroni praised the way his team looks forward to the next game and not at the success of the current winning streak.
"They're on each other on a daily basis in terms of what's next," Tambroni said. "Any time you can have a chance to gain momentum, you gain confidence... I hope that is the way we prepare all week and I hope that is how we play on the weekend."
Penn State and Hofstra will face off at 7 p.m. on Saturday at James A. Shuart Stadium.
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By Pat White, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
Renahan, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - The Penn State Nittany Lions look to wrap up the 2013 regular season with a win on the road against the Princeton Tigers, Saturday in New Jersey.
The Nittany Lions enter the game riding a four-game winning streak, outs-coring their opponents 64-39. The team has been on a tear since starting the season 4-3. In their last eight games, the Nittany Lions have gone 7-1, and they now have their highest ranking of the season at No. 6.
"Well I mean I think we're just continuing to try to get better," said head coach Missy Doherty. "There are certain aspects of our game, seeing in the Hopkins game that we had to improve on. We've been working hard to do that this week. There comes a point where the season is in the player's hands and we try to prepare them as best we can and make game adjustment if we need to, but, you know, it comes to a point where our success right now is all on how the player's intensity and how they come out to play."
Although the Tigers have been struggling, dropping two of their last four, the Nittany Lions know to not overlook Princeton. The Tigers welcome the Nittany Lions in dire need of a win to help their NCAA hopes. The two teams have battled it out in Doherty's first two years. Princeton won both games, including an overtime heartbreaker in Happy Valley last season.
"Princeton has been sort of a thorn in our side the past two years," Doherty said. "We've had some good seasons and, you know, we come off an emotional ALC conference regular season and, you know, we have to be ready for this game. This game means a lot to us as far as closing out the season the way we should. We've fought in a lot of hard games this year and I think that really prepares us for a game like Princeton, because it will be really similar to a lot of our close contested games."
Penn State and Princeton match up well. Both teams have been undefeated at home and played very well against conference foes. Penn State went 4-1 in ALC conference play, while Princeton went 6-1 in Ivy League play. The Nittany Lions have a slight edge in goals per game, but the Tigers have the edge in goals allowed.
The teams have played common opponents this season in Virginia, Maryland, Johns Hopkins, Cornell and Penn (Exhibition). The Nittany Lions went 3-2 against those opponents, while the Tigers went 2-3. Both teams also have seven players on the roster with 15 goals or more in 2013.
The Penn State offense has been superb, scoring 15 goals against Johns Hopkins on Sunday. Mackenzie Cyr, who continued her 22 game point streak with four points on Sunday, along with the rest of the Penn State offensive have their work cut out for them against the Tigers.
Princeton has allowed just 52 goals to their opponents on their home turf, including limiting Johns Hopkins to just seven goals in a 10-7 win.
Much like the Nittany Lions, the Princeton Tigers are led by a sophomore attacker from Maryland. Erin McMunn has 54 points for the Tigers in 2013, including 34 goals on 76 shots. On the other end of the field is Penn State's own sophomore attacker Maggie McCormick, who paces the team with 69 points.
This is Penn State's final game before opening up their ALC conference tournament schedule. Luckily for the Nittany Lions, Princeton plays a very similar style to ALC teams and should help prepare Penn State for tournament play.
"I think pretty much every game has been preparing us to play the best teams. Princeton is one of the best teams out there. It's going to be a challenge to win this game, it's a game Princeton really needs, and for us it's really important for us to close out our season on a high note," Doherty said.
Penn State spent the week preparing for the showdown by focusing on their defense. The NIttany Lions got another stellar performance from senior defenders Katie Guy and Colleen Shea against Johns Hopkins earlier this week.
Guy and Shea helped slow down an aggressive Blue Jays offense ensuring the Penn State offense a last-second goal opportunity to win the game. Along with Guy and Shea, Madison Cyr and Kelly Lechner have both improved their defensive play, forcing opposing teams into bad turnovers and leading to offensive opportunities.
The Penn State defense knows it has to improve its play, prior to heading to the American Lacrosse Conference tournament. As a team, the Nittany Lions have fared well at home going undefeated and allowing just 64 goals. However, when Penn State hits the road, the team has allowed 100 goals to their opponents.
The Penn State defense, however, has much looked much improved over the last eight games. They continue to grow and showcase their aggressiveness against opponents. When teams try to slow down their offense, the Nittany Lions have responded well and contained. When teams try to speed up and out-run the Nittany Lions, the defense responds to the challenge and stays with their matchups.
A matchup with Princeton also marks the return of two current Penn State coaches to their former employers.
Prior to coming to Penn State, Doherty worked at Princeton University. She played a major role in getting the Tigers two National Championships. Assistant coach Amy Altig also coached at Princeton helping develop one of the nation's top defenses.
After Princeton, the Nittany Lions have a few days off before heading to Baltimore Maryland for their ALC tournament opening round showdown with Vanderbilt. Penn State dominated Vanderbilt in a win earlier this season in Happy Valley, 20-14. Game-time is set for 6:30 p.m. on May 2.
By Pat White, GoPSUsports.com
Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - With its sights set on the No. 1 seed in the CAA Championship, the No. 9 Penn State men's lacrosse team (9-3, 4-0 CAA) prepares for a tough road matchup with Delaware (5-8, 1-3 CAA) on Saturday night.
A Nittany Lion win would solidify at least a share in the programs first CAA Title. Head coach Jeff Tambroni said it would be a huge lift for the program heading toward the postseason.
"It is a compliment to the progression of the entire season knowing we have to go through the CAA, which we have a ton of respect for and for each team that competes in it," Tambroni said. "That is a compliment to our guys and their efforts."
Both teams put their respective winning streaks on the line on Saturday with Penn State winning seven-straight and Delaware riding a three-game streak.
Penn State has been dominant on the road so far this season with a record of 5-0. They have won 10 road contests in a row dating back to last season. Delaware has struggled at home this season (1-5), but is honoring their senior night.
Tambroni discards the history of the two teams and isn't gauging the game by Penn State two game winning streak against the Blue Hens. Tambroni hopes the road success continues.
"I'm hopeful when we get back on the road our guys will settle back in," Tambroni said. "It doesn't get any easier no matter what history may indicate. We have to remain urgent in our preparation and our play and that will dictate 60 minutes of our performance on game day."
Junior attacker Shane Sturgis (Downingtown, Pa.) attributes the road success to a very structured schedule that makes preparation more smoothly. The road gives the team a chance to bond and stay focused as a unit.
"Coach [Tambroni] just emphasizes on preparing each week," Sturgis said. "We travel like professions so that it is like a business trip and we try to do that to our best ability."
While road games have treated the Nittany Lions well, clinching the No. 1 seed in the CAA Championship would be a huge boost for the team. Junior midfielder Tom LaCrosse (Canandaigua, N.Y.) said getting the first seed is the primary objective right now.
"Being the first seed would definitely be nice, mainly because we would be home," LaCrosse said. "That would allow us to stay here. It's over finals week so it would be easier on the mind not having to travel and worry about finals. It would be nice to play in front of the home crowd."
Tambroni is still searching for consistency in all areas of the field as the season winds down. He stressed diligence to his team during film sessions to learn from past mistakes in preparation for Delaware. LaCrosse feels prepared with the game plan and said it's up to the players to execute on the field.
"The coaches always have so much film that it makes it easy for us," LaCrosse said. "They show us every little bit of Delaware and that helps us not have to think too much. They prepare us to come out on the field and play our best."
Tambroni knows that his team could face Delaware again in the CAA Championships and is stressing preparation, not only for Saturday, but beyond. He said that staying sharp during practice and improving every day is crucial at this point of the season.
"We have a chance now to play one of these teams knowing we are in the tournament," said Tambroni. "If we aren't getting better every day, someone else is. The key is to look back, look and learn and hopefully show that on the field."
Delaware relies heavily on its offense that averages 9.23 goals per game. For Penn State to be successful, the defense has to continue its strong play of late. Penn State is allowing just 5.28 goals per game during its seven game winning streak.
The offense also must continue its success. The Nittany Lions are averaging 9.71 goals per game in their last seven games. Freshman TJ Sanders (Orillia, Ont.) was honored as CAA Co-Player and Rookie of the Week for his five goal output against Towson last week. The impressive freshman leads the team with 33 goals and is the catalyst for the Penn State offense. Sanders and the offense look to continue that success against a Blue Hens defense that surrenders 9.31 goals per game.
Sturgis said that the offense found synergy from the start of the season and that chemistry is the key ingredient to their success.
"We just have chemistry as an offense," Sturgis said. "Everyone moves the ball well, gets open and no one is selfish."
Tambroni isn't putting too much stock in the Nittany Lions current winning streak when assessing Delaware. He said they are a dangerous team and that his team must earn a win in a hostile environment.
"Wins don't just carry over to the following week," Tambroni said. "It's going to be important to work as hard, if not harder, this week than we have in past weeks knowing what's on the line this week for both teams."
Penn State and Delaware will face off at 7 p.m. on Saturday night at Delaware Stadium.
By Pat White, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. -- Penn State men's lacrosse (9-3, 4-0 CAA) has once again cracked the top-10 rankings, coming in at No. 9 after a 10-8 win over Towson on Saturday.
While freshman TJ Sanders (Orillia, Ont.) paced the Nittany Lions with five goals and junior goalie Austin Kaut (Morton, Pa.) won the battle of two terrific goaltenders, Saturday was all about the seniors.
Kaut said the team wanted to thank the seniors for all their hard work and leadership with a win on senior day.
"On a day like this, a gorgeous day, senior day, we went out and played hard for our seniors," Kaut said. "They led us the whole way and we came out with a win."
Head coach Jeff Tambroni was proud of the production he got from the seniors. He has preached all season that senior leadership is a key component coming down the stretch, and Sanders agrees with him.
"Every team that wants to do something special in a season needs great senior leadership," Sanders said. "That's what we have so we have to keep working away."
Let's meet the seniors that have contributed to the success and growth of Penn State lacrosse.
Jack Forster (Jenkintown, Pa.)
The redshirt senior has racked up the points during his six years at Penn State and has been one of the most prolific scorers in Penn State history. Forster has tallied 41 points this season to lead the Nittany Lions and has now amassed 132 points in 50 games career games. He is four goals from tying John Hollerbach for 10th all-time with 94 goals and two points from tying Bill Hess for 10th in points with 134.
The wily veteran played a big role in the second half against Towson, scoring an incredible no-look goal in the fourth quarter. He also got his teammates involved with three helpers, all in the third quarter.
Forster extended his point streak to 24, dating back to March 3, 2012 and has 11 career hat tricks. Tambroni lauded Forster's scoring ability, but is even more impressed with his leadership qualities.
"His leadership, poise is about as good as I've been around," Tambroni said. "He never gets rattled. Even in tighter situations he plays with the same poise as if we were up five goals or if it was a summer league game. Our guys feed off that."
Forster has had to persevere through an injury-plagued career at Penn State, but he believes it has made him an even stronger leader.
"It's been a long journey and its sad it's coming to an end with the last home game here," Forster said. "It means a lot and it should be very memorable."
Majoring in business, he still isn't sure what he will do after leaving Penn State, but remains focused on the rest of the season. Forster couldn't pinpoint one special memory, but highlighted the time he spent with his teammates.
"I'm thankful for all the friendships I made through all the years I've been here," Forster said. "I met a lot of good guys and made a lot of great friendship here. Hopefully this game will be my favorite memory."
Travis Crane (Parkville, Md.)
Sharing captaincy duties with Forster, Crane has made a big impact for the Nittany Lions both on the field and in the locker room. Tambroni is proud of the way he and Forster lead the team and presented themselves as players and people.
"As a worker, very few guys are at his level," Tambroni said of Crane. "He comes to practice and comes to weights every day and gives absolutely everything he has."
Crane said he was honored to be named captain and that it was a great way to end his Penn State career.
"Knowing that the players and coaches have a lot of respect and trust in you to lead the team in the right direction, it's an absolute honor to be in this position," Crane said.
A transfer after his sophomore year, Crane has been one of Penn State's most consistent midfielders on the defensive end. Before his last home game, Crane said he was excited for the opportunity to wrap up his career playing in Happy Valley against a Towson school that is only five minutes away from his hometown.
"I'm really looking forward to playing them and a CAA opponent and we want to continue being undefeated in the CAA," Crane said before the win against Towson. "I'm looking forward to playing with all these [seniors] in our last home game."
Crane said that spending time with his teammates was something he will never forget. His favorite memories from his career were wins against two top-10 opponents.
"Beating Notre Dame my junior year was my favorite moment," Crane said. "Then probably this year beating Denver in the Moe's Southwest Classic was a big win as well."
Crane just finished a graduate school program in education leadership and said he will be working in New York City as a corporate stockbroker starting this summer.
Danny Henneghan (Beverly Hills, Mich.)
While not playing the flashiest position on the team, Henneghan has been crucial to Penn State's success during his four years as the main faceoff man. He finds his name in the Penn State record books, ranking sixth all-time in faceoff percentage and is two ground balls away from 10th in Penn State history with 202.
Henneghan said that looking back as a freshman, he never thought his last game would come. He was excited about the senior day festivities, but also knew that the team still has a job to do.
"Now that it's here, it's cool to be here with all these guys, my fellow seniors," Henneghan said. "At the end of the day we want to make sure we're prepared first as a class, and as a whole team. We just want to take care of business on the field."
Henneghan's mindset since he was a freshman has completely changed, and he said he is much more invested as a lacrosse player and a student of Penn State. He said the past four years are something he will always remember.
"It's becoming an experience that I will cherish for the rest of my life," Henneghan said. "Where I am now as a senior, it was everything that I hoped it would be. It's something I will be able to cherish and look back on in years to come."
There have been many high points in Henneghan's career, but his favorite has family ties dating back to practicing faceoffs in his backyard with the person who introduced him to lacrosse.
"My freshman year getting to play with my older brother was very special," Henneghan said. "I think having an opportunity to play with him because it is something I was never able to do. Getting to come here and play on a Division I college team was something I will remember for the rest of my life."
Henneghan, a business major, has no set plan for after school, but joked saying, "My goal is to make a lot of money."
Nick Dolik (Bloomfield Hills, Mich.)
After struggling in the beginning of his senior season, Dolik has become an offensive force during Penn State's seven-game winning streak, scoring six goals and dishing out five assists. Tambroni admires the way Dolik never got discouraged and continued to work his way into the offense.
"Instead of going in a different direction and feeling sorry for himself as a senior, he got right back to work and has never looked back," Tambroni said. "I think the correlation between Nick's success and our team's success is very fair."
Dolik kept a business-like attitude heading into his last home game with Penn State. He finished the game with a goal and an assist. Dolik noted that there has been a major transformation in fan support throughout his four years.
"I feel like this year we have our home team fans and it's really exciting," Dolik said. "Everyone comes out and when we get a good day...it's exciting. I think it's growing a lot from my freshman year to now. There are so many more fans so it's fun and it's on the rise."
While it has been a successful season for the senior last hoorah, Dolik said there is still a higher potential that the team can reach. The team is expecting more from one another and Dolik said that relationship with his teammates is something he will always remember.
"Hopefully we have more good experiences coming up," Dolik said. "Just getting to know the guys and becoming that tight group has been awesome. All the little experiences in the locker room and games and whatnot. You remember scoring goals and games, but I'll just remember being with the team and those experiences."
Dolik described his Penn State experience as a growing process and one that he is very fortunate to have had. He wants to finish out the year strong before graduating and moving on to life after lacrosse.
"I'm trying to worry about the season," Dolik said. I'm looking to work out east somewhere. Hopefully I find a job and might work up in New York City maybe in insurance or something like that."
Drew Roper (Columbus, Ohio)
Roper has enjoyed his career at Penn State. Although scoring just two goals, they both came in pivotal games for the Nittany Lions. He scored a game-tying goal in the Nittany Lion's 4-3 overtime win at Notre Dame last season and the eventual winning goal in a 8-3 victory at Towson. This season, Roper has one assist in two games played.
Roper was excited for his last home game and to wind down an eventful Penn State career. He said that through the coaching changes and the 100th year of Penn State lacrosse that he has enjoyed the ride.
"We never thought this moment was going to come, and it won't hit us until after it happens," Roper said. "I'm happy I'm with this group of guys for the last home game together."
Roper played extended minutes on senior day and deservingly so. Roper made a key pass on freshman TJ Sanders' (Orillia, Ont.) fifth goal. He also caused a turnover in the final seconds to seal the win for Penn State, earning praise from his coach.
"There's a guy (Roper) who was on the bench for seven or eight games," Tambroni said, "and he makes a big play there at the end of the game. We were thankful to come away with a win in the last regular season home game."
Roper is proud of the way the team has prepared and displayed hard work throughout the season, and attributes the team's success to Tambroni and the coaching staff.
"Coach came in two and half years ago and we've been working up to this point," Roper said. "We have to attribute it to all the hard work that we've done in the past few years coming from a different coaching staff. It's all paying off this year and hopefully we keep improving."
Roper said that beating Notre Dame in South Bend, Ind. was his favorite memory. He is a finance major and still figuring out his plans for after graduation.
Eric Davidheiser (Vashon, Wash.)
The senior midfielder has dressed in 11 games, taking five shots and scooping up two ground balls. Davidheiser said that while others may be taking the last home game as the end, he is looking forward to continuing to be part of the Penn State family and is proud of his teammates.
"Obviously we still have games left this season, but even after this season we will still be part of the Penn State Lacrosse family," Davidheiser said. "We talk about leaving the place better than we found and I think this senior class has done that. This team has fought through adversity and showed what the Penn State way is."
Davidheiser admitted that it is sad that he won't see his teammates every day, but looking back at his experience, he is proud of the way his team always raised to the occasion.
"Each one of us has our own story and our own path that got us here," Davidheiser said. "That has made us so much stronger because we have these outside stories to draw from and think on how we can do things differently. As a whole, this class with the experience that we've had has the opportunity to turn bad experience to good."
Davidheiser, like many of his other teammates, said that he will always remember the upset over No. 2 Notre Dame last season. He said he was proud to see one of his best friends, Drew Roper, score such a big goal in the game.
Davidheiser is an Economics major and is moving west to Seattle, Wash. to take a job as a financial representative for Northwestern Mutual.
Conor Baucum (Chevy Chase, Md.)
Baucum has appeared in five career games for the Nittany Lions, including two this season against Binghamton and Saint Joseph's.
Growing up 30 minutes away from Towson, Baucum said that it was special having the Tigers be the team he ends his home career against. He knows that it is not the end and hopes that the team can keep winning this season.
"It's huge to have this be the celebration of our four years," Baucum said. "Even when I'm gone from here, I know I'll be coming back for games and I'm excited to be part of this family."
Baucum said that the relationships he made throughout his career are something he will remember for the rest of his life. He said that the win at Notre Dame was special to him, but for other reasons than his teammates.
"For me, the Notre Dame win was different," Baucum said. "My best friend was on Notre Dame and that was the only time we ever faced each other since high school. Both of us being goalies, it was special and that was the only time I've ever beaten him."
Baucum is a Communications Arts and Sciences major and hopes to go into advertising after graduation.
David Spadacene (Bethel Park, Pa.)
Spadacene transferred to Penn State after spending two years at Presbyterian College. He has not suited up for Nittany Lions in his two seasons, but is still a major contributor in the locker room.
He said it is a sad experience going into the last game, but will cherish the time he had with his teammates.
"Being in the locker room at 5 a.m. on Friday mornings with the boys," Spadacene recalled as his favorite memory. "That anticipation going into workouts or practice and being with everyone and knowing it's that early in the morning and everyone is working hard is something I will always remember."
Spadacene is a Labor Studies Employment major and still has no plans for after graduation.
John Cugini (Springfield, Pa.)
Another transfer, Cugini spent two years at Denver University before coming to Penn State. Cugini has not seen playing time during his two years at Penn State, but recalled being accepted with open arms by his teammates as his most memorable moment.
"My favorite memory is becoming a member of the team," Cugini. "It was really exciting to finally be able to play with all these guys. Just finally joining the group and being accepted at first was very memorable."
Cugini is proud of what he and the team have accomplished during his brief time at Penn State.
"It's sad, but exciting to know that we made it to this point of senior day because as a freshman you think it so far away," Cugini said. "It's sad, but it's an accomplishment that I made it this far."
Majoring in Biology, Cugini hopes to get his degree and enter a helping profession.
Schmitt is the team manager for the Nittany Lions and is bittersweet about the last home game. Although he will miss being around the team, he feels that the senior class is leaving Penn State a better place than when the class came in.
Schmitt said that the standards of Penn State lacrosse have drastically changed from when he came in as a freshman. He credits the coaching staff for continuing to raise the bar and that the sky is the limit for the program moving forward.
"I think it's amazing to see from a strategic management point of view," Schmitt said. "The goals that this program has set for itself and being able to achieve some of those things and still set higher and lofty goals have been phenomenal."
While playing the last home game last weekend was special, Schmitt will always remember all the fun and success the team had on the road.
"Just being on the road and bonding with the guys," Schmitt said. "Our record on the road is incredible. The time and comradery having meals and being on a set schedule with everyone together, we have had a lot of success. It's attested to the togetherness of the program and how we hold ourselves when we leave campus."
Schmitt will get his degree in Hotel Restaurant Institutional Management. After graduation, he will be working for a fast-casual restaurant group called the Taco Truck in the New York City area. Schmitt will be starting out in a management position of a brand new restaurant and hopes to grow with the young company.
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. -- No. 11 Penn State men's lacrosse (9-3, 4-0 CAA) sent its seniors off in style with a 10-8 victory against Towson on Saturday at the Penn State Lacrosse Field.
The senior day celebrations concluded with Penn State extending its winning streak to seven. The Nittany Lions now sit alone atop the very competitive CAA going into their final two conference games.
Freshman attacker TJ Sanders (Orillia, Ont.) lead the way for the Nittany Lions with five goals, upping his total to 33 on the season. Sanders was dangerous around the crease and also showed off his laser of a shot from range. Head coach Jeff Tambroni said that Sanders was very opportunistic in getting to scoring areas and making plays.
"I thought our guys did a good job of keeping their head up and locating him," Tambroni said. "Against a very good goalie I think he made the most of his chances. We talked a lot this week about making sure we were in a good shooting range to capitalize against this good goalie."
Senior midfielder Nick Dolik (Bloomfield Hills, Mich.) celebrated his senior day with a goal and an assist on Sanders first goal just two minutes into the game. Dolik applauded the freshman's poise and preparation every day.
"He tries to improve his game every day even though he has been having success," Dolik said. "It's good to see a freshman like that stepping up. He's really grown up a lot this year."
Sanders hat trick gives him seven on the season. Tambroni said that he "can make bad offense look good" and that he has carried the offense on many occasions. But Sanders credits his teammates for his offensive success.
"I [have to] credit my teammates," Sanders said. "They are the ones who were finding me in those spots. Without them I wouldn't be able to do it."
Senior attacker Jack Forster (Jenkintown, Pa.) complemented Sanders with a goal and three assists in his last home game. Forster scored a highlight-reel, no-look goal in the fourth that Sanders had a perfect view of.
"I saw [Forster] back the guy down and I thought he was going to shoot it lefty," Sanders said, "but he spun and ripped it righty and it went under the goalie's arm. He placed it nice even though he wasn't looking."
Forster and Sanders have combined for 49 percent of Penn State's goals this season. Sanders said that he has learned a lot from Forster's experience.
"He has been right there for me from the first day," Sanders said. "He is a veteran, he's been here a while so he definitely helps me out a lot."
While Sanders performance propelled the Nittany Lions offense, the game was all about the seniors. Tamboni said that he is proud of this senior class that has been through a lot with coaching changes, transfers and injuries. He was pleased with the output from everyone in the win against Towson.
"Drew Roper (Columbus, Ohio) makes a play in this game to get TJ the ball to get us to 10 [goals] is symbolic with where these seniors are," Tambroni said. "There's a guy (Roper) who was on the bench for seven or eight games...and he makes a big play there at the end of the game."
Junior goalie Austin Kaut (Morton, Pa.) said that the seniors set the tone for the game and their leadership was critical in the win. Sanders echoed Kaut and sees senior leadership as a major ingredient for future success.
"Every team that wants to do something special in a season needs great senior leadership," Sanders said. "That's what we have so we have to keep working away."
Dolik said there weren't any added butterflies heading into his last home game. He was happy with the way the team performed to send the seniors off.
"As a senior I'm comfortable playing at our field," Dolik said. "It's crazy that [my senior day] is already here. I couldn't really believe it, but it was a fun one and I'm glad we came out with the win."
The Nittany Lions get back to work this week to prepare for a trip to Delaware to take on the Blue Hens Saturday.
By Chelsea Howard, GoPSUsports.com
Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - When the Penn State men's lacrosse team took the field this season; they were playing for far more than themselves. They were playing for the legacy that built the longstanding tradition of Penn State lacrosse and the 100 years that came before them.
The Varsity 'S' Club spent months creating an event that recognized the thousands of alumni that came before this season. Saturday's celebration of the 100th year of Penn State lacrosse started with a tailgate two hours before the game. Then at 1 p.m. the 13th ranked Nittany Lions took on 12th ranked Drexel with a half-time recognition, followed by a post-game reception and dinner for all to enjoy.
To start off the morning with team camaraderie, the lacrosse players and coaches had a team breakfast. Attending the breakfast was Scott McKeon from the class of 1987 who hoped to motivate the players for a win.
"I just told them how proud we are of this team rebounding from the Notre Dame loss and now they've won five in a row," McKeon said. "I told them how proud we are as alumni that they've learned how to win. After I spoke, Jeff [Tambroni] used the word team and team doesn't stop at the lacrosse players. It extends to the alumni family and friends who are here to celebrate this moment and they really look at it as their future. Someday they will be doing what we're doing as alumni."
To start off the 100th season anniversary, a tailgate was set up for alumni ranging from the 1950s all the way to 2012 who had the chance to see their teammates, to meet those who came before them and to connect with those who came after them.
From the 1950s decade, Chip Henderson played lacrosse from 1956-1959 and rarely has the opportunity to reconnect with some of his teammates or other alumni. He enjoyed how well this event was planned to honor the legacy.
"It's a great idea and I feel so far it has been extremely well orchestrated," Henderson said. "We've reflected on games, the university automobiles, the conditions we had to practice in and how much it has changed. The technology of the equipment has vastly improved with synthetic materials versus the wood sticks we played with."
A graduate of the 1964 class and a captain for the Nittany Lions, Vin Tedesco spent the day remembering his college days and celebrating how far the sport of lacrosse has come over the years.
"It's one of the highlights of my life to be alive for the 100th anniversary and to be back celebrating how lucky we are to play the sport we love for the university we love," Tedesco said. "It just makes you feel good to see all these guys and remember them as young men and see the great lives they've led. You just can't beat that."
From the class of 1975, Tom Rogers cherished the opportunity to see teammates he hasn't seen in years and to witness a program on the rise.
"Being a part of this is hard to put into words," Rogers said. "It's one thing to know that a program has been around for 100 years, but at half time the current players will actually see players going back to the 50's, 60's, 70's, and 80's and see people who have played here before they were even born. It heightens that awareness of longevity of the program. It shows a real tradition and they're the next generation."
Playing from 1983-1987, Tony Gerrato came back this weekend not only as a proud alumnus, but also as a parent of a current player, sophomore Bryan Gerrato.
"It makes you get pretty emotional that something has been around this long and you've been a part of it and having my son be a part of the next generation," Tony Gerrato said. "My brother also played here so our families have been extremely connected to the program."
From the 90s decade, Paul Fisher came excited not only to see his past teammates, but also to celebrate how far the program has come in a short amount of time.
"It's a wonderful opportunity to see old friends, meet their wives and children as well as enjoy the success of the current lacrosse program," Fisher said. "We all couldn't be prouder of where it is today."
Representing the class of 2000, Kevin Keenan brought his son with him to share the traditions within the Penn State family.
"This is such a tight knit, close family and after all of the events that have happened in the Penn State community, I'm so proud of these young men and their actions," Keenan said. "It's a tremendous honor to be back here. You're not an individual when you come up here. You're another link in the chain and when you're kids are up here, they see the great university, the great athletic department, the great program. They're the next link in the chain to carry on the tradition."
After the tailgate, the alumni found a spot in the stands to cheer on the players that will close out the first 100 years. Of those players, senior Drew Roper used the celebration as motivation to capitalize on another win for Penn State.
"It's an honor to play for the 100 years before us," Roper said. "These guys have built a legacy and it's extremely fitting to be a senior during the 100th year. We just played for all the alumni that came before us. We got a lot of momentum early and we tried to represent the legacy of the previous teams."
Defeating Drexel 13-6 gave all of the players, coaches, parents, alumni, and fans even more reason to celebrate. The final event of the day included another opportunity for alumni to see old friends in addition to meeting the current players and their parents.
With nearly 300 alumni back in town, everyone gathered in the Multisport Facility for a dinner and listened to speakers who gave the lacrosse family a closer look into the history of the program.
Starting the night off, sports broadcaster Steve Jones welcomed everyone and turned it over to Athletic Director Dave Joyner who was proud of the turnout and support the alumni gave to these players.
"I'm very proud of Penn State and what's going on and we're only just getting started," Joyner said. "With this whole 'one team' mantra, every coach is working together for the betterment of each sport and it's very exciting to me. I am very impressed with how many alumni are here and there's got to be at least 50 percent of the living alumni here."
After a short break to enjoy a dinner with families, Tedesco was next up, explaining the early years of lacrosse when it started at Penn State in 1913. Beginning the legacy that continues today was Walter Farley who coached for two years.
Dave Thiel, who was part of the class of 1965 and an All-American, followed Tedesco and shared the foundation that his father Nick Thiel built starting in 1935 and ending in 1956. Ernie Baer contributed by coaching in 1957 through 1961.
Dave Thiel explained that his father coached for 22 years, however it wasn't coaching back then - it was more of teaching since those who tried out did not know much about the sport. His father faced difficulties with different equipment that made the learning and playing much harder. World War II affected the program for five years as those who were drafted had to leave.
Continuing the tradition that Thiel helped established, came Dick Pencek. He was head coach during the 1962 season and 1965 through 1977. Pencek said with 26 kids all dressed in high numbers from football jersey hand-me-downs, he made it his mission to make the lacrosse team better.
As a part of the 1966 class and watching his father coach, Glenn Thiel took over for 33 years from 1978-2010 while Penn State was on the rise. He expressed that it was a pleasure for him to get back here and was glad to turn the program over to Jeff Tambroni.
Thiel mentioned that as a coach you always look to bring together great leaders, which led to some of his best teams. After just three years at Penn State, Thiel can already see that Tambroni's doing just that with the future of Penn State and the current players.
Tambroni was the final speaker of the night and addressed the current team and what is to come for the program based on what has come before them.
"We sit here to honor the past 100 years and it's amazing to see everything that Penn State has accomplished, but I would also like to recognize the modern players," Tambroni said. "These young men work so hard everyday to build upon the great tradition of Penn State lacrosse and I can tell you first hand we have a great deal of respect for everything you've done before us and the camaraderie that you've built."
Although Tambroni is not a graduate of Penn State, he's beginning to understand what alumni and his wife, who played field hockey for Penn State, mean when they say they are "Penn State proud".
"Not having gone to Penn State, but having played against them, you're outside that circle and have little to no experience or understanding of what that actually means," Tambroni said. "That's the common thread. It has nothing to do with the 480-something wins, nothing to do with an 8-4 record back in 1964. It's about the people, it's about the relationships, it's about the journey, and it's about the common thread that goes through every one of us now. I'm starting to realize the meaning of 'Penn State proud' and we have a lot to be proud of."
The evening ended with a commemorative 100th season video with pictures from different decades followed by footage of the current team. Serving to remind everyone of the many reasons there are so many "Penn State proud" players, parents, and alumni that came together to celebrate an outstanding 2013 season.
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.
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."