By Maria Canales, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Most people know Canada as the home to ice hockey. However, Canada is also home to the arguably equally as intense sport of box lacrosse. With four Penn State men's lacrosse (7-5, 1-2 Big Ten) players hailing from Canada, their experience with box lacrosse has helped them build a different skillset than their American teammates.
Senior attacker TJ Sanders, junior midfielder Dan Craig, sophomore midfielder Chris Young, and freshman midfielder Dylan Foulds all have experience playing the physical sport of box lacrosse.
"I started playing field lacrosse when I was 14 but have played box since I was about five," said Foulds. "But really growing up I only played field lacrosse about once or twice a week."
Box lacrosse varies greatly from field lacrosse, as players in box must all use the same length stick, there are only six players from each team on the field at a time (including the goalie), and the more prevalent use of a shot clock.
Equipment is a big differentiator between the styles also, because in box instead of elbow pads players have slash guards to protect the forearm to mid-bicep. Players in box also have bicep and rib protection, which players in field don't have. In box lacrosse there is also off-ball contact, which means players without the ball can be hit, which is against the rules in field lacrosse.
The smaller playing surface of box lacrosse also requires players to be more physical, but also forces them to develop high-quality stick skills. While field lacrosse requires a combination of skill and speed, box lacrosse players can sometimes separate themselves from average players with superior stick skills alone.
"Box is a lot more physical and up-close," said Young. "You've got to be able to handle pressure and it's a lot more compact so you've got to adapt to the game better. On the field you have more open space so you have to adjust your speed and use your size differently."
The need for such skills in box lacrosse, Craig explained, is the reason behind why he believes Canadian players have the innate ability to be more creative on the field. Craig credits his background with box lacrosse for some of the more intricate shots he's taken on net this season, such as those behind the head.
Having played box lacrosse most of his life, Craig's transition to college lacrosse was unique. He had little experience with field lacrosse, the least of all the current Canadian players on the team. Increasing Craig's confidence was key head coach Jeff Tambroni explained, and noted how the midfielder seems to get more confident the more years he's played on the field.
"I've been playing box lacrosse for over 10 years, close to 13 years," said Craig. "I didn't even know general rules of field, I had to work on spacing, and learning how to shoot on American goalies was something I had to work on also. American goalies play like a player with their stick up in the air whereas they have their stick on the ground in box."
In his earlier years on the team Craig was more hesitant on the field in his movements, but throughout his sophomore and junior years he has developed more fluidity. The hard work Craig has put in has paid off, and today he is an effective and dominant presence at midfield.
Tambroni noted how important the Canadian players are to his program. Having seen a good amount of Canadian players come through Penn State, Tambroni highlighted a few areas that Canadian players excel in.
"There's two distinct skillsets that they bring down," said Tambroni of Canadian players. "One is just their stick stills in general they just seem to be a little bit further ahead than most of our American players because of the confines of the arena that they play in. The other one would just be toughness. The rules are much looses in the indoor game, certainly in the box game, it's an extremely physical game and there's not much complaining up there. Those guys expect that when they put that equipment on and they have the ball on their stick that they're going to take a pounding. That's the mentality they carry and more often than not they carry that down to the States. I admire it."
As the game of lacrosse grows in the United States, the Canadian members of Penn State men's lacrosse hope to see more Canadian players come to American colleges to play.
"I think in the past ten years there's been a lot more Canadian players," said Craig. "I think that's just going to keep increasing."
Penn State plays at Rutgers on Friday at 8 p.m. The game will air on the Big Ten Network.
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. - The No. 14 Penn State men's lacrosse team (7-5, 1-2 Big Ten) may have lost an overtime game to No. 17 Johns Hopkins (7-4, 2-1 Big Ten) on Sunday evening, but the game was anything but dull. The Nittany Lions were able to keep the Blue Jays to less than a two-goal lead after the first quarter of play.
Johns Hopkins got on the board first in what seemed like a barrage of goals early on in the first quarter. Hopkins dominated possession time in the first half of the quarter, putting the Nittany Lions on defense early.
Despite allowing four early goals, the Nittany Lions were just getting warmed up. Quickly, the intensity of the game picked up and Penn State notched two goals to end the first quarter down by two.
Both goals, scored by junior attacker Nick Aponte, made the crowd of more than 2,700 go wild.
On Aponte's first goal, the attacker forced a turnover, gained
possession of the ball, and scored unassisted. His second goal, with one second
left on the clock in the first quarter, was a wrap around shot from the right
side of the net.
Aponte, a seasoned dodger, used his speed to his advantage when it came to beating defenders around the net. Aponte has developed his skills over the last two years and has become one of the more stable players on attack.
As the sun set over the field, the game of cat and mouse started.
To kick off the second quarter, Penn State notched a third goal as senior TJ Sanders netted his 22nd goal of the season. By the end of the second quarter the Blue Jays were still leading 6-5, but the Nittany Lions were far from giving up.
The crowd went wild once again as freshman attacker Nick Spillane gave the Nittany Lions their first tying goal of the night with 10 seconds to go in the third quarter. The score was even at seven apiece as Penn State's come-from-behind spirit propelled them into the fourth quarter.
The constant back-and-forth was exhausting for both teams who were determined to crank out a conference win. The Nittany Lions, fresh off an overtime loss to Maryland the Sunday prior, wanted to keep the Blue Jays guessing by changing up their defensive game between zone and man-to-man defense. Penn State's defense contributed to keeping Johns Hopkins' offense to no more than a two-point lead throughout three quarters of play.
Aponte again found the back of the net halfway through the fourth quarter, to bring the Nittany Lions within one goal of the 9-8 lead the Blue Jays had created. Junior midfielder Dan Craig made his way through traffic in front of the net to give the Nittany Lions their second tie of the night.
Aponte's fourth and final goal of the night, with 3:47 left in the fourth quarter, would once again bring the Nittany Lions within one point of the lead, this time with the Blue Jays leading 11-10.
Down by one late in the fourth quarter, the Nittany Lions had time for one last play. The crowd rose to its feet and fans clapped as the Nittany Lions set up in the offensive zone. Redshirt junior attacker Matt Florence got the ball and cradled it on his left side. Switching to the right side, Florence worked his way around the defender and threw the ball to the goalie's left side.
With 29 seconds left in the fourth quarter, Florence gave Penn State the momentum it had been looking for, and tied the game. Under the bright lights of the Penn State lacrosse field, the Nittany Lions had come from behind and forced overtime.
"When we went into overtime, I just thought having been there before is important," said head coach Jeff Tambroni. "Whether you win or lose there is a sense of calming that goes into that. I felt like these guys were prepared to win and Hopkins made a nice play defensively and then made the play they needed to offensively. So, sometimes it just comes down to that."
Penn State fell to Johns Hopkins, 12-11.
Despite last week's overtime loss to Maryland, Aponte explained that this game against Johns Hopkins was completely different.
"This one we had to fight back to get back in it," said Aponte.
Aponte noted how the team's determination allowed Penn State to stay close to Johns Hopkins on the scoreboard, but ultimately wasn't able to make the necessary play on offense in overtime.
"They're hurting for sure," said Tambroni. "We're going to have to get back after this immediately and make sure that our focus is where it needs to be headed into Rutgers."
Penn State plays at Rutgers on Friday at 8 p.m. The game will be aired on the Big Ten Network.
By Maria Canales, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Between the 2011 and 2015 seasons, the No. 14 Penn State men's lacrosse team (7-3, 1-1 Big Ten) has appeared on television 11 times. By the end of the 2016 regular season, alone, the Nittany Lions will have appeared on national television seven times.
The importance of media coverage for the program has grown during head coach Jeff Tambroni's time at the helm of the Nittany Lions. With the introduction of the Big Ten conference for men's and women's lacrosse last season, it has become more important for Penn State's program to put its best foot forward when games appear on television.
During Tambroni's first season with Penn State in 2011, the Nittany Lions didn't have any regular season games aired on television. Again in 2012, Penn State didn't see television coverage.
However, in 2013 the Nittany Lions had four games broadcasted into fans' living rooms. The program's 15-12 win over Denver was the first game of the season to be broadcasted, followed by games against Lehigh and Towson. The Nittany Lions, who received an NCAA Tournament bid that year, had their first-round game against Yale aired on ESPNU.
Despite a successful season in 2013, the Nittany Lions had just one of their 2014 season games covered on live TV, a 9-7 loss to Villanova.
Last season Penn State reached a record-high level of coverage, having six games covered by live broadcasts. All of the Nittany Lions' Big Ten matchups were aired on TV.
With the introduction of the Big Ten conference for lacrosse during the 2015 season, coverage of the sport has expanded both within the conference and nationally.
"Through the course of the last number of years, with the addition of the Big Ten and some smaller successes, that's put us in the position to be here," said Tambroni. "We understand we have a long way to go but we definitely credit the Big Ten conference and the Big Ten Network for putting Penn State lacrosse probably in a position well before our time to have nationwide exposure, and the benefit of that is just astronomical."
Television exposure is key for coaches during recruiting, and for Penn State it's not any different. For high school prospects it can sometimes be difficult to make trips to colleges to watch prospective teams play in person, let alone be able to travel to State College.
"You try to connect with [recruits] over the summer and you hope they connect back with you other ways other than just coming to see games which is a little unrealistic for most people," said Tambroni. "But through sports information and television coverage you just have a huge advantage and also through your alumni base, which Penn State has a great one, and a recruiting base which we were trying to build when we first got here."
The advantages of being recognized by television coverage are overwhelmingly positive but coverage can sometimes present some challenges. Still regarded as a sport on the rise, collegiate lacrosse teams often have to decide between playing at unusual times or turning down coverage.
This season, on Saturday March 12, Penn State hosted the Harvard Crimson. The Nittany Lions won in a dramatic fashion in overtime against the Crimson, 13-12, however, the game started at 10 a.m. The unusually early start time was to allow for ESPNU coverage, but sacrificing start times is worth the exposure a team will receive.
Tambroni explained that as the program gathers more wins, and becomes a more successful brand in collegiate lacrosse, coverage is sure to increase, whether it is television or just media. Although teams don't have direct control over television coverage, Tambroni said teams do have control over the team's performance.
"It goes hand in hand with our own success," said Tambroni. "If you're not a very successful program or not a worldwide brand you're probably not going to be on television all that much and I think that makes a lot of sense, you just kind of have to live with that. I think the brand of Penn State put us at the forefront because we are such a popular brand, not Penn State lacrosse, but Penn State University."
Tambroni expanded on that comment to explain how if a team is doing well, networks will want to cover its games. It all comes down to a team's ability to win games and make audiences want to watch a competitive team play, whether they are Penn State fans or not.
In general, the coverage collegiate teams are seeing now is unprecedented and can only keep receiving more exposure as the sport continues to grow. For current collegiate players like Penn State's senior midfielder James Burke, being able to see the growth of lacrosse over the last four years has been something they are proud not only to witness, but also be a part of.
Hopeful that the growth of lacrosse will increase at youth, collegiate, and the professional levels, Burke has credited the Penn State community for embracing its local team. Burke explained that television coverage is great to help people learn the sport, but it's essential that players do their part to build relationships with members of the community.
"We've seen a larger incorporation of the youth programs," said Burke of lacrosse in State College. "We started working with them last fall to kind of get things going and then just around campus, the special promotions, stuff life that, we've started to expose people to the excitement of lacrosse."
Both Penn State and Johns Hopkins remain tied at No. 14 in the polls. Penn State hosts Johns Hopkins Sunday at 7 p.m. The game will be aired on the Big Ten Network.
By Maria Canales, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - The No. 14 Penn State men's lacrosse team (7-3, 1-1 Big Ten), despite a strong performance from the offense, was unable to upend No. 5 Maryland (8-2, 2-0 Big Ten) Sunday night.
The Nittany Lions came out fighting during Sunday's matchup, and although the Terrapins got on the board first, it was the Nittany Lions who created the most offensive chances in the first half.
Possession time has been a focus of the team as of late, and Sunday night's performance showed promising improvement in that area.
"From the start of the week we talked about possessing," said junior midfielder Mike Sutton. "The biggest thing was long, sustained possessions, we needed to execute. [Maryland] is one of the best defenses in the country, and we needed to execute and that's what I think we did. We came up short in the end but we're looking at next week already."
Sutton had an outstanding game, as the Sewell, N.J. native recorded three goals in total, one in the first quarter and two in the second.
The Nittany Lions drew jetted out to an 8-4 lead midway through the second quarter thanks to additional goals from Nick Aponte, Grant Ament, Kevin Hill, and TJ Sanders. At halftime, the Nittany Lions went into the locker room leading, 8-7.
During the lower scoring second half, the Lions and Terps battled to a 10-10 tie as the clock ticked to zero in the fourth quarter.
The mood going into overtime was positive, explained head coach Jeff Tambroni, who noted the team needed to play with the spirit and effort they had in the first half if the Nittany Lions wanted to come away with a victory.
Several nail-biting possessions later, the Nittany Lions finally got the ball down the stretch and seemed poised to make one last play in front of Maryland's net. Despite their best efforts, the Nittany Lions were unable to find the back of the net and seconds later were back on defense. Penn State fell to Maryland 11-10 in overtime.
Tambroni was positive at the end of the game, noting how this Penn State team was able to hold its own against another top-tier team, similar to others the Nittany Lions have played this season. He explained how important it is to keep moving forward, and highlighted that even during a loss there can always be positives a team should focus on.
Tambroni said one standout performance of the night came from sophomore defenseman Mike Aronow, as Aronow was tasked with guarding Maryland's talented attacker Matt Rambo. Rambo didn't score for the Terrapins Sunday night, the first time in 21 games the attacker failed to do so.
Next weekend Penn State hosts No. 16 Johns Hopkins and is looking to bounce back from such a close and effortful loss. Key for the Nittany Lions will be a continued focus on possession time as well as making sure not to let up offensively in the second half.
"I think we've got to hit the rest button immediately," said Tambroni. " These guys are hurting, they've put a lot of time and effort into this one and walking off the field last year against Maryland losing by eight or nine goals and then coming back a year later to be in this position says a lot about the work that these guys have put in throughout the off season."
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Since his freshman season, goaltender Will Schreiner has displayed a dedicated work ethic both on the field and off, which has been the driving factor behind the growth the young player has seen in such a short period of time.
Now a sophomore, Schreiner, who has started in net every game for the Nittany Lions this season, has helped Penn State (7-3, 1-0 Big Ten) accumulate seven wins in 10 games and averages a .468 save percentage.
Last weekend, when Penn State rallied past Ohio State 6-5, head coach Jeff Tambroni was quick to praise Schreiner in what he observed as the young player's best game to date as a Nittany Lion.
"Sometimes as a goalie I would imagine, and probably in any position but goalie in particular, you see this first couple shots and you make saves and you start to build on your confidence and you could just see Will's confidence grow throughout the course of the game," said Tambroni. "I thought Will, what separated that performance from his last number of performances was the consistency."
Schreiner made 15 saves, a career-high, for the Kemblesville, Pa., native. Many of the shots came from all over the field, including crease shots and shots in transition, and Tambroni explained being able to make all types of saves added to Schreiner's performance and confidence.
Schreiner's performance so far this season has surpassed expectations and has been a testament to the work he put in during the 2014-15 campaign.
As the reserve goaltender behind Connor Darcey and Hunter Pearl, Schreiner didn't see any playing time in his freshman season. Players who weren't expected to see much game time participated in additional weight room or weight training sessions, called developmental lifts.
"Will just came into those lifts, and you can look at those things as one of two things, one as something extra to do throughout the course of the week or two, an opportunity to develop yourself physically and to develop yourself mentally to put yourself in a position so that when your number is called you're prepared," said Tambroni. "I always felt Will was the latter and I felt like the respect that he earned and gained in those types of moments can probably best describe his personality."
In those lift sessions, Tambroni, along with the rest of the coaching staff, saw Schreiner's true character: a young man, thrust into the demanding student-athlete life who, even during extra workouts, always had a smile on his face and determination in his eyes.
It was his attitude and positivity that made Schreiner stand out in a room of otherwise loud and outgoing individuals. Schreiner, who can communicate well on the field during a game, is not usually the most vocal in the locker room. Rather, Schreiner is a lead-by-example type, who allows his hard work to speak for itself.
Last fall, when the starting goaltender position was still unfilled, Schreiner pushed himself further for a chance to start between the pipes.
His determination paid off and at the start of the season against Robert Morris, Schreiner helped the Nittany Lions to a triumphant 20-7 win.
Schreiner carries himself as an easygoing individual, focused on athletics and academics alike. Off the field, the Community, Environmental and Development major, explained his passion for lacrosse is the same passion that fuels his desire to one day aid the movement toward sustainable energy.
"I've always wanted to work with our environment and with businesses, becoming more sustainable," said Schreiner. "I think that's part of a need for the future so I saw that need and also it matched my interests."
Schreiner described a project he and fellow teammate, sophomore Mike Aronow, are currently working on for an earth science class on natural disasters. The project has to do with volcanoes, but the pair won't be building one out of papier-mâché, Schreiner joked.
For now, the project is in the brainstorming phases, but Schreiner knows whatever the pair comes up with has got to be good, just like the team's performance this weekend against No. 5 Maryland (7-2, 1-0 Big Ten).
"We just need to keep our defense in line and if we play well together it'll make me play better," said Schreiner. "If they're giving me shots I can save and see it's extremely good for me. But we'll need to keep up communication defensively and in the goal, I just need to keep my confidence up and don't peak to high and don't get too low and just keep it steady throughout the game."
No. 14 Penn State hosts No. 5 Maryland on Sunday at 7 p.m. The game will be aired on the Big Ten Network.
By Maria Canales, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
COLUMBUS, Ohio. - The No. 18 Penn State men's lacrosse team (7-3, 1-0 Big Ten) opened its Big Ten slate with a win over Ohio State (5-6, 0-1 Big Ten) on Sunday afternoon in Columbus. Sophomore goaltender Will Schreiner made a career-high 15 saves against the Buckeyes.
At the start of the game, momentum seemed to favor the Buckeyes as Ohio State commanded possession time, but the Nittany Lion offense made up for possession time with goals. The Nittany Lions scored twice in the first quarter and two more times in the second to lead to Buckeyes 4-1 at the half.
Adding momentum, junior midfielder Drake Kreinz returned for the Nittany Lions at the faceoff after missing the first half of the season due to injury. Kreinz had three ground balls in his season debut and went 4-for-11 at the "x," but his contributions to Penn State's win surpassed what statistics show.
"Each time we've gotten someone back it has been an emotional lift," said head coach Jeff Tambroni. "I think it's going to take Drake a little while to get his legs under him and anyone who plays the position knows that it requires a great deal of repetition at the faceoff 'x,' but I think our coaching staff are thrilled to have someone as competitive as Drake back in the mix."
Tambroni credited junior midfielder Billy Lombardi for his efforts so far this season and how his accomplishments at the faceoff have not gone unnoticed. With Kreinz back for the Nittany Lions, the duo of Kreinz and Lombardi will be threatening at the faceoff 'x' moving forward.
In net, sophomore Will Schreiner surpassed his personal best when he made his 11th save of the game against the Buckeyes in the third quarter. Schreiner had a career-high 15 saves in total against Ohio State, six of those saves he made in the fourth quarter.
"The way that Will played the first three and a half quarters, I think we felt very comfortable as long as we were keeping the ball around the perimeter and the defensemen were keeping their sticks somewhere near the gloves of the shooters, that Will was going to have success," said Tambroni. "Will played phenomenal today, that was by far his best game as a member of the Penn State team."
Improving his play with every game has been an essential part of Schreiner's continued success this season.
Ohio State tied it at five a piece late in the fourth quarter, but it wasn't enough for the Buckeyes. Redshirt junior Matt Florence scored the final goal for the Lions, edging Penn State past Ohio State, 6-5. Florence now has 15 goals this season.
Starting off their Big Ten slate strong was important for the Nittany Lions, who are working on finding consistency on the field. Tambroni noted earlier in the week how every Big Ten team starts conference play with a clean slate, so starting off with a win would be essential.
"We're extremely excited to get the win, a road win let alone a Big Ten win, against a team as competitive as Ohio State," said Tambroni.
The Nittany Lions now look ahead to back-to-back home games in the next two weeks, against No. 5 Maryland and No. 9 Johns Hopkins. Having already upset then-No. 1 Denver, Penn State is eager to continue to battle for wins and put on display all the hard work that has been put in between games.
By Maria Canales, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - The Penn State men's lacrosse team (6-3) has completed the non-conference matchups on its schedule, but many more challenges lie ahead as the team prepares for its first Big Ten matchup of the season. The Nittany Lions travel to Ohio State (5-5) this weekend to face the Buckeyes on Sunday.
Coming off a superb win against No. 1 Denver, the Nittany Lions returned to practice Wednesday afternoon with renewed enthusiasm for the second half of the season.
"Today was our first practice this week and the energy was really upbeat," said senior midfielder Tommy O'Neill. "The coaches gave us a couple days off and that let us recharge and refocus and now we're just looking forward to Ohio State."
With the team's attention toward Ohio State, the upset is still not off their minds. As motivational as it is, head coach Jeff Tambroni pointed out that the team needs to use that confidence gained from last week's win and continue to carry it into conference play.
Tambroni will be looking toward his players this weekend to keep the focus that was so essential for their win against teams like Harvard and Denver.
"I think the word perspective is extremely important," said Tambroni. "I think it has little to do with what our coaches say and I think it has more to do with how our leaders respond and who our opponent is. The combination of those two things creates a quick landing back on the ground and I think it's going to require a great deal of focus but it also provides a great deal of focus."
Tambroni is expecting the veterans of the team to set the tone for the rest of the week in practice as well as the tone of the game Saturday. He noted how upperclassmen leading by example is sometimes much more effective than anything a coach can say to a player.
Starting conference play, Tambroni explained how it's a clean slate for all teams and an opportunity for the Nittany Lions to come out strong.
As the Nittany Lions gain momentum into this weekend, Penn State is prepared to face its first Big Ten foe of the season, Ohio State. The Lions fell to the Buckeyes last season 10-8 and are looking to even the score.
Consistency on defense will be essential for the Nittany Lions, as the Buckeyes have a threatening midfield and offensive unit.
Sophomore goaltender Will Schreiner has observed how the Nittany Lions defense has developed this season and explained how they will have to be on their toes this weekend.
"Over the past couples weeks everyone's been stepping up," said Schreiner. "Definitely in the defensive end everyone has stepped up, even freshman Chris Sabia. I think communication has definitely increased over the past two or three weeks, definitely last week we communicated extremely well. We've also been switching it up really well."
Defense will be the key for the Nittany Lions heading into the second half of the season, but with players across all grades stepping up to challenge opponents Schreiner is confident the defense is ready for whatever Big Ten opponents throw at them.
Looking ahead to the rest of conference play, the Nittany Lions will host Maryland (6-2), Johns Hopkins (5-5), and Michigan (3-5) all within the next month, while also traveling to Rutgers (7-2) April 22.
The Nittany Lions host Maryland and Johns Hopkins, the reigning Big Ten Champions, in back-to-back weekends. Not having to travel for two weekends in a row is something small that Tambroni hopes will help his team, even if it just means a little extra motivation of playing in front of a home crowd.
The Nittany Lions will also appear on television for all remaining games this season. This weekend's game will be aired on ESPNU, with remaining games broadcasted on Big Ten Network.
Successfully wrapping up their non-conference schedule with an upset over the No. 1 team in the country, the Nittany Lions now look ahead to the most challenging part of the season: conference play. Each team in the Big Ten brings something unique to the table and the Nittany Lions are looking forward to testing their skills and bringing home some victories.
Penn State faces off at Ohio State this Saturday at noon. The game will be aired on ESPNU.
DALLAS - On Saturday afternoon, the Penn State men's lacrosse team (6-3) upset No. 1 Denver (7-1), handing the Pioneers their first loss of the 2016 season, and their first loss in their last 20 games. With the 15-10 victory over the Pioneers, the Nittany Lions clinched the Patriot Cup title.
The contest, held at Ford Stadium on SMU's campus, started off in favor of the Nittany Lions as junior midfielder Brian Prestreau got Penn State on the board first.
The Nittany Lions were able to keep a constant eye on the Denver defense in the first half, ending the second quarter leading 8-6. However, at the end of the third quarter and beginning of the fourth Penn State was able to pull away from Denver to a commanding 15-7 lead with four minutes left in the game.
Three late goals from Denver weren't enough for the Pioneers to edge the determined Nittany Lions, and Penn State won 15-10.
Head coach Jeff Tambroni explained how the key to his team's tremendous win was their determination right from the first faceoff. Tambroni noted how faceoff man, junior Billy Lombardi, was key for helping the Nittany Lions gain vital possessions throughout the game.
"He just competed so hard today, but also so intelligently," said Tambroni. "You look at Denver as a team and they're good in all facets but you look at the faceoff 'x' and the last two years they've been the No. 1, No. 2 team in the country and I thought Billy, when we didn't win the immediate glance, he did enough to allow it to be a more 3-vs-3."
Lombardi went 13-for-28 at the faceoff 'x' against Denver, but Tambroni noted how the combination of Lombardi's intelligence and conviction became the pivot point of the game that all other members of the team built off of.
Another standout performance for the Nittany Lions came on the defensive end.
The Nittany Lions, who have been working toward more consistency as a whole, really buckled down on defense against the Pioneers.
"I thought there was a combination of two things, one I thought out defense did a really nice job of mixing things up to keep Denver a little uncomfortable, just enough," said Tambroni. "They did just enough to keep them off balance which gave Will [Schreiner] more time to see the ball and gave him a little bit more time."
Tambroni pointed to the consistency of sophomore goalkeeper Will Schreiner's performance in net throughout the game allowed the defense to remain confident and calm throughout the game.
Schreiner made six key saves in Penn State's victory over Denver.
On attack, several players notched multiple points, as junior Dan Craig and sophomore Ryan Keenan notched three goals, while senior TJ Sanders, redshirt junior Matt Florence, and freshman Grant Ament all notched two apiece.
For the players, the win is a confidence boost as they head into challenging conference play next weekend. Continuing the momentum and sticking to the basics will be essential for the Nittany Lions moving forward.
"We just beat a very good team by doing some simple things," said Craig. "So I think if we stay to a quick tempo and sticking to the little things, we'll do just fine."
By Maria Canales, GoPSUsports.com
Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Since the 2012 season, the Penn State men's lacrosse team (5-3) has faced No. 1 Denver (7-0) in games that have become staples of every campaign under head coach Jeff Tambroni's leadership.
Prior to his time with the Nittany Lions, Tambroni was the head coach at Cornell where he became close comrades with Bill Tierney, who was the head coach of Princeton from 1988 to 2009.
During their years as rivals, the coaches earned each other's respect and developed mutual admiration for one another's natural coaching talent. After Tierney's departure from Princeton to become the head coach at Denver, and after Tambroni left Cornell to come to Penn State, the two started talking about the possibility of their new teams playing one another.
"When I first became head coach [at Cornell], from afar he was a great mentor to a lot of young coaches including myself," said Tambroni of Tierney. "We just happened to be at a position at Cornell to be a rival of Princeton, so we've had some great battles and that relationship grew in both ways, both in respect and he continued to be a great mentor. Then when he left we thought this was going to be a great opportunity for us, looking for games."
On March 10, 2012, these discussions became reality as the Pioneers traveled to State College to face the Nittany Lions. Although Denver won that game, it put two developing teams under new leadership on the map.
During the 2013 season, the Nittany Lions and Pioneers faced off in Jacksonville, Florida. Their first neutral site matchup, the No. 15 Nittany Lions came out on top and defeated No. 9 Denver, 15-12.
"I think foremost we played with a great deal of confidence and energy in that game," said Tambroni. "You could tell coming out of the locker room that that was a senior-laden team. We had some really good seniors on that team who led us out of that tunnel and onto that field and we played with a lot of energy on that field."
Tambroni continued to explain how the Nittany Lions were able to shoot the ball fairly well and had stable goaltending, which led to the victory. He also noted how that particular season the Nittany Lions were really able to transition the ball effectively from defense to offense.
In the 2014 season Penn State was able to travel to Denver and gain experience out west. The Nittany Lions fell to the Pioneers, 15-11.
Originally signing a 3-year contract to play once at home, once on neutral turf, and once at Denver, both schools had struggles with the remote location of the universities. As a continuation of their contract to play one another after 2014, both schools agreed that continuing to play at neutral sites would be best for both teams.
Last season, the Lions faced off against the Pioneers in New York at Hofstra University. This Saturday both teams will meet again, this time in Dallas.
Having not beaten Denver since their showdown in Jacksonville, Penn State coaches and players alike are eager to bring the energy and momentum needed to thwart the No. 1 team in the country.
Redshirt junior attacker Matt Florence is eager to face off against his home state team. Florence, who hails from Greenwood Village, Colorado, knows several members of the Denver team from his time playing lacrosse in high school.
"Growing up I definitely watched a lot of DU playing, a lot of my really good friends from my opposing high school, playing them it's going to be really fun," said Florence. "I've got a lot of close relationships with those guys, but really we're just trying to look at this week like any other week and are just motivated to go out there and get the win and do it with the team we have here."
Keys for the Nittany Lions this weekend will be to play with determination similar to their recent performance against Harvard, and to keep up their endurance for every minute of play.
Tambroni noted how the Denver matchup each season is a great challenge and opportunity for the team to truly test their skills and develop as a single unit. With their first Big Ten game the following weekend after the Denver matchup, the Nittany Lions are eager to face down the Pioneers this weekend and prepare for the demanding schedule ahead.
"I hope it's just a great opportunity for out guys coming off a tough loss to UMass to look ahead quickly and not dwell on the past of that last loss that we had," said Tambroni. "It's an exciting opportunity against a really great team, you don't have to say much to get your guys excited because they're excited to compete against a team of that caliber. Then we'll know we're prepared, whether we win or we lose, in that nine game stretch we'll have played some really good teams and then you just buckle in for the Big Ten because you know it'll be the same."
Penn State will face off against Denver on Saturday at 1 p.m. in Dallas at Gerald Ford Stadium.
By Maria Canales, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - After striking first to kick start the first quarter, the No. 20 Penn State men's lacrosse team (5-3) was unable to take down Massachusetts (4-4) on Saturday afternoon.
Junior attacker Mike Sutton scored three goals for the Nittany Lions. All three of Sutton's goals were scored in the first quarter.
Freshman attacker Grant Ament also continued his domination on the field this season, scoring two goals and adding four assists against the Minutemen. Ament leads the team in assists, with 19.
Although the offense kept the Nittany Lions in the game, on the other end of the field the Lions seemed to lack some communication that had been vital in their previous win against the Harvard Crimson.
"I'm not sure anyone on our team played the way we were capable of today," said head coach Jeff Tambroni. "I thought that was unfortunate. They put a lot of pressure on our defense today again and I credit UMass they did a really good job at being very deliberate in the offensive end."
Senior midfielder Tommy O'Neill noted how important it was that sophomore goaltender Will Schreiner was able to knock off some shots from the Minutemen, but ultimately felt the defense didn't play their best game against Massachusetts. Schreiner notched five key saves for the Nittany Lions.
Ultimately, it wasn't enough and the Lions fell to the Minutemen, 11-9.
With wins over several strong opponents this season, including Harvard (4-3) and Cornell (3-3), the Nittany Lions defense has been tested week in and week out. Consistency has been at the forefront of most importance for Tambroni, who explained that it's something the team still needs to work at.
"We just seemed a little bit tired this week, we lacked a bit of focus and I think that's how we played last week going into Harvard," said Tambroni. "There was a lot of energy and a lot of spirit going into that game and I felt there was an extremely sharp focus on the task at hand and they played accordingly."
Tambroni keyed in on a few areas that the team needs to focus on before they see game time again.
"We had our chances, we had some chances, not as many," said Tambroni. "I look at the shots, knowing we were limited to 21 shots, I just never felt like we had any rhythm or momentum in the offensive end based on possession time and this has been a common theme in our losses."
The Nittany Lions have numerous talented opponents left on their schedule this season including next weekend's trip to Dallas to face reigning national champion, Denver. Denver, which is 6-0 so far this season, will be one of the toughest games to date for the Nittany Lions.
Penn State will need to develop more consistency both offensively and defensively before next weekend's game and Tambroni looks forward to the challenge. Tambroni explained every game is a chance to set the tone for games to come, and is expecting nothing less than a full-hearted effort next weekend from his team.
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