Lions' Midfield Production Taking Shape

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March 19, 2013

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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