February 16, 2012

MD1 Notebook: Penn State Has Growing Up To Do

by Gary Lambrecht | LaxMagazine.com

Penn State sophomore goalie Austin Kaut said he will need to adjust after a spectacular rookie campaign. "No one really had any film on me to scout my weaknesses," he said.
© John Strohsacker/LaxPhotos.com

Head coach Jeff Tambroni clearly got the Penn State men's lacrosse program moving in the desired direction in 2011. The Nittany Lions finished 7-7 in Tambroni's first season in State College, a year after bottoming out at 2-11.

Year Two of the Tambroni era has just begun to play out, but one facet of the young season seems clear. The Nittany Lions will go as the young kids go.

Six starters in Penn State's season-opening, 14-10 loss to North Carolina at the Southern Showdown were either freshmen or sophomores. The Nittany Lions are carrying just five seniors on their 2012 roster.

"We definitely need to grow up," Tambroni said. "If you're going to play as many young guys as we will this year, things are not going to go well if they're not getting the proper guidance from the older guys. Our seniors are giving us great leadership."

The most notable senior is Matt Mackrides, the attackman-turned-midfielder who is probably Penn State's best athlete. Working from the wing against the Tar Heels, Mackrides scored two goals.

If Penn State makes a move upward in the Colonial Athletic Association, it will come down to how well promising young players progress, such as sophomore attackman Shane Sturgis, freshmen defenseman J.P. Burnside and sophomore LSM Steven Bogert.

But the most intriguing question revolves around sophomore goalie Austin Kaut, who is coming off a lights-out freshman year, in which Kaut led the nation in save percentage (64) while allowing 7.9 goals per game.

Kaut (15 saves) kept the Lions in the Carolina game for a while, but Carolina goalie Steven Rastivo (18 saves), a Penn State transfer, gained the upper hand in the second half behind a more explosive offense that kept the ball away from the Lions.

"Last year, coming in as a freshman, I think I had the advantage because no one really had any film on me to scout my weaknesses and my technique," Kaut said.

"Opposing shooters are intelligent, and people will have a better sense of what [Kaut] is doing and how he's doing it," Tambroni said. "He might end up as good or better than he was last year, but it might not show statistically. He's working harder at it. It's pretty rare that he doesn't want to be in the direct line of fire."

Nadelen Comes Full Circle on Friday

Shawn Nadelen, Towson's first-year coach, will complete a career circle of sorts on Friday night, when the 1-0 Tigers visit Homewood Field to take on Johns Hopkins in the Blue Jays' season opener.

Nadelen, a 2001 Hopkins graduate who played for three head coaches there – Tony Seaman in 1998, John Haus in 1999 and 2000 and current Hopkins coach Dave Pietramala in 2001 – was originally recruited by Pietramala when he worked on Seaman's Hopkins staff. Nadelen also replaced Seaman at Towson.

"Coach Petro was a big reason I got into coaching," said Nadelen, who assisted Seaman for seven years at Towson before getting his first head-coaching job. "His passion and blue-collar work ethic and attention to detail echoed a lot of things that I believe in. I knew after that [2001] season I didn't want to go work on Wall Street like a lot of my buddies did. I wanted a challenge like this."

Nadelen inherited quite a challenge. Towson has failed to make the NCAA tournament since 2007, and suffered through four consecutive losing seasons. Besides demanding more ball movement and motion in the offense and more up-tempo play in general, Nadelen has essentially attacked what he perceived as a lackadaisical culture that had developed among Towson players.

The Tigers have been through some hard-driving conditioning sessions under Nadelen. For example, after a fall scrimmage, Nadelen found the locker room too sloppy for his tastes. Early on the following Monday morning, the team ran double-file around the entire campus, calisthenics included.

"The expectations had to increase," Nadelen said. "We had too many guys just happy to be on the team, without understanding what that means. You don't just wear that jersey around town as if to say 'Look, I play for Towson.' You respect the jersey you're wearing, because there are a lot of people who want Towson lacrosse to be successful."

As for the emotions that might accompany Friday's visit to Hopkins, Nadelen quipped, "It might come down to me and Coach Petro going at it in the box."

Early Start to Season

By the time Georgetown opens its season against Maryland on February 25, the Terps will have played their season opener against Hartford. Then again, pretty much every team with the exception of Ivy League schools will have played at least once. Numerous schools have been in action for two weeks.

Delaware, for example, always pushes the envelope when it comes to playing in the cold. On February 25, the Blue Hens will face Mount St. Mary's – their fifth opponent.

"I realize how many coaches are trying to cut down on the mid-week games by starting earlier," Georgetown coach Dave Urick said. "But I just got the memo that states we are now playing a winter sport."

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