By Maria Canales, GoPSUsports.com
Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Although the win against Penn on Saturday was much needed for the Nittany Lions, for some members of the crowd the win was bittersweet. Kim Kreinz, mother of junior faceoff specialist Drake Kreinz, was in the audience cheering on not one, but two of her sons.
Drake's younger brother Austin is a sophomore on the Quakers' lacrosse team, and Saturday's matchup was the first time the two brothers, only a grade apart, have played against each other.
"[This game was] bittersweet," said Kim Kreinz. "It's tough, knowing there will be one winner. They played on the high school team together and my best memory is of them playing against the rival high school that was more dominant than them and Drake had the OT winning goal. They worked together. After that I thought I never had to see another game, but this is a whole new level now."
Also in the crowd were Drake and Austin's younger siblings, along with many members of their extended family. The Kreinz family had known saw this matchup on the schedule over 18 months ago, and had been preparing since.
The family had designed matching T-shirts for the occasion, which made their large group stand out in comparison to the sea of people in attendance. What made the shirts special however, was what was on the back. Drake Kreinz wears number 38 for Penn State, and in a twist of fate, so does Austin for Penn. On the back of the family T-shirts was the number 38, recognizing both brothers, and bringing the occasion full circle.
"Whenever you have that many Kreinz's in one place too long it's nothing but trouble, [laughs] but it was great to see them," said Drake Kreinz. "They were cheering for both sides. It's just always good to see family, there's nothing like them coming twelve hours to see a game."
In the end, Penn State came out with a victory, but both brothers embraced each other after the game knowing an opportunity like this doesn't happen often. The family aspect of the lacrosse is nothing new to the Kreinz brothers, but competing against each other added something special to a matchup the family would never forget.
"[Austin's] one of my fiercest competitors," said Drake Kreinz. "I'm kind of bummed we didn't go against each other at the faceoff, but just having the opportunity to compete against him there's no better feeling."
Recently in Men's Lacrosse Category
By Maria Canales, GoPSUsports.com
Student Staff Writer
By Maria Canales, GoPSUsports.com
Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - After a hard fought game, the Nittany Lions were able to hold back Penn's relentless offense, earning a much-needed 14-11 victory inside Holuba Hall on Saturday.
Penn State (2-2), once again found itself in an early hole trailing its in-state rival by two goals to start the game. After their early struggles, a strong performance from both the offense and defense kept the game close. The Nittany Lions never trailed by more than two goals. At the start of the fourth period, the Nittany Lion's offense found its stride, and launched into a final offensive flurry to finish off their opponent.
After two tough road losses to Loyola and Villanova, a win was just what the Nittany Lions needed to boost morale and give the team momentum going into their upcoming games over spring break.
"That was much needed," said head coach Jeff Tambroni. "You could see the relief on our guys' faces when the game ended. I think the key was that it was such a hard fought game and they had to work for everything. If we didn't come out with this kind of effort today it certainly wasn't going to work out."
Coach Tambroni was pleased with his players' performance, and effort, to control possession, win face-offs, and score goals. Tambroni noted the heart was back in the game for his players.
"I just felt like our guys played with a whole lot more heart today than they have in the last two weeks, I thought it showed on the scoreboard today," said Tambroni.
The Nittany Lions' gained momentum with every goal; kick-started by a rocket shot by sophomore Matt Florence in the first period. Florence would find the back of the net a total of four times against Penn, all of which were unassisted.
"After these past two weeks I think the team's a little stressed out. We really just wanted to come out off to a good start today and just play as a team," said Florence.
During halftime, the crowd welcomed the Royer family to the center of the field to be honored as official members of the Penn State lacrosse family with a rousing standing ovation. Gavin Royer was diagnosed with a brain tumor just ten days after his fifth birthday last March and has since become a symbol of hope and determination for the Nittany Lions. Gavin and his family were matched with Penn State lacrosse through the Friends of Jaclyn Foundation.
At the start of the second half Penn State led Penn 8-7. The game remained close, with each Penn State goal being answered by the Quakers. The momentum and team unity that fueled the Nittany Lions overflowed as the Penn State sidelines got more vocal toward the end of the second half.
"I just feel like a lot of momentum built up throughout the game," said Florence. "Everyone just wanted to cross the finish line and honestly we were all giving it everything we had until the last whistle."
With a boisterous team on the sidelines cheering fellow teammates on during the final minutes of the game, Penn State opened up a three-goal lead.
While Saturday's win was much needed for the Nittany Lions, the team already has their sights set on the next matchup. The Nittany Lions will go into spring break matchups against Harvard, Marist, and UMass with a heightened level of confidence brought about after their victory over Penn.
"It's great now but I think we're all ready for next week, we're already wanting to compete a little more. I think that this will just help us carry that momentum," said Florence.
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - The Penn State men's lacrosse team adopted a new teammate last fall, Gavin Royer, age 5. The pairing came together as a result of the Nittany Lions' and the Royers' participation in the Friends of Jaclyn Program.
Gavin Royer was diagnosed with a brain tumor just 10 days after his fifth birthday last March. Since then, Gavin's and his family were adopted by the Penn State men's lacrosse team through the Friends of Jaclyn Foundation, a program that pairs both collegiate and high school sports teams with families of children battling pediatric cancer.
Not only did the men's lacrosse team adopt Gavin, but also the women's lacrosse team adopted Gavin's two sisters, Alaina and Victoria. The pairings have provided support for the Royer family throughout the past months of Gavin's treatment. Head coach Jeff Tambroni explained that the Royers have provided priceless comfort and support to his players.
"For us, it's more about just kind of that contact in perspective with like 'this is what he's going through, [Gavin] needs a support group, let's make sure we provide that for him' and vice versa," said Tambroni. "Their family provides a wonderful support group respective to our guys."
The men's team went all in when meeting Gavin and the Royers for the first time in December. Gavin was given his own locker in the team's locker room, as well as his own equipment including sticks and jerseys. Gavin proudly wears his Penn State lacrosse attire whenever he gets the chance. He displayed his Penn State pride at both men's lacrosse preseason scrimmages, as well as their home opener, a victory against Vermont.
"First and foremost we're locker buddies," said senior captain Kyle Zittel. "His locker is right next to mine. But just welcoming him in, I guess I took on responsibility because I felt the first connection with Gavin when he first came in and was excited and I got to interact with him from the get-go."
The Royer family, hailing from Morrisdale, Pennsylvania, has made it a goal to be in attendance for all the home men's lacrosse games. The family gets to hang out on the team's side of the field, watching the game with the same view as the players. Being at the games further connects the Royers to the young men that have become family to them.
Gavin and his family are fully involved in gameday rituals, from pregame fist bumps with the players, to the post game team handshakes. Senior captain Kyle Zittel has been one of the more involved players with the program and became instantly attached to the team's newest member.
"Everybody feels a connection with Gavin," said Zittel. "So when we run on the field and your mind is at the game you see Gavin and it's just in the back of your head that he's there and a fist bump is all it takes for us to connect with him initially and you feel it. It's not something I can describe in words because a fist bump doesn't look like much but when you're running by him you just feel it inside in your heart."
The connection with the team doesn't stop there. The Royers hang out at the postgame tailgates, mixing amongst the players, coaches, and families alike.
"He's always sitting on the stairs with his family, and as we go through and get food and interact with our teammates and family and other guys' families on the team, he's there as well," said Zittel. "He's another family member of ours."
This weekend's game against Penn will be slightly different for the Royer family. Penn State men's lacrosse plans to honor Gavin and his family during halftime, in recognition for their continued support and involvement with the team.
While Penn State men's lacrosse is a vital support system for the Royer family, the team believes Gavin and his family have impacted them in an equally important way. Gavin's fighting spirit has brought a new wave of motivation for the Nittany Lions to succeed, not only for themselves, but also for their extended family on the sidelines.
"We say this to our guys, it's a game," said Tambroni. "We get wrapped up in it because it's a profession and it's a way of life, but at the end of the day you look around and look at someone like Gavin who's constantly smiling with all that he has going on in his life and it really forces you to step back from everything that you're doing and stop complaining about the little things and realize that a lot more people out there, including Gavin, have it much more challenging. For that I think he has done a lot more for us than we've done for him."
The Nittany Lions take on Penn this Saturday in Holuba Hall at noon.
By Maria Canales, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
VILLANOVA, Pa. - The Penn State men's lacrosse team fell to in-state foe Villanova, 11-7, on Saturday afternoon at Villanova Stadium.
A strong start from the Wildcats put Penn State on its heels early in the game, placing the Nittany Lions in a position to try and mount a comeback. Creating an additional challenge, the weather did not cooperate Saturday with the Penn State men's lacrosse team, as blizzard-like conditions created significant problems and added to the level of game difficulty.
"It certainly made for a sloppy game," said head coach Jeff Tambroni. "Both teams had difficulties; it wasn't like it was an advantage for Penn State or an advantage for Villanova. I thought they managed the game better than we did in the snow but clearly it was a different kind of game because of the weather."
Despite the weather in the eastern part of the Commonwealth, the Nittany Lions focused their attention on their performance, rather than field conditions.
The biggest concern for Penn State is their inability to start the game off strong. Two first quarter penalties resulted in two Villanova goals. Much like their matchup last weekend on the road at Loyola (Md.), the Nittany Lions defensive breakdowns resulted in early goals and the offense was unable to capitalize at the other end.
"For two weeks in a row we just didn't get off to a good start," said Tambroni. "Two weeks in a row we dug a pretty difficult hole to get ourselves out of."
Penn State trailed 6-3 at the end of the first half, after being outscored 5-1 in the first quarter.
A bright spot for the Nittany Lions was sophomore Nick Aponte, and his first multi-goal game of the season. Aponte was responsible for four of the Nittany Lions' seven goals, finding the back of the net on all four of his shots on goal. Another solid performance came from face off specialist Drake Kreinz, who went 14-of-21 from the dot, including his 7-of-8 performance in the fourth quarter.
During the second half, Penn State's defense focused more on double-teaming Villanova attack men in attempts to force turnovers.
"I think we just felt like we needed more possession time," said Tambroni. "We weren't doing a great job off the ground and felt like we needed to pick up the pace a little bit because it was a rather sluggish game."
Villanova's defense was successfully able to put the pressure on Penn State's offense when they came close to scoring range, holding the Nittany Lions to 10 shots in the first half. Penn State took 19 shots in the second half, but the Nittany Lions couldn't overcome the first half deficit.
"I think a lot of our woes came with our inability to pick the ball up off the ground," said Tambroni. "I didn't think we did a good job with some of the details and possessions were clearly one of them. Villanova took advantage of the overall possession time."
In addition to possession time, Coach Tambroni explained that the Nittany Lions need to improve their ability to play from behind, and be overcome the pressure.
"I don't think we did a good job at handling the pressure," said Tambroni. "We were down 5-1 and probably created a more urgent style of lacrosse and then didn't necessarily perform the way we were capable of under those circumstances."
Although the outcome wasn't what the Nittany Lions had hoped for, there is much to be learned from and improved on moving forward.
"The good and the bad is that it's still early in the season and there's a lot of lacrosse left to play," said Tambroni.
By Maria Canales, GoPSUsports.com
Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Former men's lacrosse player Kyle VanThof underwent a bone marrow donation on Feb. 9.
In November of 2012, the Penn State men's lacrosse team hosted a swab drive to attempt to find a bone marrow match for then-player Drew Roper's mother, Kim. Roper's mother had been diagnosed with non-Hodgkin's Lymphoma and needed a bone marrow transplant to aid in her fight against the disease. As part of this swab event, many Penn State student-athletes participated and incredibly, one became a match.
In early 2014, as a result of his participation in the Match4Kim swab drive, men's hockey player David Glen found out he was a match for a woman needing a bone marrow transplant. Although he had to sit out a few games in the middle of the season, Glen knew the choice was clear and didn't hesitate to help.
More recently, VanThof found out he was a match for someone needing the life-saving transplant. VanThof had visited his former teammate Drew Roper, just three days prior to finding out he himself was a match. Roper's mother, who was the inspiration for the swab drive in 2012, unfortunately still has not found a match.
VanThof quickly participated in further testing before undergoing the operation just over a week ago. Finding out he was a match was both surprising and life changing for VanThof.
"I was extremely excited, it was an opportunity to give someone more time with their family, and their family more time with them," said VanThof. "It was a pretty long process, and I was hoping that everything would work out. I believe it has, and there is so much more left to finish the journey with her that I hope we get a chance to be a part of each others lives."
Playing midfield, VanThof spent his years with Penn State men's lacrosse making an impact both on and off the field. His redshirt junior season, VanThof started all 17 games and scored six goals with eight assists. VanThof described his time on the team.
"Unforgettable, I would never exchange my experience for the world," said VanThof. "I still keep in touch with so many of my teammates because we have built a family atmosphere. These were the only guys I spent time with for five years."
Head coach Jeff Tambroni remembers VanThof as a player who treated his teammates like family and thought of other people's needs before his own.
"It's one thing to be a match but it's another thing to actually go through with it," said Tambroni. "Kyle was not only a match but chose to go through with it. I think it speaks volumes about Kyle's selflessness and willingness to kind of look out away from just his own being or his own day-to-day tasks to help somebody else in need."
Due to privacy restrictions VanThof has not been in communication with the woman who would receive the life-saving transplant.
"There are rules with communicating with the person, so at this moment in time I have not heard from her," said VanThof. "I will get updates on how she is doing and so forth, but until the first year hits and we choose whether or not to disclose our personal information we can only communicate through letters that are read by Be The Match."
Despite the lack of direct communication, VanThof knows his contribution is being received with great appreciation. Also appreciative of his donation are his family, friends and former teammates who have supported him through the process.
"Everyone that I have spoken to has been extremely supportive," said VanThof. "It's actually an honor because not everyone gets a chance like this to do something for someone in need."
The whole process he has been through these past few weeks has encouraged VanThof and has inspired him to share his story. VanThof urges that becoming a donor and getting swabbed is very important because it not only can save someone's life, but also change your own.
"Everyone should join because it's such a great cause and awareness needs to be raised on the subject," said VanThof. "To be a match and give someone another year, let alone maybe even only a day with their loved ones, is a tremendous opportunity."
By Maria Canales, GoPSUsports.com Student
BALTIMORE, Md. - The Penn State men's lacrosse team scored four consecutive goals in the second half, but ultimately fell short at Loyola, 8-6, on Saturday.
The beginning of the contest was a defensive showcase, with both teams' defenses keeping the other teams' offenses at bay. Loyola ended the first quarter with three unanswered goals, but the Nittany Lions didn't give up the fight.
Despite being limited by Loyola's steadfast defense, the Nittany Lions' offense created decisive opportunities for scoring in the second half. Four goals in a row brought the Nittany Lions within one goal of tying the Greyhounds, 7-6. These goals gave the Nittany Lions confidence and hope, but ultimately Loyola scored one final goal that sealed the fate for Penn State.
"I think a lot of it was just us not opening things up or playing with more fluidity, more confidence," said head coach Jeff Tambroni. "We were struggling in the basics."
With more than 50 shots taken, the Greyhounds' relentless offense gave the Nittany Lions' defense fits, but goaltender Connor Darcey stood strong. Coach Tambroni, despite disappointment in the final score, was pleased with Darcey's performance overall.
"I credit Connor Darcey and our defense, they played very well today," said Tambroni. "[Loyola's] got some great shooters, especially around the first midfield, they can really bring the heat. But conversely I thought we needed to be a little bit more urgent."
Darcey, in his second game starting in Penn State's net, commanded the defense from the starting faceoff. As goalie, Darcey's position is one of leadership on the field and is extremely important in getting the defense to work together. Darcey, as well as the rest of the defense, felt the pressure during the game to keep Loyola's scoring chances low.
"I thought we played pretty well defensively," said Darcey. "We had a ton of pressure on us which was expected, we knew that going in, but I think we handled it pretty well. As we went on throughout the game we got more comfortable and we sort of felt them [Loyola] out."
Penn State had limited scoring opportunities, which made every shot on net that much more important. Despite Loyola's veteran defense, Penn State was able to come back the second half with a new determination that showed in their performance as well as on the scoreboard.
"We changed the point of attack," said Tambroni. "I think that was the biggest thing. We forced them [Loyola] to have to defend below the goal line and then above the goal line. Not until that point did we force them to have to defend anything in this direction."
Coach Tambroni highlighted the areas the team will be working on going forward, building off the momentum of their second half performance.
"The poise we had coming down the stretch was a positive and maybe we can draw off that," said Tambroni. "We need to do a better job of playing with more urgency from the get-go so we can chip away a few small pieces early so we don't have to do so much at the end of the game."
The second half momentum will be the jumping off point for Penn State's practices this week. Building momentum and keeping it consistent throughout games has been a continuous focus of the Nittany Lions. With a strong performance by the defense, the Nittany Lions look to build on this further and use this game as a learning opportunity in other areas.
"We need to go back to work Monday and start to get our flow back offensively," said Tambroni.
Although the result wasn't what the Nittany Lions were working towards, their strong performance against Loyola has given the team confidence moving forward. The team will take this week to learn and improve for their match up against Villanova on Saturday.
By Maria Canales, GoPSUsports.com Student
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Coming off a strong win against Vermont, the Penn State men's lacrosse team is looking forward to its first road match of the season. Traveling to Baltimore on Saturday to play No. 7-ranked Loyola, the Nittany Lions look to improve to 2-0 on the season.
Having played Notre Dame in their first road game in 2014, the Nittany Lions are no stranger to difficult early season games. Head coach Jeff Tambroni knows early tests like this challenge but ultimately benefit the team.
"It certainly gets your guys' attention, but I also think it allows us an appropriate litmus test of who and where we are," said Tambroni. "Scheduling games like this are an appropriate evaluation for your guys, so for good or for bad you know exactly where you are and you know what you have to work on."
The Nittany Lions know their road record has been better than at home for the past few seasons and they look to use this momentum to their advantage. Starting off home games with a win is great, but winning road games helps set the tone for the season overall.
"I think it's important to get off to a good start on the road," said Tambroni. "On the road you want to get off to a good start to build confidence within your guys and just establish the sense that it's just a game of lacrosse and no matter who's watching or where you're playing that it's about making plays on the field."
Away games give a new atmosphere to the game. Traveling with only teammates and coaches allows team members the opportunity to focus more narrowly on the task at hand.
"I think in a lot of ways our guys just seem to be a little bit more focused and prepared on the road," said Tambroni. "You can get away from some of the distractions that may be relevant here from school or some friends. You have to treat it like a business trip and make sure you're prepared mentally as well as physically. "
The team tends to travel by bus to most games within a seven-hour distance. Time like this is very precious in building team chemistry, as well as building relationships between coaches and the players. Many players spend their time doing homework, watching movies, or more often than not, catching up on much needed sleep.
Redshirt sophomore Drake Kreinz is no stranger to trips like these. Having started all 13 games in 2014, Kreinz knows what it's like to not have home-field advantage. The face-off specialist explained the focus of the team during the weekly preparations to take on the Greyhounds.
"To continue to bring the energy," said Kreinz. "If you don't bring the energy it's easy to lose focus so we're working on bringing the energy as well as staying mentally tough."
During last year's regular season matchup against Loyola, Penn State lost 12-11 in overtime to the Greyhounds. Although the win was one play away, Coach Tambroni emphasized the focus of this year's team is not on the past, but simply on how to get the outcome this time in their favor.
"We are focusing on Loyola, the 2015 version," said Tambroni. "We are focusing on that team right now. We want to build on the confidence that not only we build in practice, but what were able to do last year."
This year's matchup will be a tough task, but the Lions are eager to face the challenge.
"I think when you're together with your team and with the guys you're about to go to battle with I think everyone's got the same mindset and it's easy to just feed off each other," said Kreinz.
When asked what he is looking forward to most during this road trip.
"Just the opportunity to compete," said Kreinz.
By Maria Canales, GoPSUsports.com
Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - The Nittany Lion men's lacrosse team used four early goals as motivation in its season opener against Vermont. Capitalizing on Vermont's defense, the Lions got on the board out of the gate and never looked back.
Junior TJ Sanders attributed the momentum of the first half to the team's ability to communicate and work together. The team had been working to improve their on-field communication during the week leading up to the game.
"There were times we were moving the ball well, and that worked out well," Sanders said. "I think we moved the ball pretty well in transition."
Not only did the offense start strong, but the defense made an early impact as well. In his first game starting in net, redshirt sophomore Connor Darcey settled in as the quarters went by. With several shots in the first half dangerously close to the net, Darcey made sure his defensemen were in constant communication to prevent possible goals. With a sore throat, Darcey relied heavily on the veteran defense to help with communication in the backfield.
"Having them be able to command especially on days like today where I can't even talk was huge," Darcey said.
Head coach Jeff Tambroni emphasized that although the team started strong, it is important to keep the momentum consistent throughout all 60 minutes of play. Tambroni attributed the win to strong individual performances in all positions as well as slight improvements in overall teamwork.
"We did play as a team at times and did get away from it at times and Vermont took advantage of it," said Tambroni. "I thought there was a stretch in that game where we weren't playing really well offensively and I didn't think we were playing very well defensively and had Connor not stepped up and played the way he did, that game probably would've been a lot closer."
Coach Tambroni had defined the goals of the season opener as going in with a positive attitude and to just play the game the team grew up loving; no complications. Tambroni didn't want the team getting too distracted by going overboard on what was expected of them.
"We stressed simplicity today, play like a team offensively and defensively and try to play with the basics," said Tambroni. "I feel like we got away from it a little bit, we tried to do a little too much after building the first quarter lead and I thought the game got away from us a little bit."
Once the team got back to playing as a unit, the final pieces fell into place for them to pull away and win. Although a win is the ideal start to the season, no matter the final score there is always room for improvement.
"I think we need to be a little more aggressive in our attack," said Tambroni. I thought we were looking a little bit passive, a little bit timid at the attack with TJ [Sanders] and Michael [Sutton]. Those guys are going to have to be more aggressive in the future if we're going to have a sound starting three at the attack."
Small improvements to the Lions' game plan could mean the difference between wins and losses later in the season as their schedule increases in difficulty. For now, Tambroni and his team focus one game at a time.
"It was nice to get off with a win and just kind of move on," said Tambroni. "So hopefully we'll have a chance to reflect on what we did here and give our guys a chance to celebrate for a day and then start to make some changes and adjustments as we head into Loyola."
By Maria Canales, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Starting his fifth season, men's lacrosse head coach Jeff Tambroni sees nothing but opportunities for the program and his team. The first test of the season will be the Catamounts from Vermont, who visit Happy Valley on Saturday for the season-opener at noon.
The Catamounts have not been to Happy Valley since March of 2008 when they lost to the Nittany Lions 7-4. The following year, Penn State traveled to the Green Mountain State and went on to defeat Vermont, 7-5. Under Tambroni's leadership, the Nittany Lions will look for a strong start to the regular season.
"This will be my first time coaching against Vermont," said Tambroni. "I know we have film from some of their games in 2014 so we'll look a little bit into some of their general tendencies because I think it's important. I know they have a couple of really good offensive players, their leading scorer was a freshman last year so he'll obviously be a key to our defensive game plan."
Tambroni and the rest of the coaching staff have been hard at working preparing the team for the season opener.
"In a typical game week, Monday we review the film with our team," said Tambroni. "Then we get in the weight room just to get our guys back together exercising, sweating a little bit to start the week off. Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursdays is typically the bulk of when we get our lacrosse work in. So those three days is heavy film work, heavy on field with a lift sprinkled in on Wednesday."
Tambroni emphasized that days off after games are important for recovery, as well as explained that on Fridays the team does a visual walk through to get in the game day mindset. A walk through gives the team a final bit of confidence before game day, as well as allows players to visualize the game day atmosphere and do any final mental preparations.
However, all the hard work the team has put in won't become a reality until this weekend.
"When the guys walk in the locker room on Saturday morning it'll be the first time the freshman have ever seen our game uniforms," said Tambroni. "Our upperclassmen will see it for the first time this year and that's when the heartbeat starts to change a little bit."
Saturday's walk across the parking lot to Holuba Hall will provide the final few moments of calm and introspection before the season officially kicks off against Vermont.
"I think the level of excitement genuinely changes with the reality that the season is finally here and with 13 guaranteed games you don't want to take anything for granted," Coach Tambroni said.
By Maria Canales, GoPSUsports.com
Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Since third grade, Connor Darcey has been a lacrosse player. As a child, he started off playing attack and midfield. Darcey was thrown into the goalie position when his older brother's team lacked a goaltender. He stuck with this position and has developed his skills over the years, taking in every opportunity given to him.
The biggest opportunity so far for Darcey has been playing lacrosse for Penn State under head coach Jeff Tambroni. A four-year starting goalie for Wellesley High School in Massachusetts, Darcey came to Penn State for academics and athletics. Although Darcey didn't see any action in the 2013 season and therefore was chosen to redshirt, he played in two games during the 2014 campaign.
"After his freshman year, we chose to red shirt Connor because we felt that was going to be the next logical progression after Austin Kaut graduated," said Tambroni.
Austin Kaut is a household name; he started almost every game in net for the Nittany Lions between 2011 and 2013, and started all 17 games his senior season in 2014. The 2015 campaign will be Tambroni's first year as the Penn State coach without Kaut in net.
Filling Kaut's big shoes is a challenge Darcey has faced head on. Darcey used his two seasons behind Kaut as an opportunity to learn from the four-year starter, while improving his own skills in the net.
"I think being in the position that I was in was extremely beneficial," said Darcey. "I got to see one of the better goalies go through the system in Austin Kaut. I had the lucky fortune of being behind him and making the transition from high school into college lacrosse was definitely a lot easier. He showed me how to communicate, command your defense, and just be a part of a collegiate team, which was huge."
When it comes to molding goaltenders, Tambroni says it is a team effort amongst all the coaches.
"Coach Toner will talk to him about defensive schemes and communication skills within the defense," said Tambroni. "I'll talk to him more about game management and preparation, and Coach Doctor will talk to him about day to day work and his technique and make sure he's in a good place mentally. We'll have a three-headed monster going into this spring."
Tambroni will be the first person to say that being a goalie is tough, both mentally and physically. Having coached goalies for over 15 years, Tambroni knows what is going on inside their heads. The mental capability one must have to stand in the crease and withstand the opposing teams attackers is comparable to very little outside the realm of lacrosse. Tambroni measures a successful goalie, not just by wins, but also by his overall leadership and presence on the field. It's not only important for the goalie to take control of the defense, but also give them feedback and motivation after a goal is scored against them.
"After every goal our defense brings it together," said Tambroni. "Our defense has a huddle and Connor's in there and we would like him to be part of that discussion. He can see it as the back line of defense in terms of what went wrong. You only have about 20 to 30 seconds to evaluate and communicate effectively to a group of six guys who are emotionally just not in the right place to hear anything from anyone else, especially if they feel they made the mistake. So leadership, and his ability to communicate to our team, especially our defense, is keys to a successful goalie."
The rest of the Nittany Lions defense, including senior defenseman JP Burnside, has noticed the hard work Darcey has put in before the start of the season.
"Connor has stepped up and he's doing a really good job," said Burnside. "He was in the film room every day so he's really just stepped into the roll and he's doing great."
From early morning workouts to late nights watching film, Darcey has prepared himself as best as possible for the difficult 2015 campaign. His confidence in net has developed, and with one more scrimmage against Lehigh on the schedule, Darcey looks to end the pre-season strong. He hopes to get the team in a good mental state before the regular season opener against Vermont on Feb. 7.
"With each day you get more confident," said Darcey. "And you build the momentum going into the first game which will be huge for us."
The Nittany Lions host Lehigh in an exhibition game Saturday in Holuba Hall at 3pm.
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