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Lions Capitalize in Season Opener

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10762257.jpegBy Maria Canales, Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - The Nittany Lion men's lacrosse team used four early goals as motivation in its season opener against Vermont. Capitalizing on Vermont's defense, the Lions got on the board out of the gate and never looked back.   

Junior TJ Sanders attributed the momentum of the first half to the team's ability to communicate and work together. The team had been working to improve their on-field communication during the week leading up to the game.

"There were times we were moving the ball well, and that worked out well," Sanders said. "I think we moved the ball pretty well in transition."

Not only did the offense start strong, but the defense made an early impact as well. In his first game starting in net, redshirt sophomore Connor Darcey settled in as the quarters went by. With several shots in the first half dangerously close to the net, Darcey made sure his defensemen were in constant communication to prevent possible goals. With a sore throat, Darcey relied heavily on the veteran defense to help with communication in the backfield.

"Having them be able to command especially on days like today where I can't even talk was huge," Darcey said.

Head coach Jeff Tambroni emphasized that although the team started strong, it is important to keep the momentum consistent throughout all 60 minutes of play. Tambroni attributed the win to strong individual performances in all positions as well as slight improvements in overall teamwork.

"We did play as a team at times and did get away from it at times and Vermont took advantage of it," said Tambroni. "I thought there was a stretch in that game where we weren't playing really well offensively and I didn't think we were playing very well defensively and had Connor not stepped up and played the way he did, that game probably would've been a lot closer."

Coach Tambroni had defined the goals of the season opener as going in with a positive attitude and to just play the game the team grew up loving; no complications. Tambroni didn't want the team getting too distracted by going overboard on what was expected of them.

"We stressed simplicity today, play like a team offensively and defensively and try to play with the basics," said Tambroni. "I feel like we got away from it a little bit, we tried to do a little too much after building the first quarter lead and I thought the game got away from us a little bit."

Once the team got back to playing as a unit, the final pieces fell into place for them to pull away and win. Although a win is the ideal start to the season, no matter the final score there is always room for improvement.

"I think we need to be a little more aggressive in our attack," said Tambroni. I thought we were looking a little bit passive, a little bit timid at the attack with TJ [Sanders] and Michael [Sutton]. Those guys are going to have to be more aggressive in the future if we're going to have a sound starting three at the attack."

Small improvements to the Lions' game plan could mean the difference between wins and losses later in the season as their schedule increases in difficulty. For now, Tambroni and his team focus one game at a time.

"It was nice to get off with a win and just kind of move on," said Tambroni. "So hopefully we'll have a chance to reflect on what we did here and give our guys a chance to celebrate for a day and then start to make some changes and adjustments as we head into Loyola." 

Lions Looking to Pounce in Season Opener

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By Maria Canales, Student Staff Writer

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Starting his fifth season, men's lacrosse head coach Jeff Tambroni sees nothing but opportunities for the program and his team. The first test of the season will be the Catamounts from Vermont, who visit Happy Valley on Saturday for the season-opener at noon.

The Catamounts have not been to Happy Valley since March of 2008 when they lost to the Nittany Lions 7-4. The following year, Penn State traveled to the Green Mountain State and went on to defeat Vermont, 7-5. Under Tambroni's leadership, the Nittany Lions will look for a strong start to the regular season.

"This will be my first time coaching against Vermont," said Tambroni. "I know we have film from some of their games in 2014 so we'll look a little bit into some of their general tendencies because I think it's important. I know they have a couple of really good offensive players, their leading scorer was a freshman last year so he'll obviously be a key to our defensive game plan."

Tambroni and the rest of the coaching staff have been hard at working preparing the team for the season opener.

"In a typical game week, Monday we review the film with our team," said Tambroni. "Then we get in the weight room just to get our guys back together exercising, sweating a little bit to start the week off. Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursdays is typically the bulk of when we get our lacrosse work in. So those three days is heavy film work, heavy on field with a lift sprinkled in on Wednesday."

Tambroni emphasized that days off after games are important for recovery, as well as explained that on Fridays the team does a visual walk through to get in the game day mindset. A walk through gives the team a final bit of confidence before game day, as well as allows players to visualize the game day atmosphere and do any final mental preparations.

However, all the hard work the team has put in won't become a reality until this weekend.

"When the guys walk in the locker room on Saturday morning it'll be the first time the freshman have ever seen our game uniforms," said Tambroni.  "Our upperclassmen will see it for the first time this year and that's when the heartbeat starts to change a little bit."

Saturday's walk across the parking lot to Holuba Hall will provide the final few moments of calm and introspection before the season officially kicks off against Vermont. 

"I think the level of excitement genuinely changes with the reality that the season is finally here and with 13 guaranteed games you don't want to take anything for granted," Coach Tambroni said. 

Darcey Prepared to Start in Net

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10727141.jpegBy Maria Canales, Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Since third grade, Connor Darcey has been a lacrosse player. As a child, he started off playing attack and midfield. Darcey was thrown into the goalie position when his older brother's team lacked a goaltender. He stuck with this position and has developed his skills over the years, taking in every opportunity given to him.

The biggest opportunity so far for Darcey has been playing lacrosse for Penn State under head coach Jeff Tambroni. A four-year starting goalie for Wellesley High School in Massachusetts, Darcey came to Penn State for academics and athletics. Although Darcey didn't see any action in the 2013 season and therefore was chosen to redshirt, he played in two games during the 2014 campaign.

"After his freshman year, we chose to red shirt Connor because we felt that was going to be the next logical progression after Austin Kaut graduated," said Tambroni.

Austin Kaut is a household name; he started almost every game in net for the Nittany Lions between 2011 and 2013, and started all 17 games his senior season in 2014. The 2015 campaign will be Tambroni's first year as the Penn State coach without Kaut in net.

Filling Kaut's big shoes is a challenge Darcey has faced head on. Darcey used his two seasons behind Kaut as an opportunity to learn from the four-year starter, while improving his own skills in the net.

"I think being in the position that I was in was extremely beneficial," said Darcey. "I got to see one of the better goalies go through the system in Austin Kaut. I had the lucky fortune of being behind him and making the transition from high school into college lacrosse was definitely a lot easier. He showed me how to communicate, command your defense, and just be a part of a collegiate team, which was huge."

When it comes to molding goaltenders, Tambroni says it is a team effort amongst all the coaches.

"Coach Toner will talk to him about defensive schemes and communication skills within the defense," said Tambroni. "I'll talk to him more about game management and preparation, and Coach Doctor will talk to him about day to day work and his technique and make sure he's in a good place mentally. We'll have a three-headed monster going into this spring."

Tambroni will be the first person to say that being a goalie is tough, both mentally and physically. Having coached goalies for over 15 years, Tambroni knows what is going on inside their heads. The mental capability one must have to stand in the crease and withstand the opposing teams attackers is comparable to very little outside the realm of lacrosse. Tambroni measures a successful goalie, not just by wins, but also by his overall leadership and presence on the field. It's not only important for the goalie to take control of the defense, but also give them feedback and motivation after a goal is scored against them.

"After every goal our defense brings it together," said Tambroni. "Our defense has a huddle and Connor's in there and we would like him to be part of that discussion. He can see it as the back line of defense in terms of what went wrong. You only have about 20 to 30 seconds to evaluate and communicate effectively to a group of six guys who are emotionally just not in the right place to hear anything from anyone else, especially if they feel they made the mistake. So leadership, and his ability to communicate to our team, especially our defense, is keys to a successful goalie."

The rest of the Nittany Lions defense, including senior defenseman JP Burnside, has noticed the hard work Darcey has put in before the start of the season.

"Connor has stepped up and he's doing a really good job," said Burnside. "He was in the film room every day so he's really just stepped into the roll and he's doing great."

From early morning workouts to late nights watching film, Darcey has prepared himself as best as possible for the difficult 2015 campaign. His confidence in net has developed, and with one more scrimmage against Lehigh on the schedule, Darcey looks to end the pre-season strong. He hopes to get the team in a good mental state before the regular season opener against Vermont on Feb. 7.

"With each day you get more confident," said Darcey. "And you build the momentum going into the first game which will be huge for us."

The Nittany Lions host Lehigh in an exhibition game Saturday in Holuba Hall at 3pm. 

Zittel Leads by Example

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10708595.jpegBy Maria Canales, Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, PA. - Since his freshman season in 2012, senior captain and midfielder Kyle Zittel has evolved in many ways within the Penn State men's lacrosse program. He is the sole captain of a team expected to not only compete, but also thrive during the inaugural season of Big Ten lacrosse.

As a freshman, Zittel made seven appearances, recording one goal and two assists. Zittel channeled his limited playing time, using it as motivation to improve his playing skills. In the 2013 and 2014 campaigns, Zittel appeared in every game, setting personal records with 11 ground balls and four caused turnovers last season. His performance and work ethic both on and off the field made him a prime candidate for captain his senior season.

"We believe this is an extremely important position," said head coach Jeff Tambroni. "This is ownership of your locker room. You either point your team in the right direction or in a direction that's not going to be conducive to success, however you define that."

The selection process of captain involves both coaches and players. Coach Tambroni explained that the coaches take into consideration the team's opinion of fellow players and look heavily to players who have displayed leadership skills during their time on the team.  Notable key qualities of previous Penn State men's lacrosse captains have been outstanding work ethic, the ability to motivate teammates, having the respect of teammates, including taking charge and listening to others' ideas.

"The one thing about Kyle is it's not a matter of him having to change into a role," said Coach Tambroni. "He just needs to be himself and impose his will on this team because he understands what we need to be successful. He has proven that in his first three years, that's why he has had the blessing of his own teammates and the coaching staff to become a captain.

In 2014, the Nittany Lions had three captains - Gavin Ahern, Tom LaCrosse, and Tyler Travis. All three have graduated. In contrast, Zittel stands alone in charge of a team comprised of 36 young men all striving for success on and off the field in 2015. Encouraged by this title of authority, Zittel hopes to set a high bar for what is expected from the younger players.

"I try to lead by example," Zittel said. "I'm not the best player on our team and I don't score the most goals and I never not make mistakes, so there's things they can learn from me. Just as far as I carry myself into practice and out of practice afterwards and what I can do to set the way for how they should carry themselves as well."

Zittel had high praise for the previous captains and graduating seniors who helped set the tone and foundation for him during his time as a younger member of the team. Following in their footsteps, Zittel explained how previous captains have impacted the way he leads the team every day, both on the field and off.

"The previous captains, the way they carried themselves and came to practice with an upbeat energy, confidence and focus every single day was huge for me," Zittel said. "I tried to learn from that and carry myself in the same way,"

With the support of seven fellow seniors, Zittel will look to his experienced counterparts to assist in leading the Nittany Lions through their hardest schedule to date. Names such as JP Burnside and Jack Donnelley will help not only make an impact during games, but be constant role models off the field. 

"Our coaching staff has flanked Kyle with two extremely capable leaders in the senior class in JP Burnside and Jack Donnelly, and their leadership certainly cannot be minimized," said Coach Tambroni. "Those two guys have been there for him since day one and will continue to be there."

With the start of the season just days away, Zittel is anticipating a competitive and challenging final season. Set to play five teams ranked in the top 20 of the USILA Preseason Poll, the Nittany Lions will face their fair share of challenges in 2015. Additionally, the first season of Big Ten play is something the captain is looking forward to.

"Seeing our football program and every other athletic program excel in the Big Ten and what it's about, it's great to finally be a apart of it for lacrosse. I think it's a huge stepping stone for our program and then also the Big Ten and the whole lacrosse community."

The Nittany Lions are set to host Army in an exhibition game Saturday in Holuba Hall at 12 p.m.

Barbour Eager to Lead Penn State Athletics

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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - The 18th of August cannot come soon enough for Sandy Barbour.

Introduced as Penn State Director of Athletics on Saturday afternoon, Barbour is thrilled to begin her tenure as the leader of an athletic program that aspires to continue its long history of excellence on and off the field of play.

"When you spend a professional lifetime serving institutions and most importantly students, you dream about coming to a place like Penn State," Barbour said. "You dream about the opportunity to lead a program like Penn State athletics. Why? Because it represents the opportunity to have it all: Athletic excellence, academic achievement, community engagement and fiscal responsibility. So thank you, Eric [Barron]. I am absolutely thrilled, over the top excited about this opportunity and about being the athletic director at Penn State."

A graduate of Wake Forest where she was field hockey team captain, Barbour grew up on the East Coast and has always had a deep passion for Penn State University and its athletic department. That's what drew her to the position when she originally spoke with President Barron about the opportunity.

Immediately, Barbour felt a connection with the people, pride and remarkable accomplishments of Penn State University and its athletic department.

"I love the 'We Are Penn State.' I particularly love what it stands for. It stands for family," Barbour said.

Barbour desires to see national titles in all 31 sports on campus. But first and foremost, she will strive to lead a department with student-athletes who are elite performers in the classroom.

"We are athletic programs again that are all part of a university," Barbour said. "Our student-athletes will be students first, Penn State is incredibly proud of the academic performance of their students and we will continue to be."

Eager to hit the ground running when she begins her duties as athletic director in 23 days, Barbour wants to learn from everyone in the department, especially the head coaches leading Penn State's 31 athletic teams.

"Unity doesn't mean one opinion, and I actually embrace that, embrace the diversity of opinion, diversity in a variety of different ways, and I actually think that will make us stronger in our ability to move forward," Barbour said. "As I said before, I have something to learn from everybody, and I'll be doing a lot of listening."

Numerous head coaches were in attendance at Saturday's introductory press conference. The coaches and athletic department staff then had a chance to mingle with Barbour at a private reception before she boarded a flight to Chicago for Big Ten meetings. The head coaches in attendance exuded great confidence in the future direction of the athletic department.

"There is a culture, history and tradition of tremendous academic achievement at Penn State and that will continue," said head football coach James Franklin. "I know it's important to our president, athletic director and all of our coaches. That will continue. I know we'll spend as much time as we need to so we can start building."

"I am truly thrilled that Sandy Barbour will serve as the next athletic director for Penn State," Lady Lions head coach Coquese Washington said. "Sandy is a strong, dynamic and passionate leader. She is also an incredibly smart visionary and strategic thinker. It is exciting to imagine all the ways Penn State University, and Penn State athletics in particular, will be positively impacted by her leadership."

"I loved everything I heard today," head women's hockey coach Josh Brandwene said. "She has passion, vision and just a great understanding of the Penn State community. Both as a head coach and as an alumnus, I am really excited to start working with her."

Barbour will return to California in the coming days to prepare for her full-time return to Happy Valley on Aug. 18, and the new leader of Penn State Athletics is fired up to get started.

"We are Penn State. I'm all in. I'm ready to get going," said Barbour.


Follow's Tony Mancuso on Twitter @GoPSUTony

Lions' 'Lacrosse Family' Comes Together for Senior Weekend

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By Jackson Thibodeau, Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa.-- "It would be tough to articulate and put into words what this senior class means to this team," said head coach Jeff Tambroni following Saturday's 8-7 win over Hofstra. "They are such a quality group of young men and they finished their careers in an outstanding fashion."

The showdown with The Pride last weekend served as Penn State's final regular season game as a member of the Colonial Athletic Association. The hard-fought battle exemplified the passion, pride and resiliency that the Nittany Lions have played with all season.

"It was awesome we got to end on a win," said senior attackman Shane Sturgis. "They were highly-ranked, everyone doubted us and we finished the year strong."

While the victory was the highlight of the weekend, the senior banquet on Sunday morning also proved to be a way for the Penn State lacrosse family to come together. The 14-member senior class was honored with speeches from Tambroni, numerous student-athletes and Assistant Athletic Director Jan Bortner.

Senior captain Tyler Travis spoke to his teammates and the guests in attendance, emphasizing the team's resiliency throughout the season and the belief that he always had in his squad.

"By no means was this season a disappointment to us," Travis said.

The Blue and White finished the regular season with a 7-6 overall record and a 3-2 mark in CAA play. Most impressively, the team finished off its slate with a three-game win streak after losing five out of six. Leading the Lions to the turnaround was the impressive grittiness and perseverance of the 2014 seniors.

"They've been through a lot and it was a pretty emotional pregame speech for me," Tambroni said of the soon-to-be graduates who were freshmen or redshirt freshmen just four short seasons ago during the coach's first year.

"We owe a great debt of gratitude to this group," he said. "To their credit they just stayed the course and came out on top."

Without the chance to compete in the CAA tournament and earn and automatic berth in this year's NCAA tournament, the Nittany Lions now must hope to hear their name called on Selection Sunday and continue to prepare.

The team can certainly make a case for an at-large bid with its impressive resume. With the eight-ranked strength of schedule in the country, a No. 19 RPI rating, and key wins over Hofstra and Notre Dame--this squad has put itself in a position with a hope to play in May.

NCAA tournament berth or not, the way this team finished this season makes for a successful--not disappointing--campaign.

"Now they walk off the field with a winning record and something to hold on to and that's adversity faced and adversity fought," Tambroni said.

The NCAA Men's Lacrosse Selection Show will air on Sunday at 9 p.m. on ESPNU. Eighteen teams will make the tournament, 10 of which are automatic bids and eight are at-large bids. Two teams will play in a play-in game.

Patient Offense, Composed Defense Propelled Lions Past Delaware

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By Jackson Thibodeau, Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. -- During a sunny Easter weekend in Happy Valley, the Penn State men's lacrosse team took down Delaware behind a disciplined defensive game plan and a potent offensive attack.

"We harped on discipline and hustle all week," said senior defender Tyler Travis.

The Nittany Lions put on a fundamentally sound performance in front of their home crowd en route to a 10-6 victory over the Blue Hens. A display of patience on offense and composure on defense earned the win for the Blue and White, moving their record to .500.

"I thought that collectively they made a lot of big plays," head coach Jeff Tambroni said of the defense after last Saturday's win. "We just asked each one of those guys to do their part and Coach Toner did a great job of putting a game plan together."

On the attack, senior Shane Sturgis's stick came to life in front of nearly 1,500 fans in attendance. A six-point performance (4g, 2a) was exactly the spark that the offense needed to rally behind.

"He took charge of the offense," Tambroni said. "He's by far our biggest and most dynamic leader in the offensive end and typically when he's playing well, everybody feeds off his energy and confidence."

Sturgis' big game increased his goal total to 30 on the season, which is already three more than what he scored in 2013. The senior has been a staple in Tambroni's offense since his freshman season, and the coaching staff is pleased to see him finish his career strong.

"Earlier in the year he was playing hard and productive; in the middle of the season he was playing hard but shots weren't falling, but today he was the one guy that was shooting consistently," Tambroni said.

The offense went on a 6-1 run that spanned three quarters against Delaware, fueling the Nittany Lions with all of the momentum. The scoring run was sparked by the timely decision-making and poise displayed by Sturgis.

"He did a wonderful job of reading Delaware's offense and getting our guys organized on the fly," Tambroni said.

Sturgis and fellow senior Tom LaCrosse have been tremendous leaders to the younger players this season, enabling them for success in seasons to come.

"Between TJ Sanders and our freshman crew, it's taking a little while for those guys to season and develop," said the fourth-year coach. "It was nice to see those guys (the seniors) come out and play the way they did because they complemented that group of freshmen very well."

Seniors on the defensive side of the ball were extremely impactful as well. Travis and Steven Bogert combined for 11 ground balls while goaltender Austin Kaut was locked in to the Delaware shooters and made 14 saves.

"I thought what stood out is some of the seniors made some consistent efforts and consistent plays that made us comfortable in the offensive end," Tambroni said. "Travis, Kaut and Bogert were so reliable and they just made such a difference to holding Delaware to low-angle looks."

The Nittany Lions are down to just one game left on their 2014 slate as they prepare to host CAA rival Hofstra next Saturday. Faceoff against the Pride is set for 12 p.m. on senior day. 

Defense Gets Confidence Boost Heading Into Final Home Stand

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By Jackson Thibodeau, Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. -- Senior goalie Austin Kaut's monster game Saturday night at Towson has given the Penn State defense just what they need to finish the season strong - a boost in poise and tenacity.

"It really gives our guys a lot of confidence defensively to know that Austin is going to make those saves," said assistant coach Peter Toner. "That was a great boost for the defense and certainly a great thing for him to find a groove.

Kaut rejected all 11 Tiger shots that came his way en route to a dominant 8-1 Nittany Lion victory, which moved the team's record to within one game of .500.

"It seemed like everywhere they shot the ball he was a step or two ahead of them," Toner said.

The only Towson goal came with just over a minute remaining after Kaut was pulled and replaced by freshman netminder Connor Darcey. Although the defense was just a minute away from the program's first shutout in almost 50 years, giving up that lone goal doesn't take away from their dominant showing.

"It just seemed like we were always the aggressor defensively whether it was defending the ball, sliding into a double team or picking up ground balls," Toner said.

Kaut, 2013's NCAA goalie of the year, was determined and focused last week in practice on finishing his senior season strong.

"We come out and work as hard as we can and never give up--that's our motto as a senior class," Kaut said.

The senior's showing on Saturday demonstrated that playoffs or not--this team is still motivated and always hungry for a win.

"I think he just made a decision during the week that he was going to take a step in the right direction and that's why he was dominant Saturday night," Toner said.

Towson's offense, led by senior Thomas DeNapoli, was denied three times in each of the first three quarters. The few times that the Tiger attack broke through the Nittany Lion defense, Kaut was there to deny their shooters.

"[DeNapoli] is definitely a catalyst to their offense and Towson does a lot to move him around and get him shots," Toner said.

Senior defender Tyler Travis was matched up against DeNapoli, which is a paring he has become familiar with. Travis has defended the prolific Tiger attackman in multiple games over the last few seasons, including last year's CAA championship loss.

"Tyler did a really good job on DeNapoli," Toner said. "That's a matchup he's had the last couple of years and it was a big part of our defensive game plan to stop DeNapoli. Tyler got a lot of help from the guys around him."

The Blue and White are down to just two games left on their 2014 slate--both of which will be CAA battles at home. When Delaware and Towson come to Happy Valley the next two weekends, fans can expect to see a focused, gameplan-oriented defense.

"As the year goes on it's good for these guys to get some confidence and have a sound game plan going in," Toner said. "They've done a very nice job of buying into finishing this season on a good note."

Faceoff against Delaware is set for 1 p.m. on Saturday. The Blue Hens come into Happy Valley with a 6-7 overall record and a 0-3 mark in conference play. This will be the second-to-last CAA matchup for the Nittany Lions before they join the Big Ten in 2015.

Lions 'Dead Set' On Finishing Season Strong After 3OT Loss

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By Jackson Thibodeau, Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. -- With a 4-6 overall record and just three games left to play, the Penn State men's lacrosse team is focused on finishing the 2014 campaign with a winning record.

"In these last few games, it is important for us to be flexible but still very confident," said head coach Jeff Tambroni. "Our goals may need to change a bit."

The Nittany Lions entered this season with high hopes and aspirations of earning a second-straight NCAA Tournament berth. However, without the chance to compete in the CAA Tournament and secure an automatic bid--there wasn't much room for regular season losses.

Last weekend, the Blue and White were outmatched in a triple overtime thriller to Drexel. Despite dropping four of its last five, this resilient group is determined to send the seniors off valiantly while building for the future.

"We are dead set on finishing this season on a high note," Tambroni said.

Finishing on a high note can be defined a number of ways by this coaching staff. Winning out, seeing more production from a number of players and witnessing growth from the talented freshman class are all examples of goals for finishing strong.

"You have to believe in what you are doing but also understand that you may have to make some adjustments under these circumstances," the fourth-year coach said. "First and foremost we have to believe in ourselves as coaches and players."

Regardless of any adjustments made in these last few weeks, the coaches were adamant about one thing - continuing to play 'the Penn State way'.

"Our standards have to stay the same," Tambroni said. "The standard of this program, the standard of our work ethic and the standard of the expectations of each and every day will stay the same."

Penn State's remaining slate consists of all CAA matchups. A final road test at Towson this Saturday will be followed by two home battles against Delaware and Hofstra. Opening faceoff against the Tigers is slated for 7 p.m.

Seniors Austin Kaut and Tyler Travis were joined by freshman Mike Sutton in giving their thoughts and interpretations on finishing the season strong.

Triple Overtime Setback to Drexel Provided Some 'Bright Spots'

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By Jackson Thibodeau, Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. -- For the Penn State men's lacrosse team, dropping a triple overtime thriller to Drexel last Saturday provided far more than just heartbreak. The team exhibited grittiness, determination and persistence from all depths of the roster.

"Look no further than guys like Michael Sutton and Danny Craig," said head coach Jeff Tambroni. "Those guys have just stayed the course and have been persistent all year. They deserve all the playing time they get because of their resilient efforts."

The freshman duo of Craig and Sutton combined for nine points against the Dragons, displaying their will and deservedness to earn more minutes and starts.

"They were both tremendous bright spots," Tambroni said. "Our freshmen are starting to play with confidence and playing to what we thought their potential could be."

Sutton, a midfielder, netted five goals in the 13-12 setback on Saturday. His numbers weren't the only thing that impressed his coaches in his first start--but his demonstration of persistence and effort that has culminated all season long.

"Mike Sutton has never waivered in his own ability," Tambroni said. "He's continued to embrace his role whether it was on the scout team, deep within the second unit or now as a starter and very high contributor."

Sutton isn't alone in this display, as Craig and fellow freshman Nick Aponte also had big games against Drexel.

"Credit the guys that have been sitting on the bench all year, keep working hard and continue to believe in themselves," the fourth-year coach said.

The roller coaster game against Drexel marked the fourth loss in the last five for the Nittany Lions.

"It is not from a lack of trying," Tambroni said. "Our guys are continuing to give a great effort and keep moving forward with the belief of being successful."

A major theme in the last four losses has been that the team hasn't gotten off to the early start in each half that the coaches would like to see. Despite scoring three goals in the first quarter last Saturday, Tambroni would like to see a faster pace in the opening quarter.

"For whatever reason--the start of the game and the start of the third quarter have not been very kind to us in the majority of our games," Tambroni said. "If you take the first ten minutes of every game and the first five minutes of every third quarter--it's a lopsided affair."

With three games remaining on the schedule, the team is looking to tighten up this disconnect in the opening quarters of both halves.

"We have to do a better job as coaches and our guys have to do a better job as players of providing a little more focus to when that first whistle is blown."

The Blue and White are committed to finishing this season strong, which means a variety of things to players and coaches. Winning out, seeing more production from numerous players on the field and seeing growth from the freshmen class are among the team's goals.

"I believe this group is committed and we need to find a way to play up to our potential," Tambroni said. "We are dead set on finishing this season on a high note."

The Nittany Lions will travel to Maryland next Saturday to take on Towson. Opening faceoff against the Tigers is set for 7 p.m.


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