By Jackson Thibodeau, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. -- For the Penn State men's lacrosse team, dropping a triple overtime thriller to Drexel last Saturday provided far more than just heartbreak. The team exhibited grittiness, determination and persistence from all depths of the roster.
"Look no further than guys like Michael Sutton and Danny Craig," said head coach Jeff Tambroni. "Those guys have just stayed the course and have been persistent all year. They deserve all the playing time they get because of their resilient efforts."
The freshman duo of Craig and Sutton combined for nine points against the Dragons, displaying their will and deservedness to earn more minutes and starts.
"They were both tremendous bright spots," Tambroni said. "Our freshmen are starting to play with confidence and playing to what we thought their potential could be."
Sutton, a midfielder, netted five goals in the 13-12 setback on Saturday. His numbers weren't the only thing that impressed his coaches in his first start--but his demonstration of persistence and effort that has culminated all season long.
"Mike Sutton has never waivered in his own ability," Tambroni said. "He's continued to embrace his role whether it was on the scout team, deep within the second unit or now as a starter and very high contributor."
Sutton isn't alone in this display, as Craig and fellow freshman Nick Aponte also had big games against Drexel.
"Credit the guys that have been sitting on the bench all year, keep working hard and continue to believe in themselves," the fourth-year coach said.
The roller coaster game against Drexel marked the fourth loss in the last five for the Nittany Lions.
"It is not from a lack of trying," Tambroni said. "Our guys are continuing to give a great effort and keep moving forward with the belief of being successful."
A major theme in the last four losses has been that the team hasn't gotten off to the early start in each half that the coaches would like to see. Despite scoring three goals in the first quarter last Saturday, Tambroni would like to see a faster pace in the opening quarter.
"For whatever reason--the start of the game and the start of the third quarter have not been very kind to us in the majority of our games," Tambroni said. "If you take the first ten minutes of every game and the first five minutes of every third quarter--it's a lopsided affair."
With three games remaining on the schedule, the team is looking to tighten up this disconnect in the opening quarters of both halves.
"We have to do a better job as coaches and our guys have to do a better job as players of providing a little more focus to when that first whistle is blown."
The Blue and White are committed to finishing this season strong, which means a variety of things to players and coaches. Winning out, seeing more production from numerous players on the field and seeing growth from the freshmen class are among the team's goals.
"I believe this group is committed and we need to find a way to play up to our potential," Tambroni said. "We are dead set on finishing this season on a high note."
The Nittany Lions will travel to Maryland next Saturday to take on Towson. Opening faceoff against the Tigers is set for 7 p.m.