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Analysis: Penn State men’s team seeks to improve in first year under former Cornell coach Tambroni

Saturday, 15th January 2011

Categories Boy's/Men's, College, Posted 1/15/11
From Press Releases

The Penn State men’s lacrosse team took the field last week for the first time in 2011 for its first full practice of the calendar year.

First year Head Coach Jeff Tambroni’s Lions enter their second season in the Colonial Athletic Association looking to improve after a 2-11 season.

Senior co-captain Matt Bernier

Tambroni – formerly head coach at Cornell – brings a 109-40 career record to State College, ranked fifth among active Division I coaches with a .732 winning percentage. He became the 10th-fastest coach in men’s lacrosse history to reach the 100-win mark when he did it in his 134th career game in March of 2010.

Tambroni was awarded the 2009 Morris Touchstone Award as the USILA Coach of the Year with Cornell, and led the Big Red to three NCAA semifinal appearances in the past four seasons (2007, 2009 and 2010) and one NCAA title game (2009). He was also named the 2007 and the 2009 FieldTurf/NCAA Division I Coach of the Year.

The Lions return 25 lettermen from the 2010 campaign, including five starters. 2010 CAA first teamer and 2011 captain Matt Mackrides (Malvern Prep) leads Penn State’s talented offense. All-rookie team members Billy Gribbin (Rockville, Md.) and Nick Dolik (Bloomfield Hills, Mi.) join Mackrides on the offensive side of the ball. The defense is anchored by 2010 CAA second team honoree and 2011 captain Matt Bernier (Malvern Prep). Captain Matt Shankoff (Flemington, N.J.) is joined by fellow seniors Billy Lloyd (Unionville) and Colton Vosburgh (Unionville) who will look to pace the Lions from the midfield.

The 2011 season looks to be a good one for Penn State lacrosse fans, as the Lions will host seven home games and two home scrimmages. The scrimmages will welcome traditional powerhouses Johns Hopkins (2/5/11), and Hobart (2/12/11) to University Park, and Penn State will also host top programs Ohio State and Notre Dame before beginning its rigorous conference schedule. In CAA play, the Lions will play host to St. Joseph’s, Drexel, and Towson, and hit the road to face Massachusetts, Hofstra, and 2010 CAA-champion Delaware.

Sounds heard around the locker room:

Head Coach Jeff Tambroni on how the team has progressed since the fall:

“The fall was so much a process of getting to know one another. Everybody was here for the first time and it was the first chance for everyone to get to know our philosophy and learn each other. Coming back here in the winter there has been a lot of progress and we feel very comfortable with our team. Our guys are starting to feel a lot more comfortable and we can see that in the first week of practice.”

On the excitement level for the season:

“We’re all very excited to put those game jerseys on get out on the field to represent Penn State, but we’re also excited for the chance to unveil the new generation of Penn State lacrosse. I think there is just a lot of excitement in that locker room.”

On his three captains:
“I think that choosing captains is one of the most important tasks that a coaching staff has to do, and I’m very excited about Matt Shankoff, Matt Mackrides, and Matt Bernier, and what each of them brings to the table. They’re very dynamic personalities and strong leaders, and they are all willing to sacrifice some of their own agenda to make sure our team is going in the right direction. We feel very confident in that group that our team is in the right hands.”

On what the team is focusing on right now:

“So much was going on in the fall that we’re very excited to be able to take a couple steps back here and go over some of the simplicities of our system. I think it’s very important for us to all get everyone on the same page. Unlike most teams around the country, everyone on our team is learning this system for the first time, so we’re just trying to make sure that we’re prepared as a team.”

On the schedule:
“We’re excited about the overall assembly of the schedule. We’re excited about the CAA and our non-conference schedule. Week in and week out we’re going to have to be prepared to have any sort of success. When we look at the schedule we’re excited about the body of work we’re going to have to go through, but it’s important to make sure that we aren’t looking ahead to any particular game. Every opponent is going to present its challenges and nuances, so it’s going to be important for us to take it one game at a time, but we’re certainly excited about the schedule as a whole.”

Junior Attackman Matt Mackrides:

On the new role of being a captain:
“We need to make our voices heard. Having a month off we need to get back in the role of being a captain and being a leader. We need to get back in the role of being hands-on and leading by example. Keeping the team on track as we head into the season is very important, and it puts a lot of responsibility on us, so this year is a lot different.

On the attack:
“We’re very young at attack this year. We could potentially have a junior, a sophomore, and a freshman starting. We have a lot of work to do, but we’re excited. We work well as a unit and we’re working hard every day in practice. Hopefully that youth and excitement will help us to go out there and score goals.”

On the schedule:
“The schedule is great. We always start with a couple tough games out of conference, and this year it’s Ohio State and Notre Dame. I personally have never beat Notre Dame, so that’s one that I definitely want to win. We’re definitely not overlooking any games, we want to win every game we go into. But it’s great to play teams like that in the beginning of the season.”

On the overall dynamic of the team:
“I really like where our team is right now as far as closeness. There’s really no class distinction on our team, we’re all in it for each other. We all make each other better, both on the field and off the field. Everyone is starting to learn their roles, and as Coach starts putting units together we’re really excited moving forward.”

Senior Midfielder Matt Shankoff

On being a leader of the team:
“As a captain and senior you just need to set a standard. A lot of the young guys look up to us, so if they see us slacking off, it would be easier for them to slack off. So if they see guys like us going really hard, it’s going to make them work a lot harder and pay off for our team.”

On the midfield:

“The midfield is very young. We have some key seniors like Colton Vosburgh and Billy Lloyd that will really help out the young guys, but the young guys are very skilled and athletic. Guys like Nick Dolik and Drew Roper definitely have come to play this year. They’re a lot harder to defend this year, with all the new things that Coach Tambroni has put in. We’re definitely getting better as a midfield every day.”

On the excitement level in the locker room:
“I think we’re all just very excited to start the season. We won’t overlook any opponent, we did that a little bit last year and it definitely hurt us. CAA games are at the end of the season but the beginning of the year is definitely going to help us in conference.”

On the dynamic of the team:

“Our class really became a family in the fall. One of my goals as a captain was to make Penn State lacrosse a family again, and I think we’re really doing that. We all became really close in the fall, and on the field you need that kind of bond to have success.”

Senior Defender Matt Bernier

On the difference of being a captain:

“It’s a lot different this year. There’s a lot more responsibility to make sure everyone is doing what they are supposed to. We have to set the bar a lot higher than even the coaches set it. I think the biggest difference between this year and last year is just the amount of responsibility on us as captains.”

On the goalie and defense:
“It looks like Austin Kaut is definitely going to be our man [in goal]. He’s confident in himself, and that’s what you need in a goalie sometimes. Defensively we have some good returners, with Ryan McGarvey (Penn Charter) and Billy Davis (Conestoga) coming back, so that will be a strong crew that has had time to play with each other. The new defensive scheme is much easier to play under, and the young guys are all very athletic, so we’re excited about the defense this year.”

On the excitement level in the locker room:

“I’m really excited about the spring; from what we know now everything looks pretty good. Guys are just excited to get going and play lacrosse again, but there’s still a lot to do before the season starts.”


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