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All in the Family: Penn State Lacrosse

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10871648.jpegBy Maria Canales, Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - For Penn State men's lacrosse, the Blue and White has been a part of many players' lives long before they put on the jersey. Players Matt Florence and Hunter Pearl, whose fathers played lacrosse for Penn State, keep the family tradition alive and well in Happy Valley.

From 1989 to 1992 J.J. Pearl protected the net for the Nittany Lions, playing goalkeeper and dominating his time between the pipes. He ranks fifth all-time in saves for Penn State. His son Hunter is a freshman, following a familiar path of goaltending for the Nittany Lions.

"For me, Penn State was born inside of me," said Hunter Pearl.  "We were always fans since I was really young and my dad definitely had a big influence. He was really helpful in deciding where to go to school, he wasn't necessarily biased towards here but this is really the only place I wanted to go."

Redshirt sophomore Matt Florence, after transferring from the University of Virginia, put on the blue and white for Penn State just like his father, Tom. Tom Florence was a goaltender for the Nittany Lions from 1981 to 1985. Although he plays a different position from his father, Matt Florence, a midfielder, gives credit to his lineage for helping to make the transfer process a simple one.

"Once I decided to transfer my dad had somewhat of an impact, just that looking at the school and knowing kind of background about Penn State and what it meant to him," said Florence. "When I came here and visited I saw all those things that he had really loved about the school stood true and definitely was a place I felt comfortable in."

The family ties run deep for Penn State men's lacrosse. Not only are there second-generation Penn State lacrosse players on the team, but several team members also have other connections to the University.  More than a handful of the Nittany Lions have had grandparents, aunts, uncles and siblings attend Penn State.

"I think it's very special, it's really unique and it kind of adds to the family atmosphere that everyone tries to instill here," said Pearl.

Head coach Jeff Tambroni knows when recruiting, family ties do have an impact, and the idea of having players with family ties to Penn State makes the passion burn that much brighter.

"I always think it helps, having a Penn State lineage," said Tambroni. "I think most of these kids grow up with it in their blood, so to speak. And when it comes to lacrosse just thinking as a parent myself, you look back and think about what it would be like to have your kids play at the same university and walk on that same field. That would be a really special occurrence."

All Nittany Lions make an impact on the field, and it's not just lineage that makes Penn State such a special place. The impact the alumni have and the respect they have for the program is unparalleled. Past alumni come back to watch regular season games, and even more participate in the team's annual Alumni Weekend every fall semester.

"It definitely ties into the family aspect when those alumni come back," said Florence. "You definitely have a special connection with them and you really bond with them over being Penn Staters and taking pride in that blue and white."

This weekend the men's lacrosse family takes on No. 6 Denver.

"[Denver has] a really talented offense, they bring a lot to the table," said Florence. "For us it's really going to come down to how much do we want it and how much are we going to show that heart out on the field. If we can bring it and be absolutely relentless out there then we have a good shot at winning."

The team is up for the challenge playing Denver offers, as a win against such a highly ranked team would bring validation to all the hard work the team has been putting in. For all members of the team, not just those with Penn State heritage, this game will provide yet another chance to take the field with the pride of the Lions.    

Penn State will take on Denver at the neutral site of Hofstra this Saturday at 2:30 pm. 

Lions Work Hard, Create Memories on Spring Break Trip

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By Maria Canales, Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - The Penn State men's lacrosse team returns home to Happy Valley after its spring break campaign in Massachusetts with one win and a pair of losses.

The first leg of the trip was spent in Boston taking on the Harvard Crimson. Penn State would fall to Harvard 12-9. Despite this loss, the Nittany Lions bounced back and picked up a win against Marist on neutral ground three days later. The 9-8 win was the Nittany Lions' building block during the week.

"We had some strong playing from start to finish [against Marist]," said head coach Jeff Tambroni. "The guys really put in the effort to get the win. I thought we shot the ball well, I thought we took advantage of the opportunities the offense created."

Working off of momentum provided by Penn State's starting faceoff man, junior Drake Kreinz, the Nittany Lions were able to create opportunities in front of the net and capitalize on them. Several Nittany Lions propelled Penn State to the win, notably Dan Craig, Mike Sutton and Drake Kreinz, each scoring two goals. The strong scoring energy would be just enough to keep the Nittany Lions ahead and come out with a much-needed win following a tough loss.

With only a few days between the Marist and UMass games, the Nittany Lions used this quick turnaround as an opportunity to work on communication in front of the net in the offensive zone, as well as creating better scoring opportunities. The Nittany Lions' efforts would be noticed in the first minutes of their matchup against UMass.

In its final matchup of the week against UMass in Amherst, Penn State got off to a fast start, thanks to Kreinz scoring three seconds after the opening faceoff, only to be followed by three more goals from fellow Nittany Lions. Despite this quick start, the power shifted in the second half in favor of the Minutemen.

"We got off to a great start," said Tambroni. "Drake [Kreinz] and Billy [Lombardi] winning faceoffs, getting the team quick opportunities. But our downfall was possession time and us not being able to take advantage of some of the possession time we did have."

Despite their late efforts, and two first career goals for Billy Lombardi and Tanner Peck, the Nittany Lions were unable to come back from a four-goal deficit.

Although the primary purpose of this spring break trip was to play several Massachusetts teams, a side benefit of the trip was that the Nittany Lions were able to further bond with one another, having spent the whole week in hotel rooms and on long bus rides. The team enjoyed their visit to Fenway Park and many memories were made off the field when the team took in a Boston Celtics game.

"I thought this was a productive spring break," said Tambroni. "We learned a lot. The team worked extremely hard at our practices during the week and had some fun during their downtime. The guys got to learn a lot about each other."

Spending a whole week on the road is tough, both mentally and physically, and the Nittany Lions battled these challenges head-on. Despite not coming home with more wins, the Nittany Lions learned a lot during this trip, both about their playing strengths and weaknesses, as well as about fellow teammates.

Penn State returns home to work out minor kinks and get back into their on-field prowess that dominated early in the season and prepare for Denver this coming weekend.

Spring Break Matchups Bring Opportunity For Nittany Lions

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10853188.jpegBy Maria Canales, Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Penn State men's lacrosse is set for three road matches against Harvard, Marist and UMass during the academic spring break.

Although their luck on the road hasn't been ideal, the Nittany Lions hope their fortunes will change over their spring break campaign. Historically under head coach Jeff Tambroni the Nittany Lions' record has been superb on the road, and Penn State looks to continue this tradition and notch its first road win against Harvard this Saturday.

"It has always been a part of this program that we find more success on the road than we do at home," said Tambroni. "So finding that formula is going to be kind of what we're gonna set out to achieve this week."

The team will leave Happy Valley on Friday and head to Boston for their first of three games over the course of a week. The long bus ride will give the team and coaches time to further build relationships amongst one another.

After their game Saturday against Harvard, the Nittany Lions face Marist on Tuesday, then travel to Amherst to take on UMass the following Saturday, but despite their full schedule, the Nittany Lions do have a small amount of downtime. The team plans to use this time to take in the sights and sounds of all that Boston has to offer.

"We have extremely generous and gracious parents throughout the course of the entire year, they go way above and beyond caring for this team when we go on the road," said Tambroni. "Connor Darcey's parents are local, they're from Wellesley, Massachusetts, so they have scheduled a number of things including a tour of Fenway Park, we're going to go to a Boston Celtics game and we got a day of bowling. This will give the guys the chance to see each other in a different light."

Small adventures like these are nice ways for the team to further bond with one other, but also get some much-needed downtime during such a busy week. Coach Tambroni joked that, being a diehard New York Yankees fan, he'll have to wear his pinstripes on the Fenway Park tour.

Coach Tambroni hopes that Penn State's successful run at home will translate into wins on the road now that the team knows what needs to happen to notch wins. Communication is key on the field and the Nittany Lions have focused on being more vocal during practices to lay the groundwork for their spring break games.

"We had a great week of preparation before Penn, I think we learned a lot, grew a lot as a team," said Tambroni. "I'm hopeful that we'll travel a lot better going into Harvard and start stringing together some wins."

Junior faceoff specialist Drake Kreinz knows the team needs to get its first win on the road and emphasized the hard work the team has put in during this week of practices. Kreinz believes the team is well prepared, but it all comes down to the mentality of the team during game time.

"I know we've got our hands full," said Kreinz. "Harvard's a very good team, we got a short weekend and then on to Marist and UMass, all great physical teams. Being on the road I know there will be a lot going on but the biggest thing is just staying mentally prepared and, especially with the cold and the snow in Boston, we just gotta play our game and stay focused."

On these road games, the one element that will impact the team the most is the weather. Having played both home games in Holuba Hall, the Nittany Lions have only battled the elements on the road, including blizzard like conditions at Villanova. Overcoming the inevitable cold and possible snow in Massachusetts will be the biggest challenge the team faces, but Penn State is prepared.

The Nittany Lions have studied film, practiced hard, and have conditioned themselves in order to be as well prepared as possible for the week ahead. Winning three games in a row would be the perfect spring break for the Nittany Lions, but Tambroni emphasized that wins aren't the only thing that decide a successful bout of road games.

"At the end of the day I hope we come back a more united team and a much closer team when we head back from Amherst," said Tambroni.

The Nittany Lions will start their spring break campaign at Harvard on Saturday at noon. 

For Kreinz, Lacrosse is a Family Affair

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10850119.jpegBy Maria Canales, Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Although the win against Penn on Saturday was much needed for the Nittany Lions, for some members of the crowd the win was bittersweet. Kim Kreinz, mother of junior faceoff specialist Drake Kreinz, was in the audience cheering on not one, but two of her sons.

Drake's younger brother Austin is a sophomore on the Quakers' lacrosse team, and Saturday's matchup was the first time the two brothers, only a grade apart, have played against each other.

"[This game was] bittersweet," said Kim Kreinz. "It's tough, knowing there will be one winner. They played on the high school team together and my best memory is of them playing against the rival high school that was more dominant than them and Drake had the OT winning goal. They worked together. After that I thought I never had to see another game, but this is a whole new level now."

Also in the crowd were Drake and Austin's younger siblings, along with many members of their extended family. The Kreinz family had known saw this matchup on the schedule over 18 months ago, and had been preparing since.

The family had designed matching T-shirts for the occasion, which made their large group stand out in comparison to the sea of people in attendance. What made the shirts special however, was what was on the back. Drake Kreinz wears number 38 for Penn State, and in a twist of fate, so does Austin for Penn. On the back of the family T-shirts was the number 38, recognizing both brothers, and bringing the occasion full circle.

"Whenever you have that many Kreinz's in one place too long it's nothing but trouble, [laughs] but it was great to see them," said Drake Kreinz. "They were cheering for both sides. It's just always good to see family, there's nothing like them coming twelve hours to see a game."

In the end, Penn State came out with a victory, but both brothers embraced each other after the game knowing an opportunity like this doesn't happen often. The family aspect of the lacrosse is nothing new to the Kreinz brothers, but competing against each other added something special to a matchup the family would never forget.

"[Austin's] one of my fiercest competitors," said Drake Kreinz. "I'm kind of bummed we didn't go against each other at the faceoff, but just having the opportunity to compete against him there's no better feeling."

Battle of Pennsylvania Ends with Lions On Top

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10838953.jpegBy Maria Canales, Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - After a hard fought game, the Nittany Lions were able to hold back Penn's relentless offense, earning a much-needed 14-11 victory inside Holuba Hall on Saturday.

Penn State (2-2), once again found itself in an early hole trailing its in-state rival by two goals to start the game. After their early struggles, a strong performance from both the offense and defense kept the game close. The Nittany Lions never trailed by more than two goals. At the start of the fourth period, the Nittany Lion's offense found its stride, and launched into a final offensive flurry to finish off their opponent.

After two tough road losses to Loyola and Villanova, a win was just what the Nittany Lions needed to boost morale and give the team momentum going into their upcoming games over spring break.

"That was much needed," said head coach Jeff Tambroni. "You could see the relief on our guys' faces when the game ended. I think the key was that it was such a hard fought game and they had to work for everything. If we didn't come out with this kind of effort today it certainly wasn't going to work out."

Coach Tambroni was pleased with his players' performance, and effort, to control possession, win face-offs, and score goals. Tambroni noted the heart was back in the game for his players.

"I just felt like our guys played with a whole lot more heart today than they have in the last two weeks, I thought it showed on the scoreboard today," said Tambroni.

The Nittany Lions' gained momentum with every goal; kick-started by a rocket shot by sophomore Matt Florence in the first period. Florence would find the back of the net a total of four times against Penn, all of which were unassisted.

"After these past two weeks I think the team's a little stressed out. We really just wanted to come out off to a good start today and just play as a team," said Florence.

During halftime, the crowd welcomed the Royer family to the center of the field to be honored as official members of the Penn State lacrosse family with a rousing standing ovation. Gavin Royer was diagnosed with a brain tumor just ten days after his fifth birthday last March and has since become a symbol of hope and determination for the Nittany Lions. Gavin and his family were matched with Penn State lacrosse through the Friends of Jaclyn Foundation.

At the start of the second half Penn State led Penn 8-7. The game remained close, with each Penn State goal being answered by the Quakers. The momentum and team unity that fueled the Nittany Lions overflowed as the Penn State sidelines got more vocal toward the end of the second half.

"I just feel like a lot of momentum built up throughout the game," said Florence. "Everyone just wanted to cross the finish line and honestly we were all giving it everything we had until the last whistle."

With a boisterous team on the sidelines cheering fellow teammates on during the final minutes of the game, Penn State opened up a three-goal lead.

While Saturday's win was much needed for the Nittany Lions, the team already has their sights set on the next matchup. The Nittany Lions will go into spring break matchups against Harvard, Marist, and UMass with a heightened level of confidence brought about after their victory over Penn.

"It's great now but I think we're all ready for next week, we're already wanting to compete a little more. I think that this will just help us carry that momentum," said Florence. 

Friends of Jaclyn Family Gives Nittany Lions Motivation, Encouragement

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gavin_blog.jpgBy Maria Canales, Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - The Penn State men's lacrosse team adopted a new teammate last fall, Gavin Royer, age 5. The pairing came together as a result of the Nittany Lions' and the Royers' participation in the Friends of Jaclyn Program.

Gavin Royer was diagnosed with a brain tumor just 10 days after his fifth birthday last March. Since then, Gavin's and his family were adopted by the Penn State men's lacrosse team through the Friends of Jaclyn Foundation, a program that pairs both collegiate and high school sports teams with families of children battling pediatric cancer.

Not only did the men's lacrosse team adopt Gavin, but also the women's lacrosse team adopted Gavin's two sisters, Alaina and Victoria. The pairings have provided support for the Royer family throughout the past months of Gavin's treatment. Head coach Jeff Tambroni explained that the Royers have provided priceless comfort and support to his players.

"For us, it's more about just kind of that contact in perspective with like 'this is what he's going through, [Gavin] needs a support group, let's make sure we provide that for him' and vice versa," said Tambroni. "Their family provides a wonderful support group respective to our guys."

The men's team went all in when meeting Gavin and the Royers for the first time in December. Gavin was given his own locker in the team's locker room, as well as his own equipment including sticks and jerseys. Gavin proudly wears his Penn State lacrosse attire whenever he gets the chance. He displayed his Penn State pride at both men's lacrosse preseason scrimmages, as well as their home opener, a victory against Vermont.

"First and foremost we're locker buddies," said senior captain Kyle Zittel. 
"His locker is right next to mine. But just welcoming him in, I guess I took on responsibility because I felt the first connection with Gavin when he first came in and was excited and I got to interact with him from the get-go."

The Royer family, hailing from Morrisdale, Pennsylvania, has made it a goal to be in attendance for all the home men's lacrosse games. The family gets to hang out on the team's side of the field, watching the game with the same view as the players. Being at the games further connects the Royers to the young men that have become family to them.

Gavin and his family are fully involved in gameday rituals, from pregame fist bumps with the players, to the post game team handshakes. Senior captain Kyle Zittel has been one of the more involved players with the program and became instantly attached to the team's newest member.

"Everybody feels a connection with Gavin," said Zittel. "So when we run on the field and your mind is at the game you see Gavin and it's just in the back of your head that he's there and a fist bump is all it takes for us to connect with him initially and you feel it. It's not something I can describe in words because a fist bump doesn't look like much but when you're running by him you just feel it inside in your heart."

The connection with the team doesn't stop there. The Royers hang out at the postgame tailgates, mixing amongst the players, coaches, and families alike.

"He's always sitting on the stairs with his family, and as we go through and get food and interact with our teammates and family and other guys' families on the team, he's there as well," said Zittel. "He's another family member of ours."

This weekend's game against Penn will be slightly different for the Royer family. Penn State men's lacrosse plans to honor Gavin and his family during halftime, in recognition for their continued support and involvement with the team.

While Penn State men's lacrosse is a vital support system for the Royer family, the team believes Gavin and his family have impacted them in an equally important way. Gavin's fighting spirit has brought a new wave of motivation for the Nittany Lions to succeed, not only for themselves, but also for their extended family on the sidelines.

"We say this to our guys, it's a game," said Tambroni. "We get wrapped up in it because it's a profession and it's a way of life, but at the end of the day you look around and look at someone like Gavin who's constantly smiling with all that he has going on in his life and it really forces you to step back from everything that you're doing and stop complaining about the little things and realize that a lot more people out there, including Gavin, have it much more challenging. For that I think he has done a lot more for us than we've done for him."

The Nittany Lions take on Penn this Saturday in Holuba Hall at noon.

Lions Looking to Rebound Following Villanova Game

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10811512.jpegBy Maria Canales, Student Staff Writer
VILLANOVA, Pa. - The Penn State men's lacrosse team fell to in-state foe Villanova, 11-7, on Saturday afternoon at Villanova Stadium.

A strong start from the Wildcats put Penn State on its heels early in the game, placing the Nittany Lions in a position to try and mount a comeback.  Creating an additional challenge, the weather did not cooperate Saturday with the Penn State men's lacrosse team, as blizzard-like conditions created significant problems and added to the level of game difficulty.

"It certainly made for a sloppy game," said head coach Jeff Tambroni. "Both teams had difficulties; it wasn't like it was an advantage for Penn State or an advantage for Villanova. I thought they managed the game better than we did in the snow but clearly it was a different kind of game because of the weather."

Despite the weather in the eastern part of the Commonwealth, the Nittany Lions focused their attention on their performance, rather than field conditions. 

The biggest concern for Penn State is their inability to start the game off strong.  Two first quarter penalties resulted in two Villanova goals.  Much like their matchup last weekend on the road at Loyola (Md.), the Nittany Lions defensive breakdowns resulted in early goals and the offense was unable to capitalize at the other end.

"For two weeks in a row we just didn't get off to a good start," said Tambroni. "Two weeks in a row we dug a pretty difficult hole to get ourselves out of."

Penn State trailed 6-3 at the end of the first half, after being outscored 5-1 in the first quarter.

A bright spot for the Nittany Lions was sophomore Nick Aponte, and his first multi-goal game of the season.  Aponte was responsible for four of the Nittany Lions' seven goals, finding the back of the net on all four of his shots on goal.  Another solid performance came from face off specialist Drake Kreinz, who went 14-of-21 from the dot, including his 7-of-8 performance in the fourth quarter.

During the second half, Penn State's defense focused more on double-teaming Villanova attack men in attempts to force turnovers.

"I think we just felt like we needed more possession time," said Tambroni. "We weren't doing a great job off the ground and felt like we needed to pick up the pace a little bit because it was a rather sluggish game."

Villanova's defense was successfully able to put the pressure on Penn State's offense when they came close to scoring range, holding the Nittany Lions to 10 shots in the first half. Penn State took 19 shots in the second half, but the Nittany Lions couldn't overcome the first half deficit.

"I think a lot of our woes came with our inability to pick the ball up off the ground," said Tambroni. "I didn't think we did a good job with some of the details and possessions were clearly one of them. Villanova took advantage of the overall possession time."

In addition to possession time, Coach Tambroni explained that the Nittany Lions need to improve their ability to play from behind, and be overcome the pressure.

"I don't think we did a good job at handling the pressure," said Tambroni. "We were down 5-1 and probably created a more urgent style of lacrosse and then didn't necessarily perform the way we were capable of under those circumstances."

Although the outcome wasn't what the Nittany Lions had hoped for, there is much to be learned from and improved on moving forward.

"The good and the bad is that it's still early in the season and there's a lot of lacrosse left to play," said Tambroni. 

Former Men's Lacrosse Player Donates Bone Marrow

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10801374.jpegBy Maria Canales, Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Former men's lacrosse player Kyle VanThof underwent a bone marrow donation on Feb. 9.

In November of 2012, the Penn State men's lacrosse team hosted a swab drive to attempt to find a bone marrow match for then-player Drew Roper's mother, Kim. Roper's mother had been diagnosed with non-Hodgkin's Lymphoma and needed a bone marrow transplant to aid in her fight against the disease. As part of this swab event, many Penn State student-athletes participated and incredibly, one became a match.

In early 2014, as a result of his participation in the Match4Kim swab drive, men's hockey player David Glen found out he was a match for a woman needing a bone marrow transplant. Although he had to sit out a few games in the middle of the season, Glen knew the choice was clear and didn't hesitate to help.

More recently, VanThof found out he was a match for someone needing the life-saving transplant. VanThof had visited his former teammate Drew Roper, just three days prior to finding out he himself was a match. Roper's mother, who was the inspiration for the swab drive in 2012, unfortunately still has not found a match.  

VanThof quickly participated in further testing before undergoing the operation just over a week ago. Finding out he was a match was both surprising and life changing for VanThof.

"I was extremely excited, it was an opportunity to give someone more time with their family, and their family more time with them," said VanThof. "It was a pretty long process, and I was hoping that everything would work out. I believe it has, and there is so much more left to finish the journey with her that I hope we get a chance to be a part of each others lives."

Playing midfield, VanThof spent his years with Penn State men's lacrosse making an impact both on and off the field. His redshirt junior season, VanThof started all 17 games and scored six goals with eight assists. VanThof described his time on the team.

"Unforgettable, I would never exchange my experience for the world," said VanThof. "I still keep in touch with so many of my teammates because we have built a family atmosphere. These were the only guys I spent time with for five years."

Head coach Jeff Tambroni remembers VanThof as a player who treated his teammates like family and thought of other people's needs before his own.

"It's one thing to be a match but it's another thing to actually go through with it," said Tambroni. "Kyle was not only a match but chose to go through with it. I think it speaks volumes about Kyle's selflessness and willingness to kind of look out away from just his own being or his own day-to-day tasks to help somebody else in need."

Due to privacy restrictions VanThof has not been in communication with the woman who would receive the life-saving transplant.

"There are rules with communicating with the person, so at this moment in time I have not heard from her," said VanThof. "I will get updates on how she is doing and so forth, but until the first year hits and we choose whether or not to disclose our personal information we can only communicate through letters that are read by Be The Match."

Despite the lack of direct communication, VanThof knows his contribution is being received with great appreciation. Also appreciative of his donation are his family, friends and former teammates who have supported him through the process.

"Everyone that I have spoken to has been extremely supportive," said VanThof. "It's actually an honor because not everyone gets a chance like this to do something for someone in need."

The whole process he has been through these past few weeks has encouraged VanThof and has inspired him to share his story. VanThof urges that becoming a donor and getting swabbed is very important because it not only can save someone's life, but also change your own.

"Everyone should join because it's such a great cause and awareness needs to be raised on the subject," said VanThof. "To be a match and give someone another year, let alone maybe even only a day with their loved ones, is a tremendous opportunity."

Despite Late Surge Lions Fall to Greyhounds

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10727154.jpegBy Maria Canales, Student Staff Writer
BALTIMORE, Md. - The Penn State men's lacrosse team scored four consecutive goals in the second half, but ultimately fell short at Loyola, 8-6, on Saturday.

The beginning of the contest was a defensive showcase, with both teams' defenses keeping the other teams' offenses at bay. Loyola ended the first quarter with three unanswered goals, but the Nittany Lions didn't give up the fight.

Despite being limited by Loyola's steadfast defense, the Nittany Lions' offense created decisive opportunities for scoring in the second half. Four goals in a row brought the Nittany Lions within one goal of tying the Greyhounds, 7-6. These goals gave the Nittany Lions confidence and hope, but ultimately Loyola scored one final goal that sealed the fate for Penn State.

"I think a lot of it was just us not opening things up or playing with more fluidity, more confidence," said head coach Jeff Tambroni. "We were struggling in the basics."

With more than 50 shots taken, the Greyhounds' relentless offense gave the Nittany Lions' defense fits, but goaltender Connor Darcey stood strong. Coach Tambroni, despite disappointment in the final score, was pleased with Darcey's performance overall.

"I credit Connor Darcey and our defense, they played very well today," said Tambroni. "[Loyola's] got some great shooters, especially around the first midfield, they can really bring the heat. But conversely I thought we needed to be a little bit more urgent."

Darcey, in his second game starting in Penn State's net, commanded the defense from the starting faceoff. As goalie, Darcey's position is one of leadership on the field and is extremely important in getting the defense to work together. Darcey, as well as the rest of the defense, felt the pressure during the game to keep Loyola's scoring chances low.

"I thought we played pretty well defensively," said Darcey. "We had a ton of pressure on us which was expected, we knew that going in, but I think we handled it pretty well. As we went on throughout the game we got more comfortable and we sort of felt them [Loyola] out."

Penn State had limited scoring opportunities, which made every shot on net that much more important. Despite Loyola's veteran defense, Penn State was able to come back the second half with a new determination that showed in their performance as well as on the scoreboard.

"We changed the point of attack," said Tambroni. "I think that was the biggest thing. We forced them [Loyola] to have to defend below the goal line and then above the goal line. Not until that point did we force them to have to defend anything in this direction."

Coach Tambroni highlighted the areas the team will be working on going forward, building off the momentum of their second half performance.

"The poise we had coming down the stretch was a positive and maybe we can draw off that," said Tambroni. "We need to do a better job of playing with more urgency from the get-go so we can chip away a few small pieces early so we don't have to do so much at the end of the game."

The second half momentum will be the jumping off point for Penn State's practices this week. Building momentum and keeping it consistent throughout games has been a continuous focus of the Nittany Lions. With a strong performance by the defense, the Nittany Lions look to build on this further and use this game as a learning opportunity in other areas.

"We need to go back to work Monday and start to get our flow back offensively," said Tambroni.

Although the result wasn't what the Nittany Lions were working towards, their strong performance against Loyola has given the team confidence moving forward. The team will take this week to learn and improve for their match up against Villanova on Saturday. 

Lions Looking Ahead to Loyola Trip

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10772601.jpegBy Maria Canales, Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Coming off a strong win against Vermont, the Penn State men's lacrosse team is looking forward to its first road match of the season. Traveling to Baltimore on Saturday to play No. 7-ranked Loyola, the Nittany Lions look to improve to 2-0 on the season.

Having played Notre Dame in their first road game in 2014, the Nittany Lions are no stranger to difficult early season games. Head coach Jeff Tambroni knows early tests like this challenge but ultimately benefit the team.

"It certainly gets your guys' attention, but I also think it allows us an appropriate litmus test of who and where we are," said Tambroni. "Scheduling games like this are an appropriate evaluation for your guys, so for good or for bad you know exactly where you are and you know what you have to work on."

The Nittany Lions know their road record has been better than at home for the past few seasons and they look to use this momentum to their advantage. Starting off home games with a win is great, but winning road games helps set the tone for the season overall.

"I think it's important to get off to a good start on the road," said Tambroni. "On the road you want to get off to a good start to build confidence within your guys and just establish the sense that it's just a game of lacrosse and no matter who's watching or where you're playing that it's about making plays on the field."

Away games give a new atmosphere to the game. Traveling with only teammates and coaches allows team members the opportunity to focus more narrowly on the task at hand.

"I think in a lot of ways our guys just seem to be a little bit more focused and prepared on the road," said Tambroni. "You can get away from some of the distractions that may be relevant here from school or some friends. You have to treat it like a business trip and make sure you're prepared mentally as well as physically. "

The team tends to travel by bus to most games within a seven-hour distance. Time like this is very precious in building team chemistry, as well as building relationships between coaches and the players.  Many players spend their time doing homework, watching movies, or more often than not, catching up on much needed sleep.

Redshirt sophomore Drake Kreinz is no stranger to trips like these. Having started all 13 games in 2014, Kreinz knows what it's like to not have home-field advantage. The face-off specialist explained the focus of the team during the weekly preparations to take on the Greyhounds.

"To continue to bring the energy," said Kreinz. "If you don't bring the energy it's easy to lose focus so we're working on bringing the energy as well as staying mentally tough."

During last year's regular season matchup against Loyola, Penn State lost 12-11 in overtime to the Greyhounds. Although the win was one play away, Coach Tambroni emphasized the focus of this year's team is not on the past, but simply on how to get the outcome this time in their favor.

"We are focusing on Loyola, the 2015 version," said Tambroni. "We are focusing on that team right now. We want to build on the confidence that not only we build in practice, but what were able to do last year."

This year's matchup will be a tough task, but the Lions are eager to face the challenge.

"I think when you're together with your team and with the guys you're about to go to battle with I think everyone's got the same mindset and it's easy to just feed off each other," said Kreinz.

When asked what he is looking forward to most during this road trip.

"Just the opportunity to compete," said Kreinz. 


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