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Lions Return Home Against Saint Joseph's

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By Pat White, Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. -- No. 17 Penn State men's lacrosse (4-3, 1-0 CAA) will host CAA opponent Saint Joseph's (4-4) at 1 p.m. on Saturday at the Penn State Lacrosse Field.

The Nittany Lions are searching for their third consecutive win after defeating UMass on Saturday (March 16) and Binghamton on Tuesday. Head coach Jeff Tambroni was happy with his team's focus after a seven hour trip to UMass and also traveling Tuesday to Binghamton.

8725806.jpeg"I was extremely pleased and impressed with the way our guys came off of the bus and played," Tambroni said. "Driving up the same day and then asking to compete at the Division I level is not easy. I thought it was a good sign of maturity by our team."

Tambroni was also encouraged by the emergence of senior Nick Dolik (Bloomfield Hills, Mich.), who has scored four goals in his last two games, including a hat trick in the second quarter against Binghamton. After not scoring in the Penn State's opening six games of the season, Dolik came out of his shell and into the zone the past two outings.

"In terms of his contributions against UMass we were very impressed," Tambroni said. "Against Binghamton, he was our best offensive player. It's nice to see him play with the confidence he has in the past couple of weeks. He has not wavered even during his scoring slump."

Dolik said that the midfield as a whole is more confident within the offense now that the season has gotten into full swing. He is shooting the ball better and is a major threat in the offensive end. He looks for the midfield to carry over that recent success against the Hawks.

"I think we need to keep dodging with conviction and not being scared to make a play," Dolik said. "We have to keep working hard and play as a unit out there. It's not just one guy; it takes a whole team effort."

Tambroni hopes the recent success of the midfielders will inject some confidence throughout the entire unit. While the midfield was a bright spot, third-quarter letdowns still haunt the Nittany Lions. Penn State surrendered four goals to the Bearcats on Tuesday, an aspect Dolik said the team needs to focus on.

"We had a pretty good first half and then came out flat in the third quarter and didn't shut the door in Binghamton," Dolik said. "We were hoping to come out a little bit stronger in the second half than we did. That is something we need to improve on."

Penn State is starting to find some rhythm on the defensive end. Junior defender Steve Bogert (Carlsbad, Calif.) said the team has been efficient in their film and scouting of Saint Joe's during the week. Practicing and preparing with energy is the key going into the matchup this weekend.

"We've done a good job of getting back to the point that we were at in the beginning of the season playing team defense and good communication," Bogert said. "Now we are stringing it back together with a couple of wins. It has to continue throughout the season starting Saturday."

The Hawks are coming off of a 12-7 victory against Marquette at home last Saturday. They are 0-3 on the road this season, and 0-5 all-time against Penn State, including a 7-3 loss last season. Despite the numbers being Penn State's favor, Bogert said that Saint Joseph's is not a team to take lightly.

"It's a league game so you know it's going to be a blue-collar type of atmosphere," Bogert said. "We are going to come out focused and ready to play."

The Hawks are a dangerous team because they play a unique style that the Nittany Lions haven't seen yet this season, according to Tambroni. Their pressure on rides and zone defense are two aspects that Penn State has been game planning for during a short week of practice.

Although Saint Joseph's is winless on the road, Happy Valley has not been kind to Penn State so far this season. The Nittany Lions are 0-2 at home, both 10-9 overtime losses to Notre Dame and Ohio State. Tambroni hopes the team can change its fortunes.

"Our track record on the road is better than it is at home," Tambroni said. "We just have to secure our home field better than we have in the past... It will be nice in terms of wear and tear on our guys and allowing them to sleep in their own beds and focus."

Dolik said he likes playing on the road because he thinks the team focuses better and gives them an opportunity to bond. That said, as a senior, he wants to get some momentum established on home field.

"We're excited to play in front of our home crowd and hopefully get a win on our field," Dolik said. "We have to come out energized and enthusiastic."

Saint Joseph's depends on solid defense (8.25 goals allowed per game) and its man-up unit (34.5 percent).  While Penn State boasts a prolific offense (10.29 goals per game) the man-up unit has struggled, scoring only six goals on 21 opportunities. Tambroni said the man-advantage unit is moving the ball well, but just isn't burying shots.

"Our guys are getting in good spots on the field," Tambroni said. "We've gone back to the basics and taken time in practice working on shooting and stick work. We just have to do a better job of putting the ball away when opportunities arise."

Lions' Midfield Production Taking Shape

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By Pat White, Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. -- Penn State men's lacrosse (3-3, 1-0 in CAA) snapped a three-game losing streak with a 7-5 victory at UMass on Saturday.

The offense has been led by the attack so far this season, but it was the midfielders that shined in the victory against UMass.

8711373.jpegSenior Nick Dolik (Bloomfield Hills, Mich.) scored his first goal of the season and sophomore Kyle Zittel (Eden, N.Y.) added his fourth. Junior Kyle VanThof (Penfield, N.Y.) scored the eventual game-winning goal in the fourth quarter. Dolik said it felt good breaking the ice with his first goal, but it was even better seeing the midfielders step up.

"It was good to take some pressure off of our attack," Dolik said. "They have been shouldering the load and in order to be success on offense you have to balance your scoring. It was good to get some production from the midfield. Hopefully it continues and we keep the offense going."

Senior Jack Forster (Jenkintown, Pa.) scored four goals for the Nittany Lions. Penn State attackmen have now scored 45 of the teams 61 goals. The midfield accounted for three goals, three assists and corralled 10 of Penn State's 18 ground balls in the game. Zittel said that the team was determined to get the win at UMass, and the middies were focused on making an impact on the game.

"We were getting harped on a little through the week," Zittel said. "Seeing the wealth spread throughout the lines was good especially in a low scoring game. It was definitely influential in our win."

VanThof's game-winning goal gave the team momentum with 5:54 left in the fourth quarter. The shot timer was on and VanThof said he just put the ball on cage and it went in. The midfielders were challenged by the coaching staff to step up their play and VanThof came up big down the stretch.

"We always try to settle for the best shot and not the first shot," VanThof said. "We are trying to get our midfielders to do that more."

Head coach Jeff Tambroni was pleased with the way the midfielders came to play and hopes it is a sign of things to come. He said that they need to continue to assert themselves, but the midfielders are becoming more of a factor in the offense.

"They have to have a little bit more confidence and dodge with a little bit more conviction," Tambroni said. "It was an incremental step, but a very important step to get more production from the midfield and take some pressure off the attack."

Last week, Tambroni said that his team wasn't making critical plays to finish out games. Against UMass, Penn State picked up three ground balls, forced a penalty and had a key clear in the last two minutes that helped seal the win.

"We have been in situations where we hadn't finished games before," Dolik said. "We had the extra focus, knowing that we'd been there before. It was awesome to finish the game with some ground balls."

Besides the encouraging play from the midfielders, Tambroni said that getting back in the win column could go a long way for the Nittany Lions.

"We need to take a little bit of confidence with us," Tambroni said. "Sometimes when you win, you just feel that you are playing better as an individual. We just have to start building a little bit more momentum and hopefully that will help us in this three game stretch."

Dolik said that while the win over UMass was a big one for the team, they need to forget about it and focus on the next task, a road matchup with Binghamton on Tuesday.

The Bearcats (3-3) are coming off of a 13-6 victory against Manhattan. Penn State won its only game against Binghamton, 9-7, in 2011, Tambroni's Penn State debut.

Tambroni and his players preached that efficiency in film and practice would be crucial in preparing for the two games this week. Tambroni wants to give his players a rest, but still wants them to stay sharp in preparation for Binghamton, without looking ahead to CAA opponent St. Joseph's on Saturday.

"Hopefully we just go up there and take care of business," Tambroni said. "Right now it's worrying more about Penn State than our opponents. We have to make sure that we block off each game and not look too far ahead."

Lions Look to Get Back to Winning Ways

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By Pat White, Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. -- It has been a season of streaks for the Penn State men's lacrosse (2-3) so far in 2013. The No. 18 Nittany Lions look to get back in the win column with trip to Amherst to face No. 19 UMass (3-3) on Saturday to open CAA conference play.

8696737.jpegPenn State is coming off of its third-straight loss against Lehigh last Saturday. Senior midfielder Travis Crane (Parkville, Md.) said that the team has to put the focus on playing well in the CAA and not about the national rankings.

"Starting the CAA 1-0 is the focus and to get back on a winning streak," Crane said. "We want to improve all this week and then the result will take care of itself."

CAA play will be critical for the Nittany Lions, and UMass poses the tallest task right from the jump. Not only are the Minutemen reigning CAA conference champions, but they also defeated the Nittany Lions 9-8 in overtime last season in Happy Valley. Senior attacker Jack Forster (Jenkintown, Pa.) said there is a little extra fire coming into the game.

"It's our first CAA game it's a huge game coming up," Forster said. "Especially because [UMass] beat us at home the past two games in overtime. It's a little added motivation."

Head coach Jeff Tambroni isn't changing anything tactically or with personnel for the matchup with UMass. He said the factor missing the recent three-game slide is the ability to make key plays down the stretch. 

"It has nothing to do with our effort or our talent," Tambroni said. "It has a lot to do with playing in the moment and with enough discipline, especially when the game gets tight, to provide us an opportunity to win games."

An encouraging sign for Penn State against Lehigh was its resiliency to battle back after trailing 5-1 at halftime. That resiliency to battle back must be on display against a UMass, especially on the defensive end late in games. The Penn State defense has given up 30 goals in the second half compared to 18 in the first.

"We're a resilient group, but we need to focus on finishing games," Crane said. "We put ourselves in positions to be successful. Now it's just about making plays in the moment at the end of games."

UMass is currently on a three-game losing streak, as well. After impressive victories against No. 4 North Carolina and Harvard, the Minutemen face the same challenges as the Nittany Lions.

The UMass offense is feeling the loss of 2012 USILA All-American and CAA Player of the Year senior Will Manny, who was injured in the victory against North Carolina. The diminutive attackman was the catalyst of the Minuteman attack, scoring 44 goals and dishing out 33 helpers in 2012.

The Minutemen score by committee, unlike Penn State's attack-driven offense. Five players have tallied double-digit points, led by senior attackman Kyle Smith with 15 points.

Penn State's attack trio continues to rack up the points, scoring 41 of the team's 54 goals this season. Freshman TJ Sanders (Orillia, Ont.) continues to impress, scoring five goals in each of his last two games. The three-time CAA Rookie of the Week leads Penn State with 18 goals.

"For a freshman he plays with such tremendous poise," Tambroni said of Sanders. "He is an extremely passionate and fiery young man. He is so invested in his teammates with the way he studies the game. Everything he does is about putting our team in a position to win.

On the defensive end, Penn State's experience between the pipes is an advantage. Junior Austin Kaut (Morton, Pa.) continues to look strong for the Nittany Lions, and is now 98 for 105 on clears this season.

UMass boasts freshman Zach Oliveri in net, who hasn't played like a rookie so far this season. The Ronkonkoma, N.Y. native is 21st in the NCAA with a 8.91 goals-against average and fourteenth in save percentage posting a .579.

The two CAA foes are similar in a variety of ways this season. Crane said that the two teams have a mutual respect for one another, and they are both going to come out hard to open up conference play.

"We try and take every game one at a time," Crane said. "When you play a CAA opponent you know it is going to be a dogfight. This being the first game, there is a little bit more incentive to start off 1-0 in the CAA."

Tambroni doesn't want to dub Saturday's matchup as a must-win game because it is still so early in the season. He knows his team can play better, and with more urgency in practice, the success will come.

"We have to keep grinding and that the mindset of the group is that every game is a winnable situation and a 'must win,'" Tambroni said. "I think these guys are competitive as a group and they know what's on the line."

UMass is Penn State's fifth-consecutive ranked opponent. The Minutemen lead the all-time series 10-4. The game will be play on Saturday at 12 p.m. at Garber Field in Amherst, Mass.

Henneghan's Faceoffs Crucial for Lions Success

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By Pat White, Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. -- Lacrosse is considered a niche sport because of how minute details can affect the outcome of a game. It is not a sport purely dictated on speed and athleticism. There are many games-within-the-games in lacrosse that makes every matchup exciting.

8689672.jpegOne of the most critical, but sometimes overlooked, aspects of lacrosse is a faceoff. Possessing the ball is the only way of having a chance to score and assuring the other team doesn't.  While Head coach Jeff Tambroni is still searching for consistency in all aspects of his team's game, he said that faceoffs are one of the main positives in the early season.

Senior midfielder Danny Henneghan (Beverly Hills, Mich.) has shouldered the load on faceoffs so far this season, taking 117 of Penn State's 118 draws. His .598 winning percentage is ranked twelfth in the nation among his fellow faceoff men.

"When he's been on, he has been really in the zone," Tambroni said. "He has given us ample opportunity to be successful as a team and has worked so hard this year alongside the other faceoff guys. He seems to be having a lot more fun this season."

Henneghan attributes his success to increased reps, both on and off the practice field. The healthy competition with his teammates while practicing faceoffs has helped prepare him for game days. The preparation has helped him so much that Henneghan feels his greatest competition comes on the practice field.

"The biggest help is the guys that are taking faceoffs with me," Henneghan said. "It's gotten to the point where the guys I'm practicing against, in my opinion, are better than the guys I'm going up against in the actual games. When it's time for the game it feels a little bit easier because they are so good in practice."

Competition in faceoff practice is nothing new to Henneghan. His brother, Charley, also went to Penn State and was a fellow faceoff man. Henneghan said that they started playing lacrosse at the same time and would practices draws in their backyard. It would be the start of successful careers for the Henneghan brothers.

"It almost natural because the first time I ever picked up a lacrosse stick, I was doing faceoffs," Henneghan said. "That was my first exposure I ever had to the whole sport. That's where I started and I had an older brother to practice against, so that played a major role."

Henneghan said that thorough preparation and a strong mentality play key roles in faceoffs. He said that "faceoffs are a game within the game" and that he scouts his faceoff combatant as much as the team scouts the opposition.

"I like to find out what they do specifically so I can see how I've done against their move," Henneghan said. "If I had the opportunity to go against the guy in years past, it helps me know if what I do will be successful."

Henneghan brings a sort of swagger to the faceoff X, and is confident that he can beat is man on every draw. The extra work this season and support of his teammates has helped him gain confidence.

"A big part is knowing that you will beat the other guy in every faceoff," Henneghan said. "This is the first year where I've kind of had that edge. The extra practice has paid off in that area."

Every faceoff man has a go-to move. Henneghan's is a pinch and pop, where he clamps down on the ball with the head of his stick and pulls the ball forward. He said it was the first move he learned and that he has been doing it since high school.

The pinch and pop is an offensively minded move that sparks transition is won cleanly. Penn State has relied heavily on transition this year, and Henneghan plays a major role. Penn State's attackers have been lighting the lamp at an incredible pace so far this season, and Henneghan feels his job becomes more important to the success of the offense.

"They finish on a lot of their chances," Henneghan said of the attack, "and it makes it more important for me to have a successful move because if I can consistently push the ball forward, it's going to lead to more goals."

Lion Offense Continues to Score in Bunches

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By Pat White, Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. -- No. 8 Penn State men's lacrosse (2-2) dropped its second-consecutive overtime game 10-9 against No. 16 Ohio State on Saturday at the Penn State Lacrosse Field.

After a slow first quarter that saw both teams trading blows in a 2-2 tie, Penn State's offense took form and unleashed a rally of goals. The offense went silent in the second half and could not muster the same flow as the first half. Head coach Jeff Tambroni said it is still early in the season and this is a good learning experience for his team.

8650755.jpeg"We came out strong in the first half, but this is three games in a row that we haven't been able to finish games," Tambroni said. "It's disappointing. We have some quality leaders here and we had opportunities to put this game away in the third quarter."

The Lions were backed behind five goals from freshman TJ Sanders (Orillia, Ont.). Sanders continues to build on his hot start to the season and now has 13 goals in four games this season. His 15 points are tied for the team lead with red-shirt senior Jack Forster (Jenkintown, Pa.). Forster scored a goal against the Buckeyes and added three assists.

The offense struck early and often in the second quarter and from a variety of ways. Sanders scored three of his five goals in a four minute stretch, all coming from inside five yards of the crease. His most impressive goal actually came on a play made by junior goalkeeper Austin Kaut (Morton, Pa.).

The Buckeyes ran an aggressive ride that pulled their midfielders and defense higher toward the offensive zone to force a turnover. Forster was left unguarded at his attacking restraining line and Kaut fired a missile that was right on the money. Forster made a quick pass to Sanders who threw a few fakes at Ohio State keeper Greg Dutton before scoring.

Despite the offensive outburst from Sanders, the freshman said it doesn't mean much to him because the team let the game slip away.

"Scoring five goals is great but it doesn't matter than much when we lose the game," Sanders said. "Winning is the most important stat. We played really well in the first half and the second half we were pretty stagnant. They made adjustments and we didn't adjust to their energy."

Junior Kyle VanThof (Penfield, N.Y.) continued his consistency as a depth scorer with a second quarter goal. VanThof dodged down the left and cut to middle, freed his hands and ripped an overhand shot that beat Dutton high.

VanThof's classmate Tom LaCrosse (Canandaigua, N.Y.) netted his sixth goal of the season during the streak and provided a dodging presence that opened up some space in the Ohio State zone defense.

Ohio State's zone defense kept the Nittany Lion offense in check in the second half and they came out with more energy in the second half. Junior Shane Sturgis (Downingtown, Pa.) scored in the fourth quarter, his first goal in seven quarters, to tie the game at 9-9.

Tambroni said that his team played too tentatively in the second half and they need to work on being more poised on offense to get better shots. He also credit's Ohio State for its resiliency and perseverance to fight back.

"If they can claw back from 8-2 and have a lot of energy coming out in the second half, they probably deserve to win," Tambroni said. "I think their goalie played well in the second half."

Tambroni will give his troops some much needed rest before preparing for a date with No. 19 Lehigh on Saturday in the Whitman's Sample Independence Classic at PPL Park in Chester, Pa.

Richards, Lions Eye Creator's Trophy

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By Pat White, Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. -- Penn State men's lacrosse (2-1) aims to keep the Creator's Trophy in its trophy case with a matinee with No. 16 Ohio State (3-0) on Saturday at 1 p.m.

The Nittany Lions took home the inaugural Creator's Trophy last season in a battle between three Big Ten schools, Penn State, Michigan and Ohio State. The trophy goes to the team that wins both games against the other schools. Penn State is half way there, defeating Michigan 11-6 to open the season.

8640323.jpegPenn State has had success over Ohio State recently with a 6-4 record over the past ten meetings. The Nittany Lions visited Columbus, Ohio last season and came out with a 5-2 victory. Sophomore midfielder Michael Richards (Skaneateles, N.Y.) said the fate of the trophy lies in the team's hands.

"It is a statement game for us knowing that they are a rival of our and that we are playing for the Creator's Trophy," Richards said. "Knowing that the trophy is already in our building is a huge positive for us. If we had to send that trophy to another school it would be devastating for us."

The Nittany Lions are amid a five game stretch playing top 25 opponents. Ohio State will be the third consecutive ranked opponent Penn State this season. The Buckeyes bring a high-powered offense into Happy Valley, having outscored opposing team 41-22 so far this season.

Richards said that the team needs to tighten up on defense to prepare for Ohio State's offense. Penn State needs to be more disciplined, but practice has helped the team adjust.

"Going against our offense every day and how high powered they are definitely helps us out," Richards said. "It shows us what we need to work on every day."

Penn State and Ohio State have a lot in common in terms of their personnel, strong goaltending and a balanced attack on offense.

Ohio State is led by senior attackman and preseason second team All-American, Logan Schuss, who has netted 10 goals and dished out five assists to begin the season. He is joined up front by freshman Carter Brown, who is making a name for himself with six goals and eight assists early in the season.

Penn State flaunts a freshman-senior duo as well. Senior Jack Forster (Jenkintown, Pa.) has scored nine goals already this season. He teams up with freshman TJ Sanders (Orillia, Ont.) and junior Shane Sturgis (Downingtown, Pa.) to form a potent scoring attack that scored 25 of Penn State's 35 goals this season.  Forster led the Nittany Lions with a hat trick in last week's overtime loss to No. 3 Notre Dame.

Saturday's game will once again feature a battle of the goalkeepers. Second team All-ECAC goalie Greg Dutton is eighth in the nation with a 7.07 goal-against average. Facing a top-flight goalie can be intimidating, but focus will be key for the offense.

"Knowing that he's a highly ranked goalie makes me focus even more," Richards said. "I know that if I don't put the ball in a good spot he's going to save it and start the transition the other way."

Opposing Dutton on the other side of the field for Penn State is junior Austin Kaut (Morton, Pa.). Kaut has been a rock for Penn State between the pipes and brings a calming presence to the defense. His ability to make crucial saves and then spark Penn State's lethal transition offense is what makes him a spectacular goalkeeper. Kaut is allowing 9.21 goals per game, good for twenty-fourth in the nation.

Kaut and Richards chemistry on clears is a major reason why Penn State is operating at .951 clearing percentage. Both players are the major reason for the early success of the transition offense. Richards' speed and vision allow him to take the ball into the offensive end by himself and open space for his teammates.

"That's the biggest part of my game," Richards said. "We work on that every day making sure that we get goals off of transition. With the change in the rules, the game is so much faster that you have to convert on those opportunities."

Penn State and Ohio State is sure to be a fast paced game with no shortage of scoring. Richards said it may not be goals and saves, but the things not on the score sheet that will make the difference.

"We need to focus on the little parts of the game like groundballs, hustling and getting the ball off the ground," Richards said. "If we do that, we should be successful."

Lions' Great Effort Trumps Tough OT Loss

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By Pat White, Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. -- Coming down the stretch, the eighth-ranked Penn State men's lacrosse team was playing some its most inspired lacrosse of the early season against third-ranked Notre Dame. It appeared as though there might be an upset brewing in an electric environment at Holuba Hall in front of the Penn State faithful.

8620994.jpegFor the second straight season, the Nittany Lions (2-1) and Fighting Irish (2-0) duked it out and needed overtime to decide a winner. In a game that saw 18 goals, seven ties and three goals in 24 seconds to end regulation, Notre Dame ultimately prevailed with a game-winning goal by freshman Matt Kavanagh with 1:34 left in overtime.

Despite the heartbreaking loss for the Nittany Lions, head coach Jeff Tambroni was pleased with his teams' effort.

"There's a difference between losing a game and failing to create an effort on the field," Tambroni said. "Notre Dame was one goal better in overtime, but that's high praise because Notre Dame is a very good lacrosse team."

In a rollercoaster game, Penn State held an 8-7 lead in the last minute of play. Notre Dame tied the game with 24 seconds left, and took the lead on a goal on the ensuing faceoff just seven seconds later. Tambroni credited Notre Dame's persistence to tie and take the lead late in the game after trailing so late.

The Nittany Lions battled back with some fight of their own with 17 seconds left on the clock. Junior midfielder Tom LaCrosse (Canandaigua, N.Y.) had magic in his stick, dodging at the restraining line and letting fly a left-handed shot on the run that beat Notre Dame's All-American goalkeeper John Kemp to force overtime with .6 seconds remaining in regulation.

"My teammates [cleared] through because they realized there was no time left," LaCrosse said. "They let me get to my left and I shot it at the goal and hoped for the best."

It was a big goal for the junior, who scored three goals against Notre Dame and has stepped into a bigger scoring role this season for the Nittany Lions. Tambroni credits his team's mental toughness to not get discouraged after surrendering the lead.

"To have the peace of mind to win a faceoff and then to have the poise, knowing the clock is running down to get a good shot against a first team All-American goalie," Tambroni said, "that says a lot about [LaCrosse] and a lot about our team."

Tambroni said that Penn State did not lose the game due to a lack of effort. Both teams played an evenly matched game across the board and played in a defensive battle. Junior goalkeeper Austin Kaut (Morton, Pa.) is proud of the team's effort and said the game was decided on by one more good chance by Notre Dame.

"We knew it was going to be a defensive battle all day," Kaut said. "Both teams played really well and it just comes down to maybe working a little harder and getting one more ground ball."

The effort also came in large part from depth at the midfield. Redshirt junior Kyle VanThof (Penfield, N.Y.) and sophomore Kyle Zittel (Eden, N.Y.) scored key goals to give Penn State a two-goal lead at the start of the fourth quarter. Freshman Sammy Davis (Pittsfield, Mass.), sophomore Michael Richards (
Skaneateles, N.Y.) and junior Steven Bogert (Carlsbad, Calif.) played great on the defensive end and provided Kaut with options in the clearing game that finished 23-for-24 on the day.

Tambroni hopes that Penn State and Notre Dame can rekindle a rivalry that stems from the epic battles on the football field in past years.  Notre Dame has been a national powerhouse lacrosse program for the last six years and Tambroni can see a rivalry coming if Penn State continues to build as a program.

"I hope we get to the point where they consider us a rival," Tambroni said. "If we get to that point when people put us in that conversation with Notre Dame, then we'll take that as a compliment."

Despite playing well, the team has to put the emotional loss on the backburner and turn its focus to the upcoming game against Ohio State.

"We played real hard today and competed," Kaut said. "We just have to think about the next game, Ohio State this weekend, and put this one behind us."

Lions Face Big Test in Home Opener

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By Pat White, Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. -- The journey doesn't get any easier for Penn State men's lacrosse as they welcome third-ranked Notre Dame to Happy Valley on Sunday.

The eighth-ranked Nittany Lions will face their second top 10 opponent in two weeks following a 15-12 victory over No. 9 Denver last weekend. Like Denver, Notre Dame is coming off of a road victory against now 14th-ranked Duke. Penn State has a tall task ahead preparing for a well-rounded Fighting Irish team.

8605754.jpegHead Coach Jeff Tambroni said that Fighting Irish deserve the high ranking based on their finish last season and win against Duke. Notre Dame's success has picked up where it left off last season, finishing 13-3 and making it to the semifinals of the NCAA Tournament. One of those losses was a 4-3 loss at the hands of the Nittany Lions.

Tambroni said the grinding defensive game last season wasn't one that lacrosse pundits would consider a great game. Both teams are stocked with offensive talent and the faster pace to the game this season should be a recipe for an exciting game.

"Notre Dame gets a lot of publicity because of their defensive end and they are very talented and well coached back there," Tambroni said. "But they are very capable on the offensive end as well after putting up 13 goals against Duke. It should be fun game."

Notre Dame boasts one of the top defenses in college lacrosse, allowing just 6.31 goals-per-game last season and allowing five goals to Duke in its 13-5 victory last Saturday. It is led by All-American senior goalie John Kemp. Kemp led the nation in goals-against average (6.27) and save percentage (.683).

Penn State has proven to be a high-scoring offense, scoring 8.7 goals-per-game last season, and averaging 13 goals-per-game in two games this season. The attack unit of senior Jack Forster (Jenkintown, Pa.), junior Shane Sturgis (Downingtown, Pa.) and freshman TJ Sanders (Orillia, Ont.) have combined to score 21 of Penn State's 28 goals this season.

"They've done a great job and taken turns during the course of the game," Tambroni said of his attack. "They are starting to get comfortable with one another. Hopefully they can continue to share the ball and complement each other. They have come in to watch extra film this week and have practice very hard."

Each attackman brings something different to the table making them hard to defend. Sturgis is a great facilitator and dodger from behind the net. Forster has a great shot both on the run and when given room and Sanders is sneaky in finding space in the defense and finishing his shots. The one thing they all have in common is they can score from anywhere.

The offense will rely on the attack to generate offense against the stingy Notre Dame defense. The extra attention on the attack may open up opportunities for the midfielders to create some shots. Sophomore Kyle Zittel (Eden, N.Y) and junior Tom LaCrosse (
Canandaigua, N.Y) each scored against Denver, and hope to continue the trend this weekend.

Scoring goals will be less of a challenge for the Nittany Lions against Notre Dame if they continue to work well in transition. Possessing the ball will be crucial in limiting Notre Dame's scorers from getting in a rhythm.

While the offense conjures up ways to solve Kemp and Notre Dame's defense, junior goaltender Austin Kaut (Morton, Pa.) will be busy stopping the high-octane Fighting Irish offense. Kaut finished last season sixth in the nation in save percentage (.584) and tenth in goals-against-average (7.93 gaa.).

Notre Dame returns its five leading scorers from last season, as well as adding highly touted freshman attackman Matt Kavanagh to the mix. Kaut isn't focusing on Notre Dame's offense, but rather achieving the teams' objectives.

"We just have to focus on us," Kaut said. "We just going to practice hard, play hard and get a good scouting report from our coaches. Hopefully we'll come out on our home turf and come out with a victory against Notre Dame."

The home opener gives the Penn State faithful their first real chance at seeing the No. 8 Nittany Lions. Tambroni is happy to rest his players after two weekends of travel. He said it makes preparing easier when travel is not in the equation and the team can focus on just playing lacrosse.

Kaut is used to the travel by now, but admitted that he is anxious to see how the team measures up to a very talented Notre Dame team in front of the home crowd.

"Hopefully we get a good showing at the game with a top-five team coming in," Kaut said. "We're going to come out and play hard. Traveling isn't anything different, but playing at home with the fans there is always exciting."

Tambroni has said from the start of the season that he wants to climb up the ranks and compete in the postseason. He is happy to be ranked eighth in the country, but knows there is still more to accomplish. A win over a well-established and experienced team like Notre Dame could ignite a lot of confidence for Penn State moving forward.

Preparation Key in Men's Lacrosse's Quick Start

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By Pat White, Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. -- Head Coach Jeff Tambroni has his sights set on the successful season for Penn State (2-0) come playoff time, not just a quick 2-0 start right out of the gate.

8597670.jpegBut it is hard not to get excited after a monumental 15-12 victory over ninth-ranked Denver on Sunday (Feb. 16) in Jacksonville, Fla. at the Moe's Southwest Grill Lacrosse Classic. Denver had knocked off top-five opponent, Duke, the previous week. The Nittany Lions knew they had an opportunity to upset a potential postseason team and could do it on national television. Tambroni credited his team for preparing well and coming ready to play a well-established program.

"We have a lot of respect for them and their coaching staff," Tambroni said of Denver. "After what they did to us last year, that's why our team felt as good about the effort as much as, if not more than, the result on Sunday."

Goaltender Austin Kaut (Morton, Pa.) was wide-eyed at the sight of EverBank Field, home of the Jacksonville Jaguars. Kaut made 10 saves and the Nittany Lions rose to the occasion on the big stage and came out with a victory to be proud of.

"That was the biggest stage I've ever played on," Kaut said. "It was really cool to be in that stadium, on the grass and to have our team come out fired up and take care of business."

Tambroni stresses that preparation is a key to success. He evaluates each week the level and intensity of preparation.  This week, it was Kaut that made note of the team's preparation and scouting report, especially on the defensive end, that paid off with a victory.

"Our defense played really well, both long-stick middies and short-stick middies," Kaut said. "[Denver's] three starting middies are some of the best in the nation and our guys were able to shut them down. I was really proud of them."

CAA Player of the Week Shane Sturgis (Downingtown, Pa.) led the offense. The junior netted four goals in the victory over Denver, bringing his total to a team-leading eight in two games. He was joined on attack by red-shirt senior Jack Forster (Jenkintown, Pa.) and freshman TJ Sanders (Orillia, Ont.), who combined for seven goals between them.

Sturgis said that his teammates helped create opportunities for him to score and his shots were falling. His ability to dodge from behind the net, causing the defense to slide, opened up shots for himself and hi s teammates. Sturgis added that it was a fun experience playing on a big stage, but more fun that the team finished shots and got the win.

"We have good chemistry and everyone is feeding off each other and playing around," Sturgis said of the offense. "The more we communicate the better the offense goes."

The sunny Florida sky can be a distracting environment, especially for a young team like Penn State. Tambroni was pleased with the leadership of his upper-classmen and the response by his players.

"I give the guys credit for the way they handled the entire atmosphere," Tambroni said. "It isn't something that we're accustomed to. That's not normal for the Penn State program. For them to play with poise and play hard says a lot about our leadership and our captains."

Tambroni admitted it was a fun weekend and great victory, but the team's focus now shifts to this weekend's opponent, third-ranked Notre Dame (1-0). Penn State faced off against the Fighting Irish last season in South Bend, Ind. and grinded to a 4-3 OT victory.

Notre Dame is also coming off of a victory against Duke and poses another challenge for Penn State in the early season. Hopefully the success from the previous two victories carries into Sunday's matchup with the Irish.

Penn State will get some much-needed rest after traveling the past two weekends to Michigan and Jacksonville. An extra day of rest coupled with a week of intense practice should pay dividends for the Nittany Lions against Notre Dame on Sunday.

"I think it comes down to preparation and that helps us for games on the weekends," Kaut said. "We practice really hard and it's paying off so far this season."

Offense Looks to Set Pace vs. Michigan

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By Pat White, Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. -- It has been a long wait for the No. 15 ranked Penn State lacrosse team in anticipation for the regular season. The time has come to put on the jersey and take the field on Saturday as the Nittany Lions head to Ann Arbor to take on Michigan.

8552993.jpegJunior attackman Gavin Ahern (Rockville Centre, N.Y.) is pleased with the preparation and mindset of the team. Although the team has played competitively in its two scrimmages and worked hard in practice, Ahern said that game days are on another level.

"We just want to get back out there and put everything we've been working on into a game," Ahern said. "Finally we get to strap it up against someone else and see what we're made of."

Head coach Jeff Tambroni has seen the anticipation and excitement levels rise within the last week. Keeping the team focused on preparing for Michigan has been the goal of the week.

"They've done a great job of remaining focused and we've been impressed with how they handled the first two scrimmages," Tambroni said. "They still understand that our record is 0-0 coming out of the preseason. Nothing really matters except what happens against Michigan in game one."

Tambroni expects to see a new-look offense this year. He admitted that last season's offensive attack was conservative and predictable. This year's group looks to be more explosive and better in transition.

"They are more mature and they believe in each other a lot more," Tambroni said. "Those factors have helped us with the addition of the freshman and the young talent added to the mix."

The NCAA implemented a shot clock this season when teams are called for a stall warning and must keep the ball in the offensive box. Playing a slow, possession-based style of attack may be a dying breed, but Tambroni still preaches being judicial and deliberate with the ball in the offensive end.

"The game when it's played at its best is when it's played at a high speed," Tambroni said. "We try to teach our guys how to read a defense and read a particular play when they are faced with certain obstacles. Teaching them how to be better lacrosse players versus being solid in a system of lacrosse is important."

Depth will play an even bigger role now with the faster tempo. Redshirt Senior Jack Forster (Jenkintown, Pa.), junior Shane Sturgis (Downingtown, Pa.) and Ahern will be joined by freshmen TJ Sanders (Orillia, Ont.) and Matt Sexton (
Niskayuna, N.Y.) to jumpstart the Nittany Lion attack.

The midfield is paced by senior Nick Dolik (Bloomfield Hills, Mich.), junior Tom LaCrosse (Canandaigua, N.Y.) and senior captain Travis Crane (Parkhill, Md.). Sophomore Erik Myers (Del Mar, Calif.) and freshmen Tom O'Neil (Shamong, N.J.) and Sammy Davis (Pittsfield, Mass.), among others, are expected to provide offensive depth. Getting contributions from multiple players and staying fresh will be key to competing for a playoff spot.

"It's allowed us to practice a little more efficiently," Tambroni said. "Our guys are fresher and making plays. These guys have all contributed at a level where we feel we can play a lot more people this year than we did last year. With the rule change, transition it's a necessity."

Learning an offensive system can be a difficult task. The freshmen have stepped right into their roles, and look comfortable among the veterans.

"The freshman have fit right in and bought into the system," Ahern said. "I've learned a lot from them and hopefully I've taught them a little something. They are meshing in great."

Although the Nittany Lions compete in the CAA, the matchup against Michigan has the same rivalry feel as any other sport on campus. Penn State, Ohio State and  Michigan compete for the Creators Trophy that goes to the team who wins both matchups against the other two teams. Penn State currently holds the trophy and looks to keep it in Happy Valley.

"We won it last year and we want to keep here at Penn State forever," Ahern said. "Knowing what's on the line, the first step is Michigan and they are on our way. We have to get through them and keep the Creators trophy where it should be."

Tambroni said his players know what the matchup against the Wolverines means across the University. They are treating this game just as they would a CAA matchup.

"It goes beyond our league and more into the fabric of Penn State," Tambroni said. "Our guys are cognizant of that and hope to represent not just our program, but our school within the Big Ten."

Penn State and Michigan will faceoff at 1 p.m. at Oosterbaan Fieldhouse on Saturday.