Ryan McGarvey is a business major, but he hasn’t been able to get down to business in the Penn State men’s lacrosse team’s first five games.
The junior defender hopes that will change at noon Saturday, when the Nittany Lions (2-3) play at No. 5 Massachusetts.
After playing in every game last year, McGarvey has missed the first five games this season with an unspecified injury. Coach Jeff Tambroni said the defender began practicing again last Friday in hopes of returning for Saturday’s Colonial Athletic Association opener. McGarvey’s availability is expected to be a game-time decision.
Tambroni believes, when healthy, McGarvey provides a boost for the Lions’ defense, which is allowing 8.40 goals per game — tied with Tambroni’s previous team, Cornell, for 26th among the 60 Division I teams.
“He’s probably our most intelligent, probably our most cerebral, defensive player,” Tambroni said of McGarvey. “He makes such a big difference in terms of the organization of our defense. He’s certainly been missed.”
While out, McGarvey said he’s tried to help the team as much as he can from the sideline. But the Penn State players and coaches know his knowledge for defending is best served on the field.
The junior said he’s just one of several smart defenders on the Lions’ roster, but he believes his experience and ability to dissect the flow of the game help the defensive unit.
“Really, just knowing when to take a chance [is important], whether it’s a check or a double-team,” McGarvey said. “I’m able to help communicate with everyone else, so they understand what’s going on, and we can be on the same page.”
Similar to basketball, double-teaming the player with the ball may leave an opposing attacker open for a shot on goal, making communication among defenders a key to preventing goals.
McGarvey said he’s preparing for the UMass game as though he’ll be playing, but the Lower Gwynedd native knows he needs to get back into game shape, and the coaches will have the ultimate decision whether to play him.
Tambroni said Tuesday he’d like to have McGarvey available for the game, but he’s still unsure if the junior will be ready.
One player who could benefit from McGarvey’s return is freshman goalie Austin Kaut, who is already excelling with a .640 save percentage that’s sixth in the nation.
Kaut hasn’t been able to play alongside McGarvey in a regular season game, but the goalie is aware of McGarvey’s impact from offseason games.
“Ryan McGarvey has a huge impact on our defense,” Kaut said. “He is coming back slowly in practice this week, but he is a big part of our defense, and it would be great to have him back.”