Penn State Mens Lacrosse vs. Johns Hopkins, Malone

Attacker TJ Malone (7) tries to pass to a teammate but is blocked by Defenseman Owen McManus (31) during the Penn State Mens Lacrosse game against Johns Hopkins on Saturday, May 1st 2021, at Panzer Stadium in University Park, Pa. The Blue Jays defeated the Nittany Lions 15-7.

Simply put, Penn State had a major letdown year in 2022.

The Nittany Lions finished the season with a record of 3-11 and lost their first matchup of the Big Ten Tournament to finish things off.

However, Penn State will return a lot of key players next year, and nearly half of those 11 losses came by just a goal.

The young squad proved it was able to be competitive with some of the nation’s top teams, even if the result didn’t go its way.

In 2022, many underclassmen were thrown into the fire right away. While things didn’t go as planned, those younger athletes gained valuable experience throughout the year that will come in handy next season.

The Nittany Lions will also return important upperclassmen who will help bring leadership as the squad looks to bring Big Ten titles back to Happy Valley for the first time since 2019.

TJ Malone

One of those upperclassmen returning is TJ Malone, who missed the entire 2022 season and underwent two hip surgeries in May.

Malone led Penn State in points during the 2021 season, adding 25 goals and 18 assists.

The West Chester, Pennsylvania, native has played in every game in his blue and white career, including making 27 starts.

Returning a healthy Malone will be integral for the blue and white to succeed in 2023.

Will Peden

Pairing Malone with rising sophomore Will Peden should bolster the blue and white attack and lead to open shots all over the field for the offense.

Peden can find teammates from any spot on the field, distributing the ball at an elite level.

As a freshman, Peden tallied 22 assists, including 1.57 per game, a mark that was tied for 45th-best in the nation.

With a playstyle similar to Penn State legend Grant Ament, the young attackman continuing to improve his game will play a prime part in his squad reaching the next level.

Jeb Brenfleck

Another younger player to look out for next year is attackman Jeb Brenfleck.

Brenfleck scored 15 goals in 12 games in 2022, including a hat trick against No. 5 Yale that earned him Big Ten Freshman of the Week.

Brenfleck, who did a standout job of creating goals for himself, can play both attack and midfield.

The Philadelphia native’s athleticism and strength allowed for his versatility to shine. He registered 12 ground balls and two caused turnovers during his redshirt freshman campaign.

Mac Costin goal shot

Midfielder Mac Costin (23) takes a shot on goal in Penn State Men's Lacrosse game vs. Maryland at Panzer Field on Sunday Mar. 27, 2022. Maryland would go on to win 18-7.

Mac Costin

Mac Costin is an additional key player to watch on the offensive side of the ball.

Costin is coming off of his best year yet and is poised to make a major impact as a senior.

The rising fourth-year led the Nittany Lions in goals with 20, including a thrilling game-winner in overtime against Michigan.

A quick and shifty dodger with a laser of a shot, Costin could produce at an even higher rate during his senior campaign.

Jack Traynor

Jack Traynor, who is entering his fifth collegiate season, is searching for his second Big Ten title at Penn State.

Traynor had 14 goals and nine assists in 2022 despite missing six games due to injury throughout the year.

If the talented midfielder can stay healthy, look for the Nittany Lion leader to have his best season yet in 2023.

Aleric Fyock

After posting a .507 save percentage in 2022, 45th-best in the nation, goalkeeper Aleric Fyock will battle to remain the team’s starter.

Fyock will need to retain or improve on that save percentage for the squad to have a chance to win the close games. However, if he’s unable to hold things down in net, expect former 5-star Jack Fracyon to step in his place.

With the help of an improved defense, though, watch out for Fyock to show his full skills and gain more national recognition.

Defense

Key defenders such as Sam Sweeney and Pup Buono will look to lead that defensive advancement.

The duo will play a large part in keeping the ball from reaching whoever is in net and putting it in the sticks of the high-powered offense.

Buono tallied 19 ground balls and 10 caused turnovers as a freshman, while Sweeney, a rising senior, picked up 24 ground balls and a goal.

These two and the rest of the athletes mentioned will play an integral role in Penn State’s pursuit of a bounceback year.

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Liam Wichser is an abroad columnist for The Daily Collegian studying in London for the 2023 spring semester. He is a junior majoring in broadcast journalism with a minor in sports studies.