By Jackson Thibodeau, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - A physical, back-and-forth game was on display at the Penn State Lacrosse Field on Tuesday evening when the Nittany Lions took down Dartmouth, 10-6. It wasn't until the third quarter when sophomore TJ Sanders and the entire offense ignited and never looked back.
"It was nice to see us go out during the second half and play with a little more energy," said head coach Jeff Tambroni, who was preaching a balanced offensive attack to his team throughout the game.
"The bottom line is I felt like our offense was just too isolated," Tambroni said. "For the most part, when things started getting going it was because more than one or two guys were involved."
Seven players registered at least one goal in the gritty contest with Sanders being the only with multiple strikes. The sophomore's four-goal game increased his season goal total to 17, which is second on the team behind fellow attackman Shan Sturgis with 23.
The Blue and White scored seven second-half goals, which ultimately pushed the 12th-ranked Lions past the visitors. In the final two frames, Tambroni's offense went on a 6-1 run which included all four of Sanders' scores.
Before the second half runaway, the game was extremely fast-paced and both teams would answer the other's scores almost immediately. Sanders struck net back-to-back times in the third quarter, giving Penn State a cushion that they would never relinquish.
"TJ started it off in the third and that was probably the big spark," Sturgis said. Sturgis was held scoreless for the first time all season, but that doesn't faze the senior.
"We like to score in any way we can," he said.
A second-half offense spark wasn't the only defining characteristic of this battle, as it was also an intensely physical contest. Senior Kessler Brown dished out a hit on a Dartmouth midfielder in the third quarter that shifted some momentum to the Penn State bench.
"I was excited that we were playing a more physical brand of lacrosse," Tambroni said. "Today I felt like we were being the team that was imposing the physicality. Hopefully that is going to inspire the guys but I also think it shows the passion that this team has."
The victory ends a brief two-game slide and pushes the Nittany Lions above .500 with a 4-3 record. Given the fact that the team is hosting No. 18 Albany on Saturday, the game against the Big Green was described as a "must-win" by multiple players and coaches.
"The last few games and in the first half of the game today we've been in a funk," Sanders said. "I think we had a 'nothing to lose' attitude that started to click. Hopefully it carries over to the next game because that's what we need."
Ending the game with on a roll is exactly what the team had envisioned and hoped for as they prepare for another ranked opponent.
"We are hoping that this feeling our guys have is going to provide some confidence in the latter part of the week because we are going to need that facing Albany," Tambroni said.
Albany has offensive firepower from their trio of attackmen that are all related. Brothers Lyle and Miles Thompson and their cousin, Ty, pose a serious threat to defenses and goalies across the NCAA as they all have registered over 30 points this season.
"We are excited to play Albany and we are going to need to maintain our focus," Tambroni said.
Faceoff is slated for 1 p.m. on Saturday at the Penn State Lacrosse Field.