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Lions Ready to Take On No. 1 Denver

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By Maria Canales, Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Since the 2012 season, the Penn State men's lacrosse team (5-3) has faced No. 1 Denver (7-0) in games that have become staples of every campaign under head coach Jeff Tambroni's leadership.  

Prior to his time with the Nittany Lions, Tambroni was the head coach at Cornell where he became close comrades with Bill Tierney, who was the head coach of Princeton from 1988 to 2009.

During their years as rivals, the coaches earned each other's respect and developed mutual admiration for one another's natural coaching talent. After Tierney's departure from Princeton to become the head coach at Denver, and after Tambroni left Cornell to come to Penn State, the two started talking about the possibility of their new teams playing one another.

"When I first became head coach [at Cornell], from afar he was a great mentor to a lot of young coaches including myself," said Tambroni of Tierney. "We just happened to be at a position at Cornell to be a rival of Princeton, so we've had some great battles and that relationship grew in both ways, both in respect and he continued to be a great mentor. Then when he left we thought this was going to be a great opportunity for us, looking for games."

On March 10, 2012, these discussions became reality as the Pioneers traveled to State College to face the Nittany Lions. Although Denver won that game, it put two developing teams under new leadership on the map.

During the 2013 season, the Nittany Lions and Pioneers faced off in Jacksonville, Florida. Their first neutral site matchup, the No. 15 Nittany Lions came out on top and defeated No. 9 Denver, 15-12.

"I think foremost we played with a great deal of confidence and energy in that game," said Tambroni. "You could tell coming out of the locker room that that was a senior-laden team. We had some really good seniors on that team who led us out of that tunnel and onto that field and we played with a lot of energy on that field."

Tambroni continued to explain how the Nittany Lions were able to shoot the ball fairly well and had stable goaltending, which led to the victory. He also noted how that particular season the Nittany Lions were really able to transition the ball effectively from defense to offense. 

In the 2014 season Penn State was able to travel to Denver and gain experience out west. The Nittany Lions fell to the Pioneers, 15-11. 

Originally signing a 3-year contract to play once at home, once on neutral turf, and once at Denver, both schools had struggles with the remote location of the universities. As a continuation of their contract to play one another after 2014, both schools agreed that continuing to play at neutral sites would be best for both teams. 

Last season, the Lions faced off against the Pioneers in New York at Hofstra University. This Saturday both teams will meet again, this time in Dallas. 

Having not beaten Denver since their showdown in Jacksonville, Penn State coaches and players alike are eager to bring the energy and momentum needed to thwart the No. 1 team in the country. 

Redshirt junior attacker Matt Florence is eager to face off against his home state team. Florence, who hails from Greenwood Village, Colorado, knows several members of the Denver team from his time playing lacrosse in high school. 

"Growing up I definitely watched a lot of DU playing, a lot of my really good friends from my opposing high school, playing them it's going to be really fun," said Florence. "I've got a lot of close relationships with those guys, but really we're just trying to look at this week like any other week and are just motivated to go out there and get the win and do it with the team we have here."

Keys for the Nittany Lions this weekend will be to play with determination similar to their recent performance against Harvard, and to keep up their endurance for every minute of play. 

Tambroni noted how the Denver matchup each season is a great challenge and opportunity for the team to truly test their skills and develop as a single unit. With their first Big Ten game the following weekend after the Denver matchup, the Nittany Lions are eager to face down the Pioneers this weekend and prepare for the demanding schedule ahead. 

"I hope it's just a great opportunity for out guys coming off a tough loss to UMass to look ahead quickly and not dwell on the past of that last loss that we had," said Tambroni. "It's an exciting opportunity against a really great team, you don't have to say much to get your guys excited because they're excited to compete against a team of that caliber. Then we'll know we're prepared, whether we win or we lose, in that nine game stretch we'll have played some really good teams and then you just buckle in for the Big Ten because you know it'll be the same."

Penn State will face off against Denver on Saturday at 1 p.m. in Dallas at Gerald Ford Stadium.

Sutton Scores Hat Trick, But Lions Unable to Defeat UMass

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11804073.jpegBy Maria Canales, Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - After striking first to kick start the first quarter, the No. 20 Penn State men's lacrosse team (5-3) was unable to take down Massachusetts (4-4) on Saturday afternoon.

Junior attacker Mike Sutton scored three goals for the Nittany Lions. All three of Sutton's goals were scored in the first quarter. 

Freshman attacker Grant Ament also continued his domination on the field this season, scoring two goals and adding four assists against the Minutemen. Ament leads the team in assists, with 19. 

Although the offense kept the Nittany Lions in the game, on the other end of the field the Lions seemed to lack some communication that had been vital in their previous win against the Harvard Crimson.

"I'm not sure anyone on our team played the way we were capable of today," said head coach Jeff Tambroni. "I thought that was unfortunate. They put a lot of pressure on our defense today again and I credit UMass they did a really good job at being very deliberate in the offensive end."

Senior midfielder Tommy O'Neill noted how important it was that sophomore goaltender Will Schreiner was able to knock off some shots from the Minutemen, but ultimately felt the defense didn't play their best game against Massachusetts. Schreiner notched five key saves for the Nittany Lions. 

Ultimately, it wasn't enough and the Lions fell to the Minutemen, 11-9.  

With wins over several strong opponents this season, including Harvard (4-3) and Cornell (3-3), the Nittany Lions defense has been tested week in and week out. Consistency has been at the forefront of most importance for Tambroni, who explained that it's something the team still needs to work at. 

"We just seemed a little bit tired this week, we lacked a bit of focus and I think that's how we played last week going into Harvard," said Tambroni. "There was a lot of energy and a lot of spirit going into that game and I felt there was an extremely sharp focus on the task at hand and they played accordingly." 

Tambroni keyed in on a few areas that the team needs to focus on before they see game time again.  

"We had our chances, we had some chances, not as many," said Tambroni. "I look at the shots, knowing we were limited to 21 shots, I just never felt like we had any rhythm or momentum in the offensive end based on possession time and this has been a common theme in our losses." 

The Nittany Lions have numerous talented opponents left on their schedule this season including next weekend's trip to Dallas to face reigning national champion, Denver. Denver, which is 6-0 so far this season, will be one of the toughest games to date for the Nittany Lions. 

Penn State will need to develop more consistency both offensively and defensively before next weekend's game and Tambroni looks forward to the challenge. Tambroni explained every game is a chance to set the tone for games to come, and is expecting nothing less than a full-hearted effort next weekend from his team. 

Aponte Rounding Out Offensive Strategy

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11792094.jpegBy Maria Canales, Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Since his move from midfield to attack last campaign, Penn State men's lacrosse (5-2) junior Nick Aponte has become a multi-faceted threat for the Nittany Lions.

Known for his quick feet and ability to read defensemen, Aponte is a key player for the Nittany Lions' offense.

Over the last few seasons most of Penn State's midfielders were known dodgers, or players who could easily out-maneuver a defender by using speed and agility to their advantage. Aponte has been able to take these skills common to a midfielder and has brought that to attack.

"Last year we had mostly shooters at attack and dodgers at midfield," said Aponte. "By bringing me down it just had a different threat and instead of always attacking from the midfield down, we would attack from the end line up from behind the net."

Not all dodges are the same though, and different styles of dodging can be used depending on the skills of an attacker of the build of an opposing defender. When needed, attackers can use speed to out maneuver more physical defenders, while other times faking one direction and then heading another can stop a defender in their tracks.

For this weekend's matchup against Massachusetts, Aponte noted how the Minutemen have size to their advantage on defense and how the Nittany Lions will need to work that knowledge into their offensive game.

"It's different every week with our matchups," said Aponte. "As we do our scouting report, this week for Massachusetts it'll be more focused on speed since they have big, physical players."

Aponte explained that fellow attacker, freshman Grant Ament, also uses speed to his advantage when it comes to dodging defenders.

Other key players on offense bring their own style to the game. Senior TJ Sanders, known for being a good finisher and being able to bring the ball to the net, is an obvious a shooting threat for the Nittany Lions. In comparison, redshirt junior Matt Florence can work the ball down the line and is good at transitions, which makes him versatile in the offensive zone.

"There's several qualities that we look for that can make an attack man good on offense," said head coach Jeff Tambroni. "Someone who can be a great feeder, make other people better, someone that can break a defense down and be more of a dodger, or someone that's a finisher."

Tambroni said that over the years Aponte has come into his own as a Nittany Lion, and his willingness to step in where necessary has made him an irreplaceable player. Now with the addition of players like Ament, Tambroni has set up almost a perfect storm on offense using every different style of player to the team's advantage.

While Tambroni stated that the team's offensive game has been fairly consistent the first half of this campaign, it's the need for more consistency that will drive this weekend's offensive strategy. Having enough consistency on offense for the Nittany Lions to build an early lead, which they have had difficulty with in a few games, will be key for the Nittany Lions against the Minutemen.

"We've been really focusing on this year knowing what kinds of situations we're in and when to push it and when not to push it," said Aponte. "We have to play hard, we have to play smart and by playing smart and being consistent the less mistakes we'll make early on in a game."

Hosting their second home game in two weeks this Saturday, Tambroni will be looking toward his attackers to be the basis for the consistency his team is looking for. With important games against Denver and Big Ten opponents quickly approaching, Penn State's ability to build strong consistency at attack will set the tone for the rest of the season, but players like Aponte are ready.

Penn State hosts Massachusetts on Saturday at noon. 

Defense Stands Strong, Lions Win in OT

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By Maria Canales, Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - After a nail-biting fourth quarter, the Penn State men's lacrosse team (5-2) fought back in overtime to defeat No. 8 Harvard (4-2), 13-12, on Saturday in Happy Valley.

Coming off of a strong win at Furman last Tuesday, head coach Jeff Tambroni was confident in his team's ability to take on a top-10 ranked opponent.

"It's been a good spring break and I felt like we had really good energy and synergy coming off of that trip in South Carolina after our win against Furman," said Tambroni. "We had two good days of practice and a good trip back here to State College."

During Saturday's contest, Harvard got on the board early, with a 2-0 lead less than five minutes into the first quarter. However, it was a battle of the defenses until the very end.

Playing a highly ranked opponent, the Nittany Lions anticipated a strong performance from the Crimson. Harvard's defense attempted to double-team Penn State's attackers, a strategy the Nittany Lions were prepared for.

"We knew that going into this game that they like to double," said junior attacker Nick Aponte. "So we tried to keep our heads up on our dodges and always run away from it and drag them out."

At the other end of the field, Penn State's defense had to constantly adjust throughout the game to be able to read Harvard's offensive plays. Thanks to defenders like senior James Chakey, the Nittany Lions were able to hold Harvard to just 23 shots in the first three quarters of play.

"Harvard came out on offense really quick, but on defense mojo just got clicking right away and we felt really strong with our base defense," said Chakey. "The majority of it was just what we've been doing all year, not too many changes but at half time we tweaked a few things but not much."

During the fourth quarter, the Crimson scored four unanswered goals to tie the game at 12, forcing overtime. Tambroni felt confident going into the extra time because of how his team had played during regulation, but did have some reservations about just how long the Nittany Lions could keep the energy up.

"I felt like our guys have really been focusing the last few days and I thought we came out and played that way early in the game. I felt we got tired, I think both teams got tired as the game went on but for 60 minutes we made some plays, gave some plays away," said Tambroni. "I'm just proud of the fact that they went into overtime the way we did when we could've easily collapsed."

In overtime, the Nittany Lions were eager for possession time, but it was Harvard that got off the first shot on net. With a save from sophomore goaltender Will Schreiner, momentum shifted in favor of Penn State, as the team took the ball into the Crimson's zone.

Off a pass from freshman attacker Grant Ament, Aponte shot the ball and found the back of the net, giving the Nittany Lions the go-ahead win, 13-12.

"I was actually going to pass the ball to TJ Sanders but two times in this game Harvard got lucky and got the pass onto their sticks, so I just took it all the way," said Aponte. "I saw an opening and buried it top right."

Aponte had three goals and three assists in Saturday's contest.

Tambroni credited his team's ability to think quickly and creatively for the win against Harvard.

"We were able to take advantage of [overtime] with an aggressive style of defense to offense," said Tambroni. "To say that I'm proud of this group would be a major understatement."

Next up for Penn State, the Nittany Lions host Massachusetts on Saturday at noon.

Nittany Lions Fall to Quakers, Ready for Furman

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11760389.jpegBy Maria Canales, Student Staff Writer
PHILADELPHIA - Despite a run of goals in the fourth quarter, the No. 20 Penn State men's lacrosse team (3-2) fell to Penn (2-1) at Franklin Field on Saturday.

Kicking off their spring break trip in Philadelphia, the Nittany Lions had focused the week of practice prior on improving certain aspects of their game based on their performance against Villanova. Specifically, head coach Jeff Tambroni said the team focused on improving their performance at the faceoff 'x.'

Penn State won 15 of the 22 face offs during Saturday's contest, with faceoff man, junior Billy Lombardi, going 14-for-19 at the 'x.'

"It was good to see us win more face offs, that was good," said Tambroni. "It's a sign of moving in a positive direction."

Another player who had a good performance, despite what the final score of the game said, was sophomore goaltender Will Schreiner. Schreiner made nine saves during Saturday's contest, several saves keeping the Quakers off the board and giving the Nittany Lions a chance at a comeback.

"I thought Will played really well today, especially coming off of last week's game," said Tambroni. "I don't think he played poorly against Villanova but we weren't really giving him a whole lot of help and mentally that can be devastating especially on a sophomore goalie coming in playing his first year, but I thought he did really well. If anything he allowed us to stay in this game and gave us a chance."

During the fourth quarter, the Nittany Lions seemed to find some energy and put five goals on the board. Three of the five goals came from senior attacker TJ Sanders.

However, the stellar performance from Sanders followed by two goals from freshman attacker Grant Ament and junior attacker Nick Aponte wasn't enough for the Nittany Lions to overtake the early deficit created by the Quakers.

"I thought Penn, every time we tried to fix something they came right back," said Tambroni. "Momentum and possession time seems to not have favored us all that well but that's on us, not on a particular unit."

The Penn State faithful came out to support the Nittany Lions on Saturday, and had a large presence in the crowd, which cheered on the Lions at every goal in the fourth quarter. Despite the overwhelming crowd support, the Nittany Lions fell to the Quakers 11-7.

Next up for the Nittany Lions they continue their spring break trip as they head to South Carolina to take on Furman (0-4) on Tuesday.

After an off day for the team on Sunday, Tambroni will get the team rolling with practice on Monday in preparations for their showdown with the Paladins, focusing on some of the errors the team made against Penn.

"Hopefully these guys will all get some sleep," said Tambroni. "It seemed like we practiced tired this week and I'm not sure if that had anything to do with today. You've got to move on quickly and if we can pick one or two areas, clearing being absolutely one of them, offensively I think we have to shoot the ball better, so maybe those two areas. We'll do a little bit better job at cleaning up that on Monday."

Penn State plays at Furman on Tuesday at noon. 

Shriver At the Helm of Spring Break Logistics

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11747318.jpegBy Maria Canales, Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - The Penn State men's lacrosse team (3-1) is spending its spring break traveling to Penn (1-1) on Saturday and Furman (0-3) on Tuesday. The preparations for such a trip begins several months prior, and is almost entirely coordinated by one man, David Shriver, the team's director of operations.

Having been raised in Maryland, Shriver was born into a lacrosse family and attended Boys' Latin School, where is father Bob was the head coach of the men's lacrosse team. Boys' Latin is one of the most well known preparatory programs in the country, and during Shriver's time on the team the Lakers went 21-0 on their way to a national championship in the 2006 season.

After playing his college career at Georgetown, serving as a captain in his senior year, Shriver found his way to Penn State as a volunteer assistant coach in the summer of 2011.

While in his position as a volunteer assistant coach, Shriver performed both coaching and administrative duties. Shriver spent much of his time with the team on the field helping with shooting drills and instructing during games.

"I knew I wanted to stay involved with the team, with the sport," said Shriver. "And my time as a volunteer coach evolved into this role that I have now."

On Aug. 29, 2013, head coach Jeff Tambroni hired Shriver as the program's first-ever director of operations, a position Tambroni had been hoping to create for several years.

Tambroni noted that what sets Shriver apart is his ability to connect with players and build individual relationships with them while also maintaining a sense of mentorship. Shriver's proficiency in organization, selflessness, and dedication reiterated Tambroni's reasons for choosing Shriver for the job.

"It's tough to find a former athlete who's willing to check his ego and just do the things that he does for this particular program behind the scenes without any fanfare or real recognition outside of our staff," said Tambroni.

On any given day of the week Shriver can be found watching film, typing up practice plans, preparing budgets, or in his office organizing the week ahead.

For the team's upcoming road trip to Philadelphia and South Carolina, Shriver had to start formulating plans months ahead of the team's departure on Friday. Calculating logistics for a party of almost 50 traveling by bus down the eastern seaboard is no easy task.

"I started preparing for this trip about two months out," said Shriver. "We had to put the pieces together, working with obviously getting a hotel, and then once you get there it's about working out practice times with Furman, working out mealtimes, finalizing those plans."

Shriver explained that even the little details couldn't go unnoticed. For the Nittany Lions, who will be wearing their blue jerseys in both games over spring break, Shriver even needed to think ahead about laundry facilities the team can use between contests to wash equipment. 

No detail is too small, Shriver explained, and noted how organization is key to keeping a program with as many team members and coaches as they have running smoothly on the road.

As for the team, their duties fall a little bit differently during these next two road contests.

Coming back to Happy Valley with two wins under their belt would be ideal, but long road trips such as these aren't all about wins and losses. Road trips are an opportunity for teams to build strong relationships across classes.

"It gets to that point here in State College with the weather and school starts to wear on our guys a little bit in conjunction with the preseason that we just went through," said Tambroni. "I think it's important to get them away mentally to help them build energy and team chemistry."

There will be no lack of team building during their spring break trip as the Nittany Lions have a nigh out at Dave and Busters in South Carolina planned, along with a tour of the BMW manufacturing plant.

"We're going to get some competitions going," said Shriver of the team's night out. "It'll help build some team chemistry in a fun way."

Shriver joked how the competition will be particular tough once the coaches create their own team for competition.

With the logistics planned down to the smallest detail, the Nittany Lions are prepared for their first back-to-back contests of the year. Thanks to the constant effort and hours of planning by Shriver, the team can focus on their games and the coaches can focus on their leadership duties.

"He is a true friend to the program," said Tambroni. "He just has a personality that just connects with every coach, every player, every parent. To find someone that's as compassionate as David, who genuinely and authentically cares about the people he works with and the players he works for, that could just never be replicated."

Penn State will faceoff at Penn on Saturday at noon, and at Furman on Tuesday at noon.

Nittany Lions Unable to Take Down Wildcats

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11735932.jpeg By Maria Canales, Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Despite the momentum from a win at Cornell last week, the No. 15/12 Penn State men's lacrosse team (3-1) was unable to defeat Villanova (1-1) during the Nittany Lions' first outdoor home game of the season on Saturday. The Wildcats defeated the Nittany Lions 19-9. 

Penn State's 3-0 start to the season was its best since 2002, but was cut short of reaching 4-0 for the first time since 1992.

At the starting whistle, both teams were eager for possession time. The Nittany Lions took several shots on net, but Villanova scored first. Junior midfielder Mike Sutton answered for the Nittany Lions, tying the score 1-1.

At the half, the Lions trailed the Wildcats 8-3.

At the start of the fourth quarter Penn State was down 16-7. Freshman attack man Grant Ament kicked off the fourth quarter for the Lions, finding the back of the net with 12:11 left to go. However, a relentless defensive performance from the Wildcats held back the Lions on attack.

Two more Nittany Lions scored in the fourth, to inch Penn State closer on the scoreboard. Jimmy Nowoswiat and Robby Black, both freshmen, scored with less than a minute and a half left in the fourth, but it wasn't enough to bring the Lions back.

"We seemed to not have a lot of rhythm today," said head coach Jeff Tambroni. "I don't know if that was due to possession time, our mindset, or maybe our opponent, but the momentum never seemed to shift in our favor."

Several Nittany Lions had multi-point games, including junior Nick Aponte, senior TJ Sanders, and freshman Grant Ament, who had one goal and one assist each. Freshman Kevin Hill scored his first collegiate goal, notching two in Saturday's contest.

Tambroni noted earlier in the week how important communication is for the team, and saw a positive performance from his players on the field Saturday with their ability to make connections and vocalize on the field.

"I don't think [communication] was one of our weaknesses today," said Tambroni. "The little things really just seemed to hurt us."

Looking ahead, the Nittany Lions are on the road at Penn this Saturday and are eager to bounce back and get another win on the road.

For the Lions, there are several things they would like to improve on before their next contest.

"We're going to work on face offs," said junior attack man Nick Aponte. "We're going to really focus on Penn, on their personnel, really just what we can do to get a fire back under us and try to keep on rolling with the rest of the season."

Tambroni explained it's vitals for the Nittany Lions to have a refreshed mindset this week during practice. The team's ability to move on quickly from a loss and restart the momentum for another matchup is critical to success week-to-week.

"I just said to our guys that no matter what you do, when you leave the turf you're either 1-0 or 0-1," said Tambroni. "It's not like you lose the season in one game, it's not like you win a championship in one game during the regular season, and I talked about the same thing after Cornell. It's important for us to just learn from our mistakes and create confidence from the things that we did well." 

TJ Sanders: More Than Meets the Eye

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11723466.jpeg By Maria Canales, Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Since his freshman season in 2013, TJ Sanders has become a constant and dominating force at attack for the No. 12 Penn State men's lacrosse team (3-0). While Sanders knows how to put points on the board, he also has the ability to connect with teammates and make his worth far more than the numbers show.

"TJ certainly started his career as a finisher, he was extremely productive and extremely successful but I think he's had to adapt a little bit," said head coach Jeff Tambroni. "He's adapted more as a ball carrier, and has developed a game as a connector as well, getting the ball to other guys who can finish as well."

As a freshman, Sanders earned CAA Rookie of the Year, All-CAA Second Team and All-CAA Rookie Team honors. He ended his first season with the Nittany Lions with 44 goals and five-assists.

As a sophomore, Sanders scored a point in all but one game during the 2014 campaign, and recorded seven multi-point games on his way to being named a Big Ten Distinguished Scholar and Academic All-Big Ten.

Last season, the Ontario, Canada, native was named a USILA All-America honorable mention and All-Big Ten honorable mention after scoring 29 goals and notching 13 assists in just 14 games.

Now as a senior, the attackman has already scored nine goals in the first three games. Sanders has certainly made an impact on Penn State Lacrosse during the last three years, and doesn't look to let up his momentum any time soon, noting every game is an opportunity to improve from his last performance.

Tambroni noted that Sanders' instinctual abilities to read players, move the ball within the offensive zone, and his ability to adapt on a moments notice has become an essential part of the Nittany Lions' on-field success.

"I think IQ is underrated as an attack man because you're just involved with so many plays, not just in the offensive end but also the transition to offense, understanding the pace of play, and game management," said Tambroni.

During his career, the numbers Sanders has put on the score sheet tell the story of a determined young man who knows how to play the game of lacrosse at a challenging level. However, what the numbers don't show is how Sanders has progressed as both a leader and contributor to the team when not putting up points.

"TJ, to his credit, this year more so than any other years for obvious reasons as a senior has just done a wonderful job of not just being a productive player, but has become a much better game manager, a much better leader, and a wonderful role model," said Tambroni.

Off the field, Sanders may not be as outgoing as some of his teammates, but rather focuses on building relationships with his fellow Nittany Lions that contribute to their team's on-field successes. Sanders noted that they best way he can get other teammates to perform their best, is for him to set that example and to do the best he can, whether at practice or during a game.

"I think of myself as a pretty quiet guy so I may not be the kind of ray-rah leader that a lot of people are," said Sanders. "I like to connect with my teammates on a personal level, kind of talk to them more than yell at them, that kind of style. There's other guys in the room that will get everyone energized and excited so we have a pretty good mix in the locker room."

Sanders explained that although his authority style may deviate from the normal, he has been able to set an example for his fellow teammates just as effectively as the most vocal guys on the team. He explained that sometimes the most important part of being an exemplary leader is just being a good teammate.

"It's really the intangible things," said Sanders. "Being able to work well with your teammates, that makes the biggest difference."

Penn State hosts Villanova on Saturday at 1 p.m.    

Nittany Lions Earn Big Win on the Road at Cornell

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11712767.jpegBy Maria Canales, Student Staff Writer
ITHACA, NY. - For the third time in as many weeks, the No. 20 Penn State men's lacrosse team (3-0) came out with a big win over the weekend. The Nittany Lions took down No. 18 Cornell (0-1) in an 8-7 nail-biting victory at Schoellkopf Field.

Cornell got on the board within the first few seconds of the first quarter, and quickly scored a second goal minutes later. However, the Nittany Lions answered with two goals of their own, from junior midfielder Mike Sutton and redshirt junior midfielder Matt Florence.

It was a constant game of cat-and-mouse as the Nittany Lions and Big Red kept pace with each other for the first half of the game, ending the first half with Cornell leading 3-2.

"I believed in our guys coming out at halftime," said head coach Jeff Tambroni. "I knew that if we just settled down, played with a little bit more motion and been more selective in our shots we were going to have success. It was just a matter of could we get there."

Determined to return to Happy Valley victorious, the Nittany Lions came out in the third quarter relentlessly taking shots on net, and scoring five unanswered goals, including back-to-back goals from senior attack man TJ Sanders. At the other end of the field, the Nittany Lions defense held off the Big Red and kept them to just three shots in the third.

Starting off the fourth quarter leading 7-3, the Nittany Lions still were not in the clear. Cornell, determined to not give up a home loss, came back to score four goals, tying the game at 7 apiece.

Tensions were high as both teams fought for possession and just one more goal to edge the opposing team.

With less than four minutes left in the fourth, Florence found the back of the net to give the Nittany Lions the go-ahead. Unassisted, it was Florence's second goal of the game and seventh of the season.

"Thankfully through some transitional opportunities we started to open the door up a little bit and I think we just did enough in the second half to come away with a victory," said Tambroni.

Returning to Cornell for Tambroni, who was the head coach of the Big Red from 2001-10 was an emotional experience, but knowing this was a business trip for his Lions made his return very focused on the task at hand.

Although it was good to see past friends, fellow coaches and players of his, Tambroni was proud Penn State came away with a victory over one of the "blue bloods" of the lacrosse world.

"It was great to be here, I was thankful we were able to schedule a game not just in Ithaca, but against a premier program like Cornell," said Tambroni. "I think it's great for our program, I think it's great for our guys to see this kind of competition, so we were thankful and grateful that we were able to have this opportunity."

This Nittany Lions return home this Saturday as they face Villanova at 1 p.m.

Consistency, Communication Key Against Cornell

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11701152.jpegBy Maria Canales, Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - The No. 19 Penn State men's lacrosse team (2-0) travels to No. 15 Cornell (0-0) this Saturday to take on the Big Red, in what is the Nittany Lions' first ranked matchup this season.

The Nittany Lions started off their season with a 20-7 takedown of RMU followed by 17-12 win over Hobart. However, this time around the team is looking for to focus on consistency across the field.

"The first game we started out hot with offense but the second game we didn't start out quite like that," said senior midfielder Tommy O'Neill. "So this third game we want to come out strong and play hard for four quarters."

With several veterans this season on defense, including senior Ryan Guittare and senior James Chakey, the Nittany Lions have worked on developing their defensive strategy, focusing on having every defensive player remain an equal part of the defensive game, rather than favoring a few select players.

Head coach Jeff Tambroni said it's more of a team image, rather than spotlight defense.

"The unit back there is so just predicated on playing with all seven guys, goalie and six included," said Tambroni.

To add to this plan of action, Tambroni looks toward defensive midfielders to become the playmakers, by winning face-offs, controlling possession time, and looking for opportunities at both ends of the field.  

"They're probably playing the most challenging position on the field outside of the goalie," said Tambroni of defensive midfielders. "They're trying to defend people with a stick that's three feet shorter than a defensive stick and they've also adapted a new rule this year of creating more transition, being a little bit more confident transitioning the ball from defense to offense."

Being able to effectively play at both ends of the field is key to the Nittany Lions' game strategy.

However, when it comes down to it, there's one thing that everyone on the team would agree is needed for every position - communication.

Communication is needed on the field, for players to know which play is happening, where they need to be, who is covering whom, and what is coming next.

Off the field, communication is remains important for players entering or exiting the action. Teammates on the sideline also communicate to players on the field to help them know where the opposing team is setting up, or where a ball might have gone out of bounds.

All this communication breaks down into choreographed madness, which includes lots of systematic yelling that might otherwise seem unusual. But it all has a purpose.

"If there's one thing that needs to get better as a team, not just defensively, as a team as it relates to our defensive end, it is communication," said Tambroni. "That is the key to starting to build a foundation for defense because for us it connects their understanding, knowing your job, knowing your defense, and communicating to your teammates."

Tambroni explained that if you lack communication, the team would play less as a unit and more as individuals, which would make for a scrambled style of play.

The Nittany Lions have embraced this communication-focused practice strategy this week and has credited this for helping them effectively prepare for Cornell.

"I definitely think coach challenged the older guys this week, they've really stepped up communication, they've been kind of yelling at us but we honestly need it," said sophomore goaltender Will Schreiner. "They've set the tone and hustle that we look up to."

Although not a focus of this weekend, but definitely a notable point, this matchup between Penn State and Cornell marks Tambroni's first game against his old team. Tambroni coached Cornell from 2001-10 and coached them to three NCAA Final Four appearances, including the 2009 national championship game.

Returning to Ithaca on Saturday, Tambroni looks forward to seeing some familiar faces, but knows this is a business trip for his team and doesn't think that his history of coaching at Cornell will provide any leg-up for the Nittany Lions.

"When you have a program like that, like Cornell, they tend to replace not rebuild, so I'm sure there's a lot of guys that are juniors or sophomores that just have not played because of the talent, that will step into those shoes and play playoff level of lacrosse," said Tambroni. "Our job is to respect their tradition and respect their team and understand we're going to see a few new faces, but focus more so on us than them and just play Penn State Lacrosse."

Penn State will faceoff at Cornell on Saturday at 3 p.m.


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