By Maria Canales, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
ANN ARBOR, MI. - The Penn State men's lacrosse team (5-8, 2-3 Big Ten) secured a playoff spot after defeating Michigan (5-8, 1-4 Big Ten), 10-9, on Saturday. Penn State will be the No. 4 seed in the inaugural Big Ten Lacrosse Tournament.
The Nittany Lions came out strong offensively during their matchup against the Wolverines. Nick Aponte and TJ Sanders led the team in goals, netting three apiece to add to Penn State's dominant offensive start against Michigan.
"I think in the offensive end Nick Aponte did a great job just managing our attack, managing our offense once again, so that was a bright spot for us," said head coach Jeff Tambroni. "You know when we were lacking a little creativity and a little ability to run by [Michigan] early, he was the one guy who stood out and made the plays. I think the other side of it is it was nice to be in a close game and learn how to win."
Associate head coach and defensive coordinator Peter Toner had said earlier in the week that his goal for the defense was to begin the game strong and not give up early goals, as they had in weeks past. Head coach Jeff Tambroni believed the defense was able to get their best start of the season, holding off any Wolverine goals until the second quarter.
"I thought [the defense] played really well for two and a half quarters," said Tambroni. "I thought the first half, Connor [Darcey] was playing well but I also thought that our defense was playing really well. I thought we managed two or three sizeable threats in the offense and I thought our guys did a pretty good job of managing possession time and did a pretty good job at limiting quality looks."
During the second half, Michigan mounted a comeback. The Wolverines were also fighting for the fourth Big Ten tournament spot, and were determined to not give up a postseason spot so easily. It was up to the Nittany Lion defense to stave off the relentless Wolverines and hold on for a win.
"I thought late in the third, early in the fourth, Michigan made a run," said Tambroni. "They were winning more than their fair share of face offs and I think we ended up having two or three possessions in the fourth quarter offensively. The good thing is not only did we get off to a good start but we found a way at the end to just doing us to walk away from Ann Arbor with a win."
Penn State's defense was able to hold off Michigan's attack men and come out with a 10-9 win. This win validated the last few weeks of hard work the team has put in during long practices.
The Nittany Lions, the No. 4 seed in the Big Ten tournament, will face No. 1 Johns Hopkins (7-6, 4-1 Big Ten) on Thursday in the first round. All Big Ten tournament games will be held on the campus of Maryland in College Park.
"I think just being fresh is going to be the most important thing right now," said Tambroni. "It's been a long season, a lot of travel, and the premium will be having a fresh team walk on to the field on Thursday."
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By Maria Canales, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - After a strong win on Sunday over Rutgers, Penn State (4-8, 1-3 Big Ten) looks to finish the regular season on a high note when they take on Michigan (5-7, 1-3 Big Ten) on Saturday Saturday in Ann Arbor.
Fueled by an outstanding performance by the Nittany Lion offense last weekend, Penn State looks to gain a playoff birth with a win against the Wolverines. The winner of Saturday's contest will secure the No. 4 spot in the Big Ten tournament, a spot the Nittany Lions hope to find themselves in.
Associate head coach and defensive coordinator Peter Toner is hoping this game will prove the final piece to the puzzle that was a trying 2015 regular season. A win against Michigan and a playoff spot will bring validation to the young group of men who have worked hard throughout the season.
"Based on where we're at in the Big Ten we have to kind of treat this as a playoff game," said Toner. "I think at this point I wouldn't say it's do or die but obviously if we don't win our season probably comes to an end mathematically. For the guys we're excited about the opportunity to go to Michigan and do what needs to be done on the field and earn our way into the Big Ten championship series."
Penn State has faced Michigan every season since 2012. The Nittany Lions have won all three contests in those years, including a dominant 22-7 win to open the 2014 campaign. Despite recent successes, this weekend's game will not be without challenges.
The Nittany Lions, having come back from a two-goal deficit against Rutgers, will need to come out strong on defense to stay confident in all 60 minutes of play against Michigan.
"We still have yet to start a game defensively on the right note," said Toner. "Unfortunately we always seem to go down by a couple and I'm not sure if it's our guys overthinking or if they're a bit nervous, I don't know, but we keep working on it during practice. We keep using these scrimmage opportunities and adding emphasis on the early portion of the scrimmages and hopefully our guys will just continue to just have a better focus when the game starts."
Focus will be another key for the Nittany Lions this weekend. In previous years the Nittany Lions have been strong away from University Park, but this year have been inconsistent on the road. This weekend's matchup, in Michigan's "Big House," will prove a challenge for a team that needs one final win. The bus ride will give the players and coaches time to focus and strategize on their one goal of the weekend: to win.
Throughout the season, the team's motto has been "one game at a time." By never getting ahead of the next game on the calendar, the Nittany Lions focus all of their energy on one opponent at a time. Coach Toner emphasized that although this has given the team a new perspective on their season, he does still see room for improvement even as the season winds down.
"I think we just got to keep working on us," said Toner. "I think that's the key. We were talking to our guys last week about just doing what we do, but just doing it a little bit better. I think a lot of our focus earlier in the year tended to be on our opponent versus fixing the things that were going on within our own team."
One other area of improvement the team looks to tackle this weekend is possession time. To start, faceoff specialists like Drake Kreinz will need to win face offs, it then comes down to Penn State's ability to keep and possess the ball.
"Time of possession in this game is going to be key," said Toner. "It certainly highlights our ability to clear the ball effectively. To tip the scales a little bit more in our favor in terms of possession time for our offense and limited possessions for [Michigan's] offense. The fewer times we have to defend them the better off we'll be."
While every game offers the opportunity for improvement, the little changes that the Nittany Lions are focusing on this week could be the difference between extending their season and cleaning out their lockers sooner than they would like.
"I think this is an exciting opportunity for them and for us, knowing that we can extend our season with a win and we certainly look forward to the challenge," said Toner.
Penn State will face Michigan Saturday in Ann Arbor at 6 p.m. The game will air on the Big Ten Network.
By Maria Canales, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Behind a complete team effort, the Nittany Lion men's lacrosse team powered past Rutgers, 11-6, on Senior Night in Happy Valley on Sunday.
Looking to snap a skid, the Nittany Lions came out with their strongest first quarter of the year against the Scarlet Knights. Although Rutgers got on the board first, Penn State quickly answered, and never looked back. The Nittany Lions dominating performance gave them a convincing win after weeks of hard work.
"I feel really good for our seniors," said head coach Jeff Tambroni. "You know they've worked so hard and fought through a very difficult stretch and when you're losing over a four or five week period it's not easy to keep coming back every day like these guys have."
Although several players had multi-goal games, the performance of senior Pat Manley stood out to those in attendance and those watching on TV. His five points, three of which came in the first half, helped rocket the Nittany Lions past the Scarlet Knights.
"I think all year we've kind of had trouble with initiating the offense and too much one and done, taking the ball to the goal, so I kind of took it on myself to look for the open guy today," said Manley.
Four of Manley's points came from assists, a contribution that didn't go unnoticed. Earlier in the season, the Nittany Lions had difficulty in creating opportunities in front of the net. Against Rutgers, the story changed.
Manley was one of nine seniors honored prior to the opening face off against Rutgers. A win on home turf during Senior Night meant the world to the oldest players on the team.
"It's great to get a win," said Manley. "It's been a tough year so far. To get our first Big Ten win on Senior Day is just awesome, it's been such a relief. All the stuff we've been through this season, just having our families here [for the game] and seeing them all day today it's just been a great moment for us."
Tambroni was pleased with his players' performance against Rutgers and thought the team had worked hard all season, deserving the win. Tambroni has admired the senior class and how they have led the team the whole season, during a time of significant transition for the Nittany Lions' program. Tambroni believed it was the seniors who set the tone for the Sunday night win.
"I think it was a culmination of their belief and their hard work and their persistence that really pushed us over the edge today," said Tambroni. "I just feel for that group. They're a wonderful group of young men who earned this victory here today."
Now having a fourth win under their belts, the Nittany Lions look forward to their final game of the regular season. A win against Michigan would be enough to place Penn State in Big Ten tournament contention. The Nittany Lions will take their newfound confidence from a long awaited win and channel it to improve every day during practice this week.
"We just want to keep playing," said Manley. "If we win this next game it's just another chance for us to keep playing and I know us seniors and all these guys want to keep playing after the season that we've had so we're just gonna have to take it one day at a time next week. Michigan is a great team, up and coming program so we're gonna have our work cut out for us."
Penn State travels to Ann Arbor for their final game of the regular season at Michigan this Saturday.
By Maria Canales, GoPSUsports.com Student
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Before the final home game of the regular season, Penn State men's lacrosse will honor nine graduating seniors. Playing at home for a final time, seniors Kyle Baier, JP Burnside, Jack Donnelly, Brian Gerrato, Pat Manley, Ryan Mullen, Michael Richards, Taylor Stothoff, and Kyle Zittel look to win one last game in Happy Valley.
Tasked with leading their young team during their first season as members of the Big Ten lacrosse conference, the class of 2015 met many obstacles along the way. The leadership of the senior class will easily be one of their lasting legacies.
Head coach Jeff Tambroni is fond of this senior class because it was one of the first classes he recruited as Penn State. Tambroni has been able to see the young players he brought in four or five years ago transition and grow into better players but also respectable young men.
"I would measure the significance of this group in the quality of their character," said Tambroni. "I don't think statistically you can quantify what this group meant because some of these guys have just not played a lot of minutes for our program over the last four years, yet have still really contributed a great deal in the locker room, on campus, and within the community. In a limited amount of time some of them have done a wonderful job of contributing on the field."
Statistically, they may be overshadowed, but that doesn't mean the senior class has not made an impact. Falling in behind sole captain Kyle Zittel, the senior class quickly set the tone for what was expected from their younger teammates, whether it was their attitude in practices or their mentality on game days.
"Looking at Kyle Zittel I think he is someone that is symbolic of the entire class," said Tambroni. "He has done really well in the classroom, he's super involved in the community, and has become a leader of our program because of the quality of his character and because of his integrity."
During its time at Penn State, the senior class has made many memories, both on and off the field. Some moments will forever stand out in the minds of the seniors.
"For me [my favorite memory] was our 4-2 double overtime win against Notre Dame our freshman year," said senior Jack Donnelly. "[It] was just an unbelievable game; a great experience. At that point we were pretty much nobodies so it was a real eye-opening experience for a lot of us. I think that really just sparked a passion for a lot of us."
Triumphs on the field will certainly be highlights for the senior class, but for others, the moments that happen behind the scenes will forever be their favorites.
"I'll probably remember most of the stuff off the field, in the locker room, with teammates, during practice," said senior Taylor Stothoff.
Tambroni and the rest of the coaching staff have become very fond of their senior class. During a time of great transition, the seniors faced many challenges and led their team head-on into the fight. The class of 2015 paved the way for Penn State men's lacrosse for years to come and has set the foundation for Penn State's time as a member of Big Ten lacrosse.
"From what we have seen as a coaching staff, this class has meant a lot in the transition of this program from where we were and where we'd like to be," Tambroni said. "They'll be remembered by our coaching staff as a class that really did a lot to allow that bridge to happen."
As the class of 2015 looks ahead to their last few games as a Nittany Lions, the seniors want to end their reign in Happy Valley on a high note. For now, Sunday's game against Rutgers is just one more game for the departing 2015 class to leave their mark on.
Penn State hosts Rutgers on Sunday at 6 p.m. The game will air on the Big Ten Network.
By Maria Canales, GoPSUsports.com
Student Staff Writer
BALTIMORE, Md. - Penn State battled back from an early four-goal deficit to force double overtime against Johns Hopkins. Despite stellar performances from both Connor Darcey in net and the entire offense, the Nittany Lions came up just short to the Blue Jays, 11-10.
Goaltender Connor Darcey made 13 saves in net for Penn State (3-8, 0-3 Big Ten) during the Saturday evening showdown against Johns Hopkins (5-6, 2-1 Big Ten). Darcey's solid performance was yet another reminder of how far the redshirt sophomore has come since the beginning of the season. Having started every game in net this campaign, Darcey continues to improve with every passing game.
"One of our issues has been getting off to a good start and right from the get-go. Connor seemed to be locked into the defense and the game itself," said head coach Jeff Tambroni. "He certainly kept us in it early and gave us a chance late so he was just very consistent throughout the course of that entire game."
During the first overtime period, Darcey blocked both of Johns Hopkins' two shots on net. With neither team finding the target in the first overtime, the game moved into a second overtime. Darcey and the defense geared up for another long five minutes of withstanding Johns Hopkins' determined offense. Unfortunately, with seven seconds left in the second overtime, the Blue Jays snuck one past Darcey, into the back of the net, ending what would have been the biggest comeback of the season for the Nittany Lions.
"Without [Connor Darcey] it certainly could have been a whole different ball game," said Tambroni. "It's nice to see the way Connor played from start to finish."
Another Nittany Lion had a stellar performance against Johns Hopkins, this time on the offensive end of the field. Senior Pat Manley had four goals against the Blue Jays, all coming within a twelve-minute span. Manley's first goal of the night, coming at the end of the first half, gave the Nittany Lions the momentum they needed to spark a second half comeback.
"I think [Pat Manley's first goal] was a big one for us because it brought [momentum] into the half and more energy and a little bit more enthusiasm," said Tambroni. "Even though it's just one goal it made a big difference and it gave our guys a chance to come out the second half and play the way they did."
Coach Tambroni had stressed earlier in the week that the Nittany Lions needed to get back to the basics against Johns Hopkins.
Tambroni saw his team get back to the basics during the second half against the Blue Jays, but not before they had to find their footing first.
"I certainly didn't think we did it in the first half, I thought we were a bit disorganized defensively, played hard, played a little bit on discipline, but played a little bit tight, maybe a little bit selfish offensively," said Tambroni. "I think they were trying to do a little bit too much on both sides of the ball."
Once finding their footing, the Nittany Lions dominated the field, scoring and keeping the Blue Jays on their toes, but in the end it wasn't enough.
"I thought we got back to the basics in man-to-man defense in the second half," said Tambroni. "It gave our guys a lot to build on as we look ahead to the final two games in the Big Ten."
By Maria Canales, GoPSUsports.com
Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Senior defenseman JP Burnside has been a huge contributor during his final season with Penn State men's lacrosse. He may be a standout player on the field, but Burnside's biggest contributions to the team are what he does when the game clock isn't running.
Since a young age, Burnside felt at home on a lacrosse field. After moving to Garden City, New York, in fifth grade, Burnside's friends encouraged him to try the sport.
"Garden City is a very lacrosse-rich town," said Burnside. "All the kids I became friends with when I moved there told me to try it, and that's how it all started."
After being named an All-American his senior year at Garden City High School, Burnside decided to continue his lacrosse journey at Penn State. Head coach Jeff Tambroni has had the opportunity to coach Burnside during all his years at Penn State. Tambroni has seen first hand the growth that Burnside has experienced both as a player and as a young man.
"I think JP has grown up a lot in many ways," said Tambroni. "He has certainly taken a more, I would say, professional attack at being a student-athlete. At first he was always pretty talented on the field but I'm not sure if he realized the impact that his personality, his behavior, and his work ethic was going to affect others around him. I think the older he got, the more he realized, and the more mature he became."
Coach Tambroni has been able to count on Burnside for always being a leader by example and always giving full commitment to everything he does.
This season, Burnside has been a constant presence in front of the Penn State net, having started every game so far in the 2015 campaign. Burnside's role as a senior and as a leader has been to be vocal on the field, but that doesn't mean he didn't have things to work on before the season started.
"I think he's had to grow more this year into a communicator and realize that guys aren't always going to be able to do what he does just because he's doing it," said Tambroni. "He had to learn to get other guys who are younger on the same page as him."
Although his senior season is winding down, when asked to reflect on his time at Penn State, Burnside had many memories that stood out in his mind.
"[My favorite memory was] when we watched the selection show my sophomore year and we found out we'd be hosting a tournament game," said Burnside. "There have been a lot of great memories but that one was just been a time where everyone was screaming and yelling and hugging. It was pretty awesome."
Burnside's journey with Penn State lacrosse has been an unforgettable one. Having grown close with his teammates and class over the years, Burnside is looking forward to finishing off the last few games of his senior season on a high note.
"You get to hang out with these guys every single day," said Burnside. "From being in the locker room, to out at night, to here at practice. You've got some of your best friends here and you get to hang out with them for four or five hours a day, you've got to love it."
This weekend Penn State (3-7, 0-2) will again be on the road, this time facing Johns Hopkins (4-6, 1-1), a team rich in lacrosse tradition. Burnside and his fellow seniors, all members of the founding class of Big Ten lacrosse, will battle it out on the field for a much-needed win for the Nittany Lions. Burnside knows his role and knows how important these last few games are to himself and his teammates.
"I try to be very passionate and emotional," said Burnside. "I try to be loud [on the field] if the team makes a good play. And then I try to make plays as well. We've been talking a lot about 'well done is better than well said' so I'm just trying to be a guy who's making plays out there and just trying to be loud and get everyone excited and motivate my team."
Penn State will face Johns Hopkins this Saturday at 6 p.m. in Baltimore. The game will air on ESPNU.
By Maria Canales, GoPSUsports.com
Student Staff Writer
COLLEGE PARK, Md. - The Nittany Lions dropped a tough 12-5 decision at Maryland on Saturday.
Taking on their second Big Ten foe, the Nittany Lions traveled to College Park over the weekend in arguably their biggest matchup of the season so far. No. 3 Maryland opened the game with several unanswered goals, giving the Lions a lot of ground to make up for.
Head coach Jeff Tambroni explained that after the first quarter, Penn State's defense had to adjust to withstand Maryland's explosive offense. The Nittany Lions also had to change strategies for getting possession of the ball. Possession time has been one of the team's biggest struggles this season.
"We just couldn't seem to get into any rhythm today and that really hurt us," said Tambroni. "Trying to stop [Maryland] before we got the ball in the offensive end is not a very good strategy."
In response to Maryland's strong start, Penn State's defense had to really batten down the hatches to keep the game close. The defense, led by senior JP Burnside, kept Maryland to just four goals in the final 45 minutes of the game. However, it was the offense's struggle to make opportunities for themselves that led to very few scoring chances.
"I don't think we played great team offense," said Tambroni. "I thought we had extremely limited possessions in the first half and maximized all we could, but in that third and fourth quarter we just couldn't adjust."
The outcome may have not been ideal, but this game proved to be yet another learning opportunity for Penn State. Now knowing what it takes to keep a top five offense at bay, the Lions will go into this week of practices with new motivation and momentum.
"I think we've got to take away the fact that we got down by a bunch and were able to come back and at least fight and make the last few quarters a competitive contest," said Tambroni. "We gotta take that as we move forward."
The Lions will take the tough road loss and use it as motivation to prepare for another trip to Maryland to play Johns Hopkins on Saturday.
By Maria Canales, GoPSUsports.com Student
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - The Penn State men's lacrosse program welcomed the Big Ten Network this week during practices to do filming for an upcoming feature on the network. The feature will focus on both sides of the Penn State-Maryland matchup this weekend in College Park.
Often known for outstanding cinematography, Big Ten Network features garner local and national attention, which will help Penn State lacrosse reach audiences previously unavailable. Due to its demonstrated prowess in the field of sports coverage, the Big Ten Network has helped push audiences on the sport of lacrosse by broadcasting games throughout the season.
Penn State was approached by the Big Ten Network to cover the week leading up to the much-anticipated Maryland game because of the rivalry between the two Universities. The episode will feature both teams as they prepare to face one another, as well as game content and coverage.
"It was a surprise but it was very exciting at the same time," said senior JP Burnside. "We're all very excited and people out there who can tune into Big Ten will get to take an inside look at our program which is awesome exposure."
The cameras will not only be filming during practices, but also around campus and during the players' downtime during the week. From following a player to class, to visiting their homes at school, this episode will give audiences a look at what it means to be a Penn State Lacrosse player off the field, as well as the motions they go through in daily practices and film sessions.
As with any new entity being introduced to a close-knit team, the cameras made their presence known during the first practice with the team.
"The first time [the camera crew] walked in some of the guys were looking over there," said Burnside. "You know we just got to try to make sure we eliminate all distractions and that's one of them so I think guys are getting used to it now."
Head coach Jeff Tambroni welcomed the opportunity to let audiences know more about his program and his players. Tambroni loved the idea of the exposure the program would get, especially in regards to possible recruits in the future.
"It's pretty neat to be one of two programs included in this. I think it'll do a lot for the sport," said Tambroni. "Even just having games on [the Big Ten Network] during the weekends means a lot. But I think this gives recruits a true insight into Penn State Lacrosse."
Many fans and community members know Penn State lacrosse for their performances on the field, but most don't know the hard work put in on non-game days. Since this is the first time the Big Ten Network will produce a feature show on lacrosse, audiences will be introduced to a world previously unchartered on such a large scale.
"I think what this will do will give people on the outside and inside perspective into maybe how much these guys work or the kind of stuff that they do to prepare for these games before we walk onto that field on Saturday," said Tambroni. "At the very least this will give Penn State Lacrosse a bit of much-needed exposure in its hundred year history."
Although the goals for this weekend's game are similar to those of all games, to win, the Nittany Lions will face arguably their toughest opponent yet. No. 3 ranked Maryland, a powerhouse in the sport of lacrosse, is eager to bring a rivalry between the two Universities. Due to the two schools being so close, and having a history of playing one another before the Big Ten was created, Penn State and Maryland are no strangers to such rivalry.
This weekend will prove a tough road match for the Nittany Lions as they take on their highest-ranked opponent yet.
"It's now a huge Big Ten rivalry, I know our team is excited and our coaches are excited so I just can't wait to play," said Burnside.
Penn State will face Maryland this Saturday in College Park at 3 p.m.
By Maria Canales, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - The Nittany Lion men's lacrosse team kicked off its Big Ten conference schedule by welcoming Ohio State to Happy Valley on Sunday. Despite a late rally, the Nittany Lions fell to the Buckeyes, 10-8.
Penn State got off to a quick start with senior Michael Richards scoring the first goal of the game, bringing the home crowd to its feet.
"Luckily [James] Burke passed me the ball and I just happened to be in the right place and luckily it went in," said Richards.
Although the Nittany Lions struck first, it was the Buckeyes who would return with five unanswered goals in the first half.
During the fourth quarter momentum shifted in favor of the Lions. Rallying from six gols down, sophomore Nick Aponte kick started a scoring spree for the Nittany Lions. Followed by goals from Brian Prestreau, Dan Craig and Matt Florence, the Lions came within two goals of tying the game.
"[The momentum] was nice, it's just we can't have that that late in the fourth quarter you have to have it earlier in the game," said Richards.
Richards also credited the change in momentum to several players that stood out in Sunday's game.
"I think that once we started winning faceoffs with Drake Kreinz, and James Burke played his heart out picking up ground balls, I think they did an insane job," said Richards. "I think those guys really made the difference coming out and then our offense did their job, when we actually gave them the ball, they did their job."
Penn State powered through its slow start and proved their skills and endurance can keep pace with the tough opponents they've faced.
"I think we realized that we can absolutely hang especially with all the close games we've had," said Richards. "We just have to realize that you need to put in a full 60 minutes, you can't just play in spurts. We know exactly what we can do and we have the power to do it we just have to put a game together."
Head coach Jeff Tambroni was satisfied with his teams overall performance against their long-time foe, but knows there is always room for improvement.
"Our kids came to win today and we were hoping not to play in the first Big Ten conference game here at Penn State, we were hoping to win," said Tambroni. "So I think that's going to probably put a cloud over, unfortunately, the kind of day that it maybe could have been at Penn State. But the other side of it is I thought our guys competed and I said that to them in the huddle, one thing I learned about them is that they gave an effort until the end."
With the first Big Ten game under their belts, the Nittany Lions look to learn and build off their experiences from Sunday's game. As soon as one game ends, the focus then turns to the team's next game; this week will be focused on Maryland. The team works one game at a time, a theme set early on in the season in attempts to focus all energy on one opponent.
"We have a short week of preparation against a really good Maryland team, so it's just going to be on us as a staff and as a team to get excited about a really good opportunity and opponent," said head coach Jeff Tambroni. "You know to win a game like that could change a lot, so from this moment on we'll go into the locker room, we'll start talking about that."
The Nittany Lions will spend this week gaining momentum for their road trip to Maryland on Saturday.
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - The Nittany Lions are eager to begin their second season as they open Big Ten competition for the first time in program history. As they look ahead to Ohio State, the Nittany Lions prepare to take on their long-time foe.
Discussion of Big Ten lacrosse started several years ago, when Maryland and Rutgers were in talks to join the conference. With the addition of honorary member Johns Hopkins, Penn State joins five other teams for the inaugural season of Big Ten lacrosse. Head coach Jeff Tambroni applauds the fellow programs in the conference for their decorated history within the sport of lacrosse.
"With the addition of teams like Johns Hopkins, Rutgers and Maryland the competition is not only raised but the exposure of those particular programs and how tradition rich they are," said Tambroni. "Those are the blue bloods of college lacrosse and the attachment of our association with them as well as Michigan and Ohio State just makes for very exciting opportunities."
The level of competition increases as Penn State continues their 2015 campaign, but the Lions are poised to take on every team, one game at a time.
Another welcomed change to the rest of the season, other than the level of difficulty, is the exposure Penn State will get from the Big Ten. With the rest of their games on television, Penn State will see national attention and be thrown into the spotlight every coming weekend.
"You certainly get a lot more exposure because the Big Ten wants to promote one of their sports on television," said Tambroni. "Through regular season games all the way to our conference tournament, the exposure is there."
Coach Tambroni believes the television component will be vital in marketing the Penn State lacrosse program to a wider audience. Making the game available to previously unreached audiences is vital for the program to build a larger fan base.
"I think [television exposure] is going to do a lot for the sport of lacrosse and I also believe it will do a lot for Penn State," said Tambroni.
Penn State will open Big Ten play against border rival Ohio State. The Nittany Lions have faced the Buckeyes every season under head coach Jeff Tambroni. Most recently, Penn State defeated Ohio State 11-8 in Columbus last March. This weekend's game will be vital in setting the tone for Penn State's identity as a Big Ten contender.
"I think no matter what the records are this is always an extremely hard-fought game," said Tambroni. "I think both teams compete hard against one another. You know when you play Michigan and Ohio State, you know kind of the founders of the Big Ten lacrosse conference, and these guys go after each other pretty good."
Tambroni knows the new Big Ten conference boasts powerhouses in the sport of lacrosse, but believes with the beginning of the season to build off of, the Nittany Lions have what it takes to hang in a tough crowd.
"There's a lot on the line now," said Tambroni. "It's not just Ohio State-Penn State it's the first game of the Big Ten and you want to get yourself off to a good start in the Big Ten conference and secure each and every win that you can because those things are going to be so valuable in the end."
Tambroni and company have been working on emphasizing the team aspect of the game. Working as one will be a key component to the Lions' matchup against Ohio State.
"I want to maximize the talents of this team, not necessarily each individual, but the talents of this team and I think if we can do that, regardless if it's the first time we've ever competed in the Big Ten or we've done it for years," said Tambroni. "We just want to make sure we can look back and do it without regret."
Tambroni emphasized that with this inaugural season as members of the Big Ten, wins aren't the only focus. Building a strong foundation for Penn State amongst the other member teams is just as important.
"Hopefully we develop the kind of relationships that are going to last a lifetime and that have nothing to do with the scoreboard," said Tambroni.
As the Big Ten games kick the season into full gear, Penn State is prepared to fight for every goal and every save, and demonstrate their strengths for the community.
"At the end of the day we would hope when someone walked away from one of our games they would say 'man that team plays hard, man that team really cares about each other' and it makes anybody who's associated with Penn State very proud to be associated with the same team that's on the field competing and playing for them," said Tambroni.
Penn State takes on Ohio State Sunday at 3 p.m.
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