Coming into the season, Penn State coach Jeff Tambroni knew the six-game stretch to start the 2013 campaign would not be easy.
After five close games, the men’s lacrosse team (2-3) will open up its conference slate with a trip to UMass (3-3), Saturday at noon.
While the team is currently on a three-game skid, all three losses have been to top 15 teams and the Lions were either tied or in the lead at some point in the fourth quarter.
Tambroni said he sees the team’s effort in these close games as a positive and that it’s a lot easier to build on losses when the team is showing effort.
“If you can get a great effort, you can build on that as a coach, as a staff, as a team,” Tambroni said. “If the effort is not there, it’s tough to work on any of the other stuff, you need these intangibles.”
With four of the team’s five games decided by three goals or less, the Lions are used to playing in tight situations.
Goalie Austin Kaut said the team has to find a way to improve its play in the fourth quarter. So far, the Lions have been outscored 17-10 in the final frame.
“We have to find a way to put a full game together this year,” Kaut said.
The experience in close games could come in handy, as the Minutemen usually play Penn State tight. Of the team’s 14 meetings, 11 have been decided by two goals or less. The last time Penn State made the trip up to Massachusetts, it was an 8-7 win in 2011.
If the Lions are to stop their skid against struggling UMass, which is unranked after starting the season No. 12, attackman TJ Sanders could be the key.
The true freshman has scored five goals in back-to-back games to emerge on the national scene. Sanders is tied for second in the country with 3.60 goals per game, netting 18 in five.
While the freshman is on a scoring tear, he doesn’t like to take credit for his goals.
“I was just in the right place at the right time,” Sanders said about his five-goal performance against Lehigh on Saturday. “Credit to my teammates for finding me and making the plays happen.”
As the team enters CAA play, the Lions look to build on the positives of last season. The team went 5-1 in conference play with its lone loss being at home in overtime to UMass in its conference opener. While the meeting last season was a loss, it was a turning point for the Lions as they went 6-2 down the stretch.
While the results haven’t been what Tambroni has wanted so far, he believes the team will turn the season around with hard work.
“We wanted to be known as a blue collar type team, a hard working team,” Tambroni said. “The results will follow.”