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Electrifying Start Propels Lions Past Michigan

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By Jackson Thibodeau, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - "It was great to see our guys establish the tone," said men's lacrosse head coach Jeff Tambroni following Saturday's 22-7 win over Michigan. "Going out there like that provided a lot of confidence and you could see the energy on the sidelines."

9691669.jpegA mere six seconds ticked off the clock before the No. 7/9-ranked Nittany Lions found themselves on the scoreboard in their season opener in front of nearly 750 fans inside Holuba Hall. Redshirt freshman Drake Kreinz won the opening faceoff, exploded down the field and dumped the ball to senior Shane Sturgis who rocketed one into the back of the net.

"The past couple of years we didn't really start out too well against Michigan," Sturgis said. "Coach really emphasized coming out quick and it gave us a big boost."

The eight-goal first period was exactly the start to the 2014 campaign that the team has envisioned--especially with the way last season ended. This squad has been eager to get back out and defend their home turf after dropping the first round of the NCAA tournament to Yale at home last May.

"We certainly weren't happy with how we ended last season, so one of our main goals was that we needed to start fast to get the season rolling," said sophomore TJ Sanders, who tallied five goals against the Maize and Blue.

Sturgis and Sanders accounted for half of the team's goals against the rival Wolverines, but the biggest takeaway for the team was that several Nittany Lions got involved in the offensive flurry.

"Everybody had opportunities and we were all able to capitalize on those opportunities," Sturgis said. "The whole team played well."

The Sanders/Sturgis scoring duo was a staple of the team's potent offense last season, but on Saturday there were also several newcomers chipping in. Freshmen Tyler Chambers, Nick Mazza, Brian Prestreau and Mike Sutton each put a goal on the board during the rout.

The 22-goal effort, a number that hadn't been put up by a Nittany Lion team since the mid 1990s, wouldn't have been possible without success in the faceoff circle. Penn State won 20 of 32 (62.5 percent), including Kreinz's 15-22 effort (68.2 percent).

"Faceoffs were probably the deciding factor," Tambroni said. "Especially in the first quarter--Drake did a good job at establishing possession time and tempo for us."

Despite the large margin of victory and the 22 goals on the board, capturing phase one of regaining the Creator's Trophy wasn't all offense. The Blue and White defense forced six turnovers and the team tallied 29 ground balls. When the Michigan attack was able to get behind the Penn State defense, goaltenders Austin Kaut and Connor Darcey were there to deny the majority of their chances.

"We have two great goalies and they both give our defense a lot of comfort knowing that they are back there," Sanders said.

The defense had to get creative in their efforts to shut down the visitors, especially in the second frame. Minutes before the half, the Nittany Lions found themselves in a three man-down hole. A brilliant turnover caused by captain Tyler Travis kept the Wolverines scoreless on the three-man advantage that lasted just over a minute.

"That was impressive," Tambroni said. "We've never worked on that before and we have never had a situation like that."

Although the squad was successful in killing off the penalty, the seven extra-man opportunities that Michigan had (three were scored on) were far too many in Tambroni's eyes.

"I know this, looking at the amount of time we played man-down, we are going to have to focus on playing hard but playing disciplined," Tambroni said. "We lacked some discipline today."

The victory marked the third-straight year and third time in history that the Blue and White downed Michigan. The game had more significance than just a season-opener, as it brought the squad one step closer to bringing the Creator's Trophy back to Happy Valley after losing it to Ohio State last year.

"We want to bring that thing back here," Sturgis said.

Penn State remains home next weekend as they host the 2012 national champion Loyola Greyhounds. Opening faceoff is set for 1 p.m., and barring any extreme weather concerns--the game will be played outdoors at the Penn State Lacrosse Field. Loyola enters the game ranked No. 16 and is coming off a one-goal loss to Virginia.

What to Watch: Penn State vs. Michigan

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By Jackson Thibodeau, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - The Penn State men's lacrosse team will host Michigan in Holuba Hall at 1 p.m. on Saturday to begin its 2014 campaign. After preseason scrimmages versus Lehigh and Johns Hopkins, the Nittany Lions are eager to defend their home turf and begin their quest towards a second-straight NCAA Tournament berth.

8949421.jpegThe rival squads are both set to join the inaugural Big Ten lacrosse conference next season along with Ohio State, Johns Hopkins, Maryland and Rutgers.

"We have been waiting to get back out there and defend our field and we're glad it's finally here," said senior goalie Austin Kaut, "especially the way last season ended."

The Creator's Trophy
In 2012, Penn State, Ohio State and Michigan established The Creator's Trophy--and award that is to be given to the team that earns a 2-0 record against the other two teams that season. The trophy was created to honor the intense rivalry between the three future Big Ten Lacrosse schools that play North America's first sport. Penn State won the inaugural trophy back in 2012 before Ohio State won it last season.

"We're excited to have a chance to bring the Creator's Trophy back home," head coach Jeff Tambroni said. "Phase one is beating Michigan."

Penn State will play Ohio State in Columbus on Saturday, Mar. 1 at 1 p.m. for a chance to avenge last year's overtime loss and bring the Creator's Trophy back to Happy Valley.

History vs. the Maize and Blue
The rivalry between the two institutions separated by 400 miles extends far beyond the confines of Beaver Stadium and The Big House. Although the lacrosse rivalry is young, the competitiveness between these teams is substantial and will continue to grow when they each don a Big Ten patch on their jerseys in 2015.

The Nittany Lions are 2-0 against the Wolverines, each win coming under fourth-year head coach Tambroni. Penn State won 16-9 in 2012 on their first game on the new turf of the Penn State Lacrosse Field and defeated Michigan again last season 11-6 in Ann Arbor.

What to Watch: Penn State

Preseason Poise: Penn State has earned a No. 7/9 preseason ranking after last year's record-breaking 12-win season. The squad has returned numerous all-CAA starters and eight total starters from 2013 to earn this top-10 placement. For the second-straight year, the Blue and White have been picked as favorites to win the CAA after going 6-0 in conference play last season.

The Avengers: Although this matchup won't be played on the turf at the Penn State Lacrosse Field, the Nittany Lions are still focused on avenging last year's home loss in the first round of the NCAA tournament to Yale. That tournament berth was the third in program history.

Young and Veteran Talent: Goalie Austin Kaut, midfielder Tom LaCrosse, defensemen Steven Bogert and Tyler Travis, and attackman TJ Sanders have all been named to the preseason all-CAA team. Sanders, a sophomore, and senior Shane Sturgis return as the team's leading scorers with a combined 73 goals in 2013.

The Chalkboard: Penn State had the 27th-ranked scoring attack in 2013--the potent charge was led by Jack Forster, Sturgis and Sanders. The team attempted more shots (162) and scored more goals (53) in the third period last year compared to any other frame. Look for the team to come out of the locker room after halftime energized and firing on all cylinders towards the goal. Although this offense accumulated more shots than their opponents last season (606 vs. 581), don't necessarily look for quantity. Tambroni has put an emphasis on his team finding quality-based shots instead of shooting at every opportunity.

The 12-win squad in 2013 was propelled by far more than an offensive attack. The team returns all of its defensive starters, which in 2013 ranked second in the NCAA in goals allowed per game (7.59).  Kaut, the team's last line of defense in goal, was tabbed the nations top goaltender last season with a .610 save percentage and a 7.37 goals allowed average.

What to Watch: Michigan
The Wolverines are in just their third year of NCAA Division I play and 2014 will serve as their final season in the ECAC before joining the Big Ten. The Maize and Blue went 1-13 last season, but put up an impressive fight against the Nittany Lions in Ann Arbor that resulted in an 11-6 Penn State victory.

Michigan's offensive rush is headline by midfielders Kyle Jackson, Mike Hernandez and Thomas Paras and attackmen David McCormack and Will Meter--all of which had double-digit points last season. Sophomore faceoff specialist Brad Lott provides a spark for the offense, who had a 47.1 win percentage in 2013. Leading the defensive unit is fifth-year senior JD Johnson, who forced an impressive 13 turnovers last year.

Lions Focus on Accountability, Leadership as Season Approaches

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By Jackson Thibodeau, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - "We walked out of the locker room as a team today and our hearts started to pound a bit knowing that the season is just around the corner," said head men's lacrosse coach Jeff Tambroni following Thursday evening's exhibition game against Lehigh.

9638158.jpegThe Nittany Lions, nine months removed from a record-breaking 2013 season, are ecstatic that a new campaign and a fresh slate are almost upon them.

Thursday's scrimmage against the Mountain Hawks was held inside Holuba Hall, safe from the bone-chilling single-digit temperatures outdoors. While scores and statistics weren't officially kept, the teams played a full 60 minutes and abided by standard NCAA/CAA rules.

"Games like this one give our guys a chance to come out and reward themselves for all the hard work they put in throughout the fall and preseason," Tambroni said. "As a coaching staff, it gives us a chance to tinker with personnel and lineups."

The potent offensive scoring attack from 2013 picked up right where they left off and blasted out of the faceoff x in the first period. The scoring tandem of sophomore TJ Sanders and senior Shane Sturgis set the tone early as they led the potent scoring attack.

Sanders led the team with 44 goals as a freshman a season ago while Sturgis was the team's leader in assists.

This fourth-year coaching staff has often preached and pushed for an emotional and energetic style of play. That level of intensity was portrayed at the end of the first frame when the offense put several goals on the board in less than 90 seconds.

"Any way we can put goals on the board works for us," said senior captain Tom LaCrosse, "but that was certainly an exciting way for us to grab the momentum."

The Nittany Lions continued a formidable offensive push throughout the remainder of the first half, but couldn't find the back of the net in the third frame. A scoreless third quarter is something that this squad isn't accustomed to, as they scored more goals (53) and attempted more shots (162) in the third period compared to any other period last season.

"Emotionally, coming out in the second half--we need to replicate the same kind of excitement and energy that we do at the start of the game," Tambroni said. "That's something we will work on and hopefully see signs of improvement when we play Hopkins."

Creating a standard of playing energetically for a full contest is something the coaching staff will look to their leadership to convey to the team. This season's squad is led by senior captains Tom LaCrosse, Gavin Ahern and Tyler Travis--among many other veteran leaders.

"Our leaders have done a very good job and we have a lot of them," Tambroni said. "They've done a good job of having a unified stance of standards and holding their teammates accountable."

Speaking of veterans--senior goalie Austin Kaut played the first half of Thursday's scrimmage and was pleased with what he saw from the younger players. Kaut was tabbed the Ensign C. Markland Kelly, Jr. nation's top goalie in 2013.

"The younger guys fought hard and it was good to be back out here and play against another color jersey," Kaut said. "You start to get used to playing against your own team and beating up on each other so these matches are good for us to see different styles of play and prepare for the season."

The 2014 regular season kicks off on Feb. 8 against Michigan at 1 p.m. in Happy Valley at Holuba Hall. Before that, the Nittany Lions will travel to Baltimore on Feb. 1 for another exhibition game against future Big Ten rival Johns Hopkins.

Decades of Talent Return for Men's Lacrosse Alumni Weekend

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20130927_201850_crop.jpgBy Jackson Thibodeau, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
Over the weekend, the Penn State men's lacrosse team welcomed back three decades worth of dedicated alumni to the team's third annual Alumni, Family and Friends Weekend.

The passion and high energy that surrounds the growing program was visible on Friday night as the weekend kicked off with a tailgate, an alumni game and the Blue/White scrimmage between this year's team.

"It is always amazing to see so many people come together to support this great program," said 2013 graduate Jack Forster, who ranks second all-time in goals scored for the Nittany Lions with 104.

The feeling in the atmosphere during Friday evening's event was congruent with that of many Penn State athletic events--highly passionate and extremely close-knit. Occupying the stands on the beautiful autumn evening were families, friends and all sorts of contributors to the program.

"Events like this are so important to the program because of the amount of attention it generates for us," said former defensive midfielder Chris Schiller (Class of '99). Schiller, 36, has over 12 years of professional experience in the sport, competing in both the National Lacrosse League and for Major League Lacrosse.

The current midfielder for the MLL's Charlotte Hounds has built an impressive lacrosse resume over the years and is not the only Nittany Lion to have made a profession out of the sport.

Competing alongside Schiller in the alumni game was faceoff specialist and 2006 graduate Greg Gurenlian, who held Penn State's record for career faceoff wins up until the 2013 season. His dominance in the circle continued after his days in Happy Valley as he currently sits at fourth on the all-time list of faceoff wins in the MLL with 1,029.

Gurenlian, currently a midfielder for the Long Island Lizards, has expanded his professional involvement in the sport beyond just competing. He owns a strength and conditioning company (Brawlic Strength) and co-owns The Faceoff Academy, which hosts nationwide combines that assists young players in developing the skills to be recruited by elite programs.

Both Gurenlian and Schiller are extremely pleased with the growth of the sport of lacrosse and Penn State's program since leaving campus years ago.

"This program's growth has been magnificent," Gurenlian said. "This is now the organization and the type of program that we all knew it could be."

The former student-athletes credited the program's growth and recent successes in large part to current head coach Jeff Tambroni (entering his fourth season) and his staff.

"It's a new era in lacrosse now," Schiller said. "Tambroni has adapted to that and brought this program to the next level--which is where it needs to be."

The program has seen significant changes since Gurenlian and Schiller left campus several years ago. A new coaching regime, a state-of-the-art lacrosse-only complex and a higher level of competition highlight the program's advancements.

"I'd be lying if I said I wasn't jealous," Gurenlian said.

There is no ceiling in sight for the growth of collegiate lacrosse as new Division I teams are formed seemingly almost every year and new conferences are beginning to sprout up.

Beginning in the 2014-15 season, the Nittany Lions will compete in the Big Ten's lacrosse conference after multiple years of competition and success in the Colonial Athletic Conference.

Penn State will be one of six program's competing on the men's side in the Big Ten alongside Maryland, Michigan, Ohio State, Rutgers and Johns Hopkins.

The program hopes that Friday evening's turnout of support will be telling of the upcoming season and that Penn State faithful will fill the hill at the lacrosse complex.

Nittany Lions Battle Hard But Fall

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By Michael Renahan, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - After leading through most of the first half and battling hard in the second half, the Penn State Nittany Lions fell to the Yale Bulldogs, 10-7, in the opening round of the NCAA Tournament.

8923633.jpegThe loss marks the end to a historic centennial season for the program and the end of stellar careers for nine Nittany Lions.

Penn State struggled early in the game turning the ball over, but eventually found their feet and started to play very effectively on offense. Yale, back-to-back Ivy League champions, opened up the scoring just over four minutes into the game, but Penn State responded quickly scoring two of their own to end the first period.

Goalkeeper Austin Kaut had a memorable first period saving five Bulldog shots and keeping his team alive early on. Kaut, a junior, could be heard yelling out commands and was proving why he had earned   nomination for a Tewaaraton award.

The Nittany Lions then scored three more goals in the second period, including a rocket of a shot from freshman T.J. Sanders, to take a 5-1 lead into halftime. Penn State had clear control over the Bulldogs but knew they were still in for a fight in the second half. The Nittany Lions fast pace offense had the Bulldogs on their heels and Penn State knew it.

"We felt good at halftime but we knew that there were some opportunities that we missed in the first half to almost put the game away," Sanders said. "We learned earlier this season that the game is never over at half, so we were ready for the second half, things just didn't fall our way."

The Bulldogs answered the challenge of coming from behind. As Yale head coach Andy Shay recognized, this was not the team's first time trailing at halftime. The Bulldogs scored four goals in the third period to only one from the Nittany Lions. They brought the lead down to just one and had started to frustrate the Nittany Lions offense.  

"I thought they did a great job of playing team defense. They shared responsibility very well. I don't think we moved the ball very well today, I thought we talked about it all week; I thought we did a good job this week. But to their credit, they got their sticks in the passing lanes, took away a lot of our initial options, [we] ran some plays early in possessions and they did a pretty good job of defending that," head coach Jeff Tambroni said. "We probably didn't do our part of sharing the ball enough and, again, to their credit they played with seven guys. All six guys and their goalie played well."

The Nittany Lions struggled to regain their offensive synergy after halftime. The ball was not moving as well in the offensive zone for Penn State, and the Bulldog defense had stepped up their level of play tremendously. Penn State continued to battle and kept generating solid shots on goalkeeper Eric Natale, but the shots just did not find the back of the net.

The game was set up for what was sure to be an epic fourth quarter.  Just a few minutes into the quarter the Nittany Lions faced a two man down situation. The game was tied, but the Bulldogs were moving the ball well. Penn State stood tall and killed the penalty off, something they hoped would lead to momentum going forward.

"That was huge for our defense," senior captain Jack Forster said. "Tyler Travis had a nice interception there which was huge for us. Yeah, I thought it was going to definitely turn the tides."

Despite Penn State killing the penalty, Yale continued to move the ball effectively against the Nittany Lions. After forcing a turnover in the defensive end, Kaut launched a pass down the left side of the field to make a quick play for the offense. The pass, unfortunately, went long and opened a breakaway goal for Yale's Conrad Oberbeck.

"Just undisciplined play on my part," Kaut said. "I was trying to make a play for the team, I saw Travis Crane open and just sailed it. Just undisciplined play on my part."

The Bulldogs used a 9-2 run after halftime to earn their NCAA win. The Nittany Lions defense battled hard in the second half, but the Yale offense just had the better day.

"They were really trying to work that invert short sticks behind and they just kept doing it and doing it and they really kept our offensive middies on the field. Our offensive middies played great defense, we just didn't really play great team defense down there and they got the best of us," Kaut said.

All in all the Nittany Lions were forced into nine fourth quarter turnovers, an uncharacteristic performance for the normally sound group.

Along with the rest of the team, Forster battled hard but could not find a way to put the ball past Natale. Even in the face of defeat, the Nittany Lions never once backed down, never once quit and played hard until the final whistle was blown.

"Yeah, it's tough when nothing is falling for you and they're scoring on the other end," Forster said. "It seemed like things just weren't going our way, it was tough."

The Nittany Lions will now take some time and reflect on what a tremendous season they had. They earned their first NCAA tournament bid since the 2005 season. They reached the CAA conference final and Coach Tambroni was named Coach of the year. The team reached 12 wins and was ranked in the top ten all season in the Ratings Percentage Index. Several individual players were also recognized for their excellent efforts during the season.

"Then for our guys, I just feel a sense of pride for our seniors, our captains in particular, Jack [Forster] and Travis [Crane], they did a wonderful job this year of bringing Penn State to new heights," Tambroni said. "I know it hurts and I know every one of those guys in there did everything they could to put us in a position to win today, but it just wasn't mean to be."

The 2013 season was a huge successful for the Nittany Lions and gives the program quite the platform to build from going forward.

"I'm hopeful we will reflect positively on the 2013 season and I'm hoping our seniors will and I'm hoping that our juniors, sophomores and freshman, some that are sitting here to my left and my right, will have learned from this experience and just do a better job when we get back here next year and see if we can start the building process ahead immediately," Tambroni said.

"I'd like to congratulate Yale. I think that they did a great job. They're coaching staff and team certainly believes in what they do and you can see that certainly by the way they played through the Ivy League championship games," Tambroni said. "They got great leadership, they believe in themselves, they believe in their system and I'm sure they're going to do very well in this tournament."

As for seniors like Jack Forster, they will look back on their careers here at Penn State and be pleased. As a group, they worked hard and they worked together, leaving everything on the field.

"It's been a long road. Six years," Forster said. "This season definitely capped it off with making the NCAA tournament. It's been a great year, just sad to leave and it definitely hurts going out from this."

"We wanted so much more than just a step up," Kaut said. "We worked hard to get where we were at today and we wanted to make it even more special than it already is and we just didn't come up with it today." 

Nittany Lions, Towson Battle for CAA Title

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By Pat White, GoPSUsport.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. -- The third time proved to be the charm for Penn State men's lacrosse (12-3, 7-0 CAA) as it defeated UMass (7-8, 2-5 CAA) 10-7 in the semifinal of the CAA Championship on Wednesday.

8896471.jpegHead coach Jeff Tambroni knew going into the game that UMass would not be an easy first round matchup. They played a grind-it-out style that slowed Penn State's tempo in the first half. He was pleased with the way his team fought through despite not having a strong first half.

"I am very proud of our team's effort today. We knew we would have our hands full and I am proud of the way our team responded after halftime," Tambroni said. "These guys have fought through a ton of adversity all year and we are very fortunate to be playing in the CAA Championship."

Junior Tom LaCrosse (Canandaigua, N.Y.) and senior Jack Forster (Jenkintown, Pa.) got the Nittany Lions a quick 2-0 lead just under three minutes into the game. After that, the Penn State offense went stagnant and couldn't possess the ball for long stretches like UMass did.

UMass' Joe Calvello owned the faceoff X, winning seven of nine first half draws. Tambroni said the lone bright spot for Penn State in the first half was the play of junior defender Steven Bogert (Carlsbad, Calif.). Bogert played one of his best games of the year and stepped up in the first half with four groundballs while played stellar defense.

"I thought Steven Bogert was the player of the game for 60 minutes," Tambroni said. "I thought we struggled in the first half outside of Steven Bogert. He was a monster in between the 30s and outside the wing on faceoffs."

Senior faceoff man Danny Henneghan (Beverly Hills, Mich.) rebounded to win six of 12 faceoffs in the second half. It was a big turnaround for Penn State, and Bogert played a major role in creating possessions. He finished with seven groundballs while adding pestering defense.

"We work on it every day and it was a big part of this week," Bogert said. "Me and Danny have been on a great page. It wasn't just off of faceoffs. I knew coming into this game that groundballs were going to be a big part of this game. I just kind of got in a rhythm and got focused."

Tambroni thought there was a little bit of added pressure to finally move past the first round that may have caused the poor start to the game. Tambroni said that last year's captains-Matt Mackrides, Ryan McGarvey and Ryan Link-wrote the team a note that motivated them coming into the game.

"I thought we played a little tight and lacked mobility," Tambroni said. "I thought in the second half our guys relaxed, played hard, put themselves at ease a little bit, and got over the hump."

Junior Shane Sturgis (Downingtown, Pa.) looked relaxed coming out of the break. Sturgis recorded a third quarter hat-trick for the Nittany Lions and was a major spark plug for the offense. The junior attacked the goal from all areas of the field and got his scoring touch back after being held scoreless in the last four contests.

Sturgis said he was the benefactor of the offense beginning to click with good ball movement.

"I think our offense just moved the ball better in the second half," Sturgis said. "We got some good opportunities and we were able to capitalize on some of them."

Penn State has been led offensively all season by a potent attack. In the fourth quarter, Forster, Sturgis and freshman TJ Sanders (Orillia, Ont.) put the team on their back and cruised to victory. After being held in check the first half, Sander chipped in with two goals to match Forster's output, while Sturgis finished with four goals and a helper.

Penn State now looks to claim its first CAA Championship on Friday at 3 p.m. against Towson. The Tigers defeated Drexel 11-8 in Wednesday's night cap. Nittany Lions took down Towson 10-8 at home on April 13. Bogert said the captains said that the regular season means nothing now and that every team has a clean slate.

"Our captains said it best: that we are zero and zero," Bogert said. "It's the CAA playoffs and granted we got a good win today but it doesn't matter now. We are going to our first ever CAA Championship and that's enough of a motivating factor. We are excited about that."

Tambroni said that both teams will look to play to their strengths while taking away the opposition's. Forster and Tambroni both said that the ultimate goal is to prepare and win the next game.

"I think it starts right now," Tambroni said after the game. "I hope they enjoy it for a half an hour to an hour. It is more about rest. We are going to need legs on Friday, so X's and O's are irrelevant to a certain degree."

Towson head coach Sean Nadelen also said that rest will be the key. His team was dominated 19-3 by Drexel in faceoff wins, and he want to see that improve in what will be a possession dominated game.

"It will come down to a possession game, especially with a quick turnaround," Nadelen said. "Teams are going to be a little beaten down in terms of physical status. It comes down to valuing possession time, capitalizing possessions and making sure that the defenses aren't playing a ton of defensive possessions."

A Look at Towson

Towson looked dominating against Drexel in its victory. Midfielder Ben McCarty led the way for Towson with six goals, matching his season total. McCarty stepped into a rhythm as Drexel contained leading scorer Thomas DeNapoli (39 goals, 16 assists) to just one score. Andrew Hodgson added a pair of tallies to up his total to 22 for the season.

DeNapoli and Hodgson are most dangerous with the ball. DeNapoli is at his best when he can initiate the offense from behind the goal and get his hands free in space. Hodgson primarily dodges down the wing where he either takes the open shot, or uses his vision to find open teammates. Against Drexel, they proved they can be used as decoys, and guys like McCarty can get hot as well.

Towson played a slow and methodical game on the offensive end, working the ball around and slowing the tempo. The Tigers average 8.94 goals per game while allowing 8.81. Senior goalkeeper Andrew Wascavage played spectacular against Drexel and posted a .612 save percentage for the season. Wascavage and Penn State keeper Austin Kaut (Morton, Pa.) will make for a goaltending battle on Friday.

Penn State has won three straight games against Towson dating back to 2011.

Lions Aim to Dethrone Reigning CAA Champ, UMass

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By Pat White, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. -- Senior Jack Forster (Jenkintown, Pa.) put it short and sweet. "Right now we are focused on winning a championship."

Forster and the No. 9 Nittany Lions (11-3, 6-0 CAA) prepare for their first-round, home matchup in the CAA Championship against fourth-seeded UMass (7-7, 2-4 CAA) at 3 p.m. Wednesday at the Penn State Lacrosse Field.

8701570.jpegPenn State closed out a perfect 6-0 CAA regular season last Saturday in a 16-7 win at Hofstra. Forster was named Co-CAA Player of the Week after notching five goals and an assist to up his point total to 52 on the season. His 99 career goals are fourth all time and his 143 points rank seventh on Penn State's all-time list.

Head coach Jeff Tambroni said that Forster has come up big in the last few games coming down the stretch. He called his performance "signature Jack Forster."

"He has played terrific for us all year long," Tambroni said. "When we've needed a goal, or some energy, or something coming out of halftime or needed a play on the field...he has been there, as you would expect from a senior leader and captain. He has provided everything and then some on and off the field."

However, Forster isn't ready to celebrate his statistical accolades just yet. He wants to save that for after his career is over. Right now, his sights are set advancing past the first round of the CAA Championship for the first time in program history.

"That is all great and it's going to be a great thing to look back on when I'm done here," Forster said about climbing in the record books. "But right now we are just focused on winning a Championship, a CAA Championship here and focusing on UMass tomorrow."

The Nittany Lions were losers of three straight games before knocking off the reigning CAA Champion UMass 7-5 on March 16. It was the start of the current nine game winning streak that Penn State is riding heading into the CAA Championship. Senior Nick Dolik (Bloomfield Hills, Mich.) scored his first goal of the season in the win, and now ranks fifth on the team with nine goals and five assists.

The victory was a turning point in Dolik and the Nittany Lions' season. Dolik said the team learned a lot down the stretch to get to the point they are now. 

"As the year goes on, it's good to have a steady incline of how you're improving," Dolik said. "Just learning from earlier in the season from what good and bad things could have happened."

Dolik said that both teams know each other well and that the game will feature the same intensity as any other CAA contest.

"We know it's going to be a battle in the CAA, especially us and UMass," Dolik said. "Every little play counts and it's going to be a fight out there."

Tambroni said that preparation will be more challenging with the short week of practice leading up to the game.  Tambroni said the familiarity for both teams is helpful in game planning, but that Penn State still has to compete on the field. He is preparing for an offense that is effectively simple, but still averages 9.36 goals per game with a man-up unit working at 37.5 percent.

"They do what they do, and they do it very well," Tambroni said. "They play so hard and compete up and down the field and believe in themselves. You have to prepare for the intangibles and get the guys to compete as hard, if not harder."

UMass' senior attacker Will Manny is the facilitator of the offense with 31 points in just nine games. Kyle Smith leads the team with 29 goals and 47 points. Grant Whiteway and Connor Mooney added 23 and 20 goals respectively.

In order to keep the Minutemen offense in check, Penn State will lean on junior goalie and Tewaaraton Award nominee for the best player in college lacrosse, Austin Kaut (Morton Pa.). The Penn State defense has been a major component in the nine game winning streak the team is riding. The unit has allowed just 5.66 goals per game over the streak, helping Kaut lower his goals against average to 6.95. He has been the backbone of the team and will play a major factor if Penn State is to advance.

Tamboni said the team is motivated to get out of the first round of the CAA Championship for the first time during his tenor. Being ousted on their home field is something that Tambroni doesn't want to happen again.

"We've been the host last three years," Tambroni said. "We've lost two of these games, one at the hands of UMass. We want to keep this momentum going and understand the opportunity we have here at home and take advantage of that."

In the beginning of the season Tambroni said that he wanted his team to build confidence over a long period of time. The confidence level is high within the locker room, but Tambroni knows that being overconfident against a talented UMass team can be costly.

"As long as you utilize that confidence appropriately, place it on the field and help you play at your potential than it can be a good thing," Tambroni said. "If we become complacent and don't prepare the same way...it can be a very dangerous thing."

Forster said the team will come out with swagger and focus leading up to the matchup with the Minutemen. He has been here through good and bad times with the program, and is excited to hopefully share more success with the home fans.

"It's great for our fans here at Penn State and it's what we set out for in the beginning of the year," Forster said. "We have achieved that goal and now have to actually win the next game against UMass."

Penn State and UMass are set to face off at 3 p.m. today at the Penn State Lacrosse Field for the semifinal of the CAA Championship.

Midfield Consistency Key in Final Game vs. Hofstra

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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.

8875832.jpegIt 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.

Nittany Lions Head to Princeton

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By Michael Renahan, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
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.

8515759 (1).jpeg"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. 

Lions Look to Continue Road Dominance

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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.

8851744.jpegA 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.