Lacrosse is often a game of runs. Back-and-forth contests with multiple lead changes can happen on a regular basis. How teams react to them decides many close games. Who comes out on top in those nail biters often comes down to several factors.
A year ago, Penn State was lacking in the areas that often decide back-and-forth thrillers.
In 2017 they won a majority of them, in the spring of 2018 a few slipped away and it cost the Nittany Lions a postseason berth. During their fall practices that included a scrimmage against Virginia that ended 13-13, the Nittany Lions tried to address some of those problems.
“I have to look at myself and say ‘What did we do coming down to the end, schematically.’ So that’s one factor,” coach Jeff Tambroni said. “Individually and then as a staff we need to look at ourselves and ask what we could have done better, and I am directly responsible for that so I think that’d probably be more me.”
However, coaching isn’t ever the sole item that determines a close game. The coaches can put players in positions to succeed, but they have to go out there and do it.
The Nittany Lions had a talented roster last year and definitely feel they underachieved, finishing fifth out of six in the Big Ten and missing both the conference and NCAA Tournaments. However, they were missing a lot of leaders from the 2017 roster.
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“We did have in 2017 a ton of leaders who played significant minutes,” Tambroni said. “Who were very comfortable and very confident in those situations, because we had seen them. Failed in plenty of them but also exceeded in plenty of them.
“Last year we had great leadership off the field, decent leadership on the field. I don’t know if we had as many alpha leaders on the field with that type of experience that were able to make plays within the scheme to put us over the top.”
Looking ahead to 2019, Tambroni feels the Nittany Lions are going to be in a better position to succeed in crunch time. While foresight is impossible almost four months before the season, those difficult moments late in close games will likely determine whether the team hits its goals or not.
“I think if you look at this year our coaching staff has learned a great deal, we do every year,” Tambroni said. “I think we have a great combination of that talent that also has had that experience, in some ways it was experience in a negative because we lost some games but hopefully you can turn some of that adversity into a triumph for success this year.”
Nick Spillane likely headed back to midfield
As was expected, it looks like Nick Spillane will be moving back to the midfield from attackman with Grant Ament coming back in the lineup.
When Ament was hurt last season, Spillane was moved to attack to fill the void. Since Ament’s season sidelined him for the entire season, Spillane was there all spring long. Spillane did an admirable job in his place. He almost always drew the opposing team’s No. 1 defenseman and was a productive offensive player for Penn State.
While not set in stone, it appears Spillane will move back to his original position for the 2019 season, one that Tambroni says he is more comfortable in.
“At this point it is probably in our best interest to move him away,” Tambroni said. “Utilize that same skill set at the midfield. So it gives us someone down below the goal line that can do what they do, which is distribute the ball but also win matchups… Having the luxury of putting Nick up there that will draw some attention away from our attack which we have just not had a lot of the last couple of years.”