Ever since the day Jeff Tamrboni left Cornell to take over as the coach at Penn State, there was no doubt the Nittany Lions lacrosse program would be back in the lacrosse pack before we knew it. Did I think it would be this quick? Not exactly.
Penn State went 2-11 in 2010. They scored 9.5 goals a game and gave up almost 13 per game. Their goalie, Dave Baker, was only stopping 45 percent of the shots he faced.
Then, Tambroni and his regime stepped in. He turned Penn State into a contender week-in and week-out. With the overtime loss last night to UMass, Penn State finished 2011 with a 7-7 record and a giant step in the right direction.
Their leading scorer is freshman Shane Sturgis, who scored 18 goals and finished with 34 points. Tambroni returns his top three scorers, two of which will be seniors and will bring much needed veteran experience.
Goalie Austin Kaut stopped 63 percent of the shots he faced in 2011 and he is only a freshman. And we wonder why they are "Happy" in Happy Valley.
Here is a quote Tambroni said about his Cornell Big Red squad in 2005, just as they were on the verge of becoming the elite team they are today. Sound familar to his 2011 team? I'd say so.
"They're one or two goals shy of being a playoff team and a top-10 team, and I think we understand that."
In the THUNDERDOME! (CAA) semi-finals last night, Hofstra and Penn State went down:
UMass 10, Penn St 9 (OT) -- That freshman Kaut, yeah, he made 20 saves in his first CAA tournament. Be scared, future CAA.
Delaware 10, Hofstra 9 -- Junior Grant Kaleikau had five assists on the night. The 10-6 Blue Hens needed this victory over UMass to get into the tournament.
So Saturday night we see the 10-4 and 16th-ranked UMass Minutemen take on the Blue Hens of Delaware for the THUNDERDOME! crown and an invite to the 2011 NCAA Tournament. Both teams could really use this win for their resume, and Delaware NEEDS this win to get into the tournament.
With the savvy senior goalie Noah Fossner in goal for the Blue Hens, don't count them out this weekend.