In the season opener against Michigan last Saturday, No. 15 Penn State peppered the net with 57 chances. Head coach Jeff Tambroni said he had never seen a game like that before.
Due to the implementation of the 30-second shot clock starting this season, games like that are becoming more common across men’s lacrosse in an attempt to speed up the game.
The faster pace of the game allows for both teams to create more transition opportunities.
“We had at least eight or nine transition opportunities from defense to offense from the quick whistles off the end line and the sideline, no horns anymore,” attackman Jack Forster said.
The Lions will need to convert their offensive chances and transition opportunities when they meet No. 9 Denver at 1 p.m. Sunday in Jacksonville, Fla. The neutral-site game will be broadcast live on NBC Sports Network.
With less whistles and horns, Tambroni said it’s on the players to make plays now, as there is less coaching involved.
“The game has become much more exciting in our opinion from a fan’s perspective,” Tambroni said.
Last season, Denver was fifth nationally in goals per game, averaging 12.31 goals per game. The Pioneers’ offense got off to a hot start in their season opener, scoring 14 goals against No. 4 Duke.
If the Lions are to keep up with the high-powered Denver offense, the team will have to convert better than 19 percent of its shots Sunday.
“We took a lot of bad shots but we generated a ton of shots,” Tambroni said. “I think you’re going to get more offensive possessions, we just have to do a better job with our shot selection.”
To do that, the team could look to freshman attackman T.J Sanders. After impressing in preseason scrimmages with four goals against Army, Sanders won CAA Freshman of the Week with his four goal, one assist debut against Michigan.
“He’s been wonderful,” Tambroni said. “He is a benefactor of the veteran attack that we have with Forster and Shane Sturgis, but if he has any room and space and time, he has been very good.”
With stoppages in play now limited to end of quarters, timeouts and goals, depth becomes more important for a team. In the opener against Michigan, Penn State had 22 players log minutes. The game has also evolved into teams having to play five or six offensive or defensive midfielders due to a lack of time to make subs.
While the team is focused on the big stage against a top 10 opponent, it knows that with a young team, there’s still some work to be done to improve.
“Myself and the team are very excited to get down there and compete against a top five team,” Forster said. “Right now we’re just focused on ourselves and this week getting better in practice.”