It wasn’t the gaudy showing we became used to last year, but it was more than enough to get the season started on the right foot.
Top-ranked Penn State dispatched Lafayette 16-9 in its season opener to get the most anticipated lacrosse season in school history underway.
No, the Nittany Lions didn’t score over 20 like many expected -- guess 16 will have to do, I know they spoiled everyone last year -- but Penn State’s best players reminded the lacrosse world why they’re among the best teams in the country. Grant Ament showed everyone he’s healthy coming off of offseason surgery, leading the way with four goals and six assists for a 10 point afternoon. Mac O’Keefe made sure goalies knew he can still shoot with the best of them as he scored six goals and had one more assist.
Gerard Arceri was absolutely dominant at the face-off X going 19-of-21 turning the second and quarters into a session of make-it-take-it for the Nittany Lions. The healthy lead allowed many reserve players to see action, including senior Mitch Schaefer who scored the first goal of his collegiate career.
Now that the campaign is underway, it’s time to realize one fact is going to hang over Panzer Stadium this spring.
A truth that has never hung over the Penn State men’s lacrosse program like this. The simple reality is: if coach Jeff Tambroni and the Nittany Lions don’t end the season hoisting a trophy on Memorial Day Monday as National Champions, the season is going to be viewed by most as a failure.
It’s hard to believe that a program that won its first-ever NCAA Tournament game a year ago is headed into a season with those expectations. But the Nittany Lions, who are ranked No. 1 in the Inside Lacrosse Media Poll, have earned it. A year ago they entered the postseason as the No. 1 overall seed and the prohibitive favorite. Tambroni’s squad made it to the Final Four before being downed by Yale -- the only team that defeated them during the regular season.
For those looking to get into lacrosse, there might not be a more fun team to get you interested in the sport. This squad of Nittany Lions absolutely ripped defenses apart last year and with almost every key contributor back on offense, they’re widely expected to do so again.
Ament and O’Keefe aren’t the only two great pieces on this team, it takes way more than that to be considered the best team in the country headed into the season. However, for Penn Staters looking to give lacrosse fandom a shot, getting to see the best offensive duo in the country every week is the best form of entertainment that there could be. It doesn’t hurt the cause either that they get more possessions per week than almost anyone else thanks to Arceri, an All-American candidate face-off specialist.
Early in the season, it should be mostly smooth sailing for the Nittany Lions. However, one game before the regular season closing five-game Big Ten slate pops off the screen -- a rematch with the same Yale team that knocked the Nittany Lions out of the tournament last season.
The Feb. 22 showdown against the third-ranked Bulldogs in Happy Valley should really tell us a lot about this team. However, next up for the Nittany Lions is a trip to Philly to take on Villanova at 1 p.m. next Saturday