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Alphabetical 2014 NCAA D1 Preview: Penn State

The NCAA D1 season is now underway! During the first couple of weeks of lacrosse season we’ll be finishing up the Alphabetical 2014 NCAA D1 Previews! Like last year, we are going through all of the D1 men’s teams for 2014 (there are 67 this year!) and we are now moving on to the Penn State Nittany Lions, located in University Park, PA.

PSU went 2-11 in 2010. Jeff Tambroni took over in 2011 and the team went 7-7 in his first year as Head Coach. The record was upped to 9-6 in 2012, and 12-5 in 2013. The Nittany Lions are on the rise and a definite team to watch in 2014. Drew Adams likes Penn State to take home the hardware this year… do they have the squad to get it done?

Penn State plays their final year in the Colonial this year, but because they are leaving the conference for the Big Ten next year, the CAA decided Penn State can’t take the AQ this year. That means they will need to make the NCAAs via an at-large bid. That makes their schedule extremely important from minute 1. PSU will face five good CAA teams, Michigan, Notre Dame, Denver, Loyola, Ohio State, Dartmouth, Albany, and Villanova. There are only 3-5 games I see as “easy” wins. Penn State has their work cut out for them, but if they win games, the strong strength of schedule will do wonders.

Penn State’s success this year starts in the cage with Austin Kaut. Kaut has been the backbone of the PSU defense for a couple seasons now, and is widely viewed as the top keeper in the country. With Sparky in net, PSU starts off strong. Add in an experienced D, and this becomes a really dangerous unit. JP Burnside, Steven Bogert, and Tyler Travis started every game last year. Jack Donnelly started 14 games. Kessler Brown and James Burke also saw a lot of time last year. All six of these guys return, giving PSU one of the more experienced defensive units in the nation.

While the D is rock solid, PSU does have some holes to fill. Danny Henneghan won just over 57% of his face offs last year, and took the majority of the team’s draws. With Henneghan gone, the team only has 10 draws of experience from last year returning. When Henneghan wasn’t dominating PSU often sent a pole out. Will we see Kessler Brown and Ryan Sternberg take more LSM draws this year? Probably not. Cole Yeager is on the roster and although he was injured last year for Yale, he played for the Bulldogs in 2012 and won just under 65% of his 216 draws. Looks like that supposed hole has been filled with a grad student! Great pick up for PSU.

Offensively, PSU is also looking solid. Jack Forster and Nick Dolik are gone, but TJ Sanders, Shane Sturgis, Tom Lacrosse, Kyle VanThof, Kyle Zittel, and Gavin Ahern all return. Sanders and Sturgis will lead the attack and Lacrosse will continue to impress from the midfield. Pat Manley is also back after a good freshman season, and the staff should step his presence up this year. Erik Myers is another guy who could add a lot to the offensive group this year. PSU’s midfield won’t blow you away with their size, but they have speed and plenty of it.

When it comes to major pieces, PSU seems really well set up. Goalie, defenders, attackers, midfielders, and even specialty players… there is no glaring hole for Penn State. Coming off a 12-5 record in 2013 PSU will not sneak up on anyone. But with the talent they have in hand, do they need to?

For more NCAA D1 Lacrosse coverage, check out Alphabetical 2013 NCAA D1 Preview: Air ForceAlbanyArmyBellarmineBinghamtonBostonBrownBryantBucknellCanisius,
Colgate,  CornellDartmouthDelawareDetroitDrexelDukeFairfieldFurman,
GeorgetownHartfordHarvardHigh PointHobartHofstraHoly CrossJacksonvilleJohns_HopkinsLafayetteLehighLoyolaManhattanMaristMarquette,
MarylandMassachusettsMercerMichiganMonmouthNavyNorth Carolina,
Notre Dame, Ohio State, and Penn.