Men's lacrosse welcomes Rutgers for Senior Day

JP Burnside Credit: GoPSUsports.comAll Rights Reserved.

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. -- The Nittany Lions men's lacrosse team hosts Rutgers for the final home game of the inaugural Big Ten season on Sunday, April 19. ­The 6 p.m. game will be broadcasted on the Big Ten Network with Mike Wolf and Greg Bice on the call.

Penn State (3-8, 0-3 Big Ten) honors its nine seniors before the contest: Pat Manley (Arnold, Md.), Jack Donnelly (Toronto, Ontario), JP Burnside (Garden City, N.Y.), Taylor Stothoff (Sparks, Md.), Michael Richards (Skaneateles, N.Y.), Kyle Baier (Auburn, N.Y.), Kyle Zittel (Eden, N.Y.), Ryan Mullen (Hatboro, Pa.) and undergraduate assistant Bryan Gerrato.

SCOUTING THE SCARLET KNIGHTSRutgers (4-9, 0-3 Big Ten) is coming off of a disappointing loss of its own, leading No. 3 Maryland 4-2 at halftime, but succumbed to a five-goal Terrapin third quarter and eventually fell, 9-8. Face-off specialist Joe Nardella is having an exceptional senior season, ranking third in the NCAA with a 67.4 (192-of-285) winning percentage at the ‘X’. Scott Bieda quarterbacks the Scarlet Knights’ offense, recording a team-best 26 goals and 22 assists for 48 points, and is one of six players on the team with 10-or-more goals. Kris Alleyne has played every minute in net for Rutgers’ Big Ten games, maintaining a 9.36 goals against average alongside a .517 save percentage. The team’s man-up and man-down units rank last in the conference at .257 and .548, respectively. The Nittany Lions trail Rutgers in the teams’ series, 42-20. The teams faced off in 1946 and 1950 before competing every season from 1952 to 2011.

LOOKING BACKPenn State got a lights-out game from Connor Darcey (Wellesley, Mass.) and a four-goal performance by Pat Manley, but suffered an 11-10 double overtime heartbreaking loss at the hands of Johns Hopkins on Saturday.

WHAT A DAYThe Nittany Lions’ battle with Johns Hopkins would not have been possible without career games from Pat Manley and Nick Aponte (West Islip, N.Y.). Manley's four-goal game, all scored in a 12-minute span, was the first outing in his four Penn State seasons with three-or-more goals. Aponte dished out a career-high three assists for a four-point game, matching a career-best performance.

SOPHOMORE SENSATIONSThe Nittany Lions’ sophomore class has been one of the team’s high points this season. Redshirt-sophomores Connor Darcey, Drake Kreinz (Delafield, Wis.) and Matt Florence (Greenwood Village, Colo.) have led Penn State respectively in the cage, at the ‘X’ and in the attacking midfield. Joining Florence’s offensive prowess are true sophomores Mike Sutton (Sewell, N.J.) and Nick Aponte, each maintaining 15-game point streaks. Alongside Florence, Sutton and Aponte, classmate Dan Craig (Sherburne, Ontario) rounds out the team’s top-5 point-getters. Brian Prestreau has played nearly every game in the midfield, while Tyler Chambers’ (Media, Pa.) and Peter Triolo’s (Smithtown, N.Y.) defensive efforts have proved invaluable and Billy Lombardi has provided support at the ‘X’.

SANDERS THE STALWARTSince joining the Nittany Lions as a freshman in 2013, a Colonial Athletic Association Rookie of the Year campaign, TJ Sanders (Orillia, Ontario) has been one of Penn State’s most reliable attackmen. The Orillia, Ontario native is just the third junior Nittany Lion since 2009 to score 100-or-more points (106) behind current Major Lacrosse League players Shane Sturgis (108) and Matt Mackrides (102). Sanders has scored in all but seven games since his debut in the Blue and White, scoring multiple goals in 24 contests, and has netted 20-or-more goals each season in the Blue and White. He is currently seventh in the Big Ten with 1.91 goals per game and 2.82 points per game and ninth with 0.91 assists per game.

SUTTS IN THE BUCKET After an abbreviated freshman season, Mike Sutton has returned for his sophomore campaign with a vengeance. The Sewell, N.J. native is in the midst of a 15-game point streak and this season, he is second on the team with 20 goals and 23 points. His 1.82 goals per game put him eighth in the Big Ten. He has posted five multi-goal games after three in 2014, and scored his first career hat trick at Maryland.

SAVED!Connor Darcey has been a stalwart in the cage this season, his first as a starter. The redshirt sophomore has made double-digit saves in eight of the Nittany Lions’ 11 contests. In Penn State’s game at Harvard, Darcey made 18 saves, the most for a Nittany Lion since 2012 and the highest number on the day for a Big Ten goalie. In his first collegiate start, against Vermont, Darcey made 15 saves en route to his first collegiate win. His efforts earned him the first-ever Big Ten Defensive Player of the Week award. Currently, Darcey ranks second in the Big Ten with 12.27 saves per game, which is eighth nationally.

GOING WITH THE FLOMatt Florence has made an immediate impact since transferring to Penn State this year. He has recorded a point in seven games this season, amassing 17 points in nine games played. He had a four-goal outing against Penn and scored a hat trick and added two assists in the season opener against Vermont, the first three-goal performance in a Penn State debut since 2002. He also scored the game’s first goal at Loyola and added additional assists against the Greyhounds and at Villanova.

ONE OF THE DAY’S FINESTIn the midst of Penn State’s fourth quarter four-goal run against Ohio State on March 29, Dan Craig scored a goal that had jaws dropping and the commentators in shock. TJ Sanders put a shot on net and after a Buckeye attempted to pick up the rebound, Craig scooped up the ball behind his back and whipped a horizontal shot behind him into the top right corner of the net. The play was outstanding enough to garner No. 7 on that night’s ESPN SportsCenter Top 10 plays. It wasn’t the first time this season the Shelburne, Ontario native scored a highlight reel goal. At UMass, Craig retrieved a pass from Sanders in front of the crease, spun around and got off the shot through traffic.NATIONAL PRIDEAssociate head coach Peter Toner was tabbed as an assistant coach for the 2016 U.S. Men’s National Under-19 team. Toner will work under the head coach Nick Myers, who currently serves at the helm of Ohio State’s men’s lacrosse program. With the announcement, Penn State’s three coaches have all served on the coaching staffs of a national team. Head coach Jeff Tambroni was an assistant for the 2014 U.S. men’s senior team, and assistant coach Chris Doctor served in the same capacity for the Iroquois Nationals at the 2014 FIL World Championship.

FAMILY TIESPenn State Lacrosse’s expansive 101-year alumni base is bound to produce a few connections among current Nittany Lions, and this year’s team is no exception. Matt Florence’s father Tom was a goalie at Penn State from 1982-85. J.J. Pearl, who ranks fifth in career saves (557 from 1989-92), is freshman goalie Hunter Pearl’s (Reistertown, Md.) father.

RICHARDS DRAFTED IN MLLMichael Richards (Skaneateles, N.Y.) was tabbed 45th overall in the 2015 Major League Lacrosse (MLL) Collegiate Draft by the Denver Outlaws on Jan. 23 in Baltimore. Richards joins Shane Sturgis (New York Lizards) and Tom LaCrosse (Ohio Machine), both of whom exhausted eligibility in 2014 and were picked in the 2015 Supplemental Draft, as selections by one of the MLL’s eight teams in the U.S.A. and Canada. Richards appeared in all of the Nittany Lions’ contests last season, making 10 starts in the midfield. The 2014 Academic All-Big Ten honoree recorded six points, collected 20 ground balls and caused four turnovers.

ZITTEL NAMED TEAM CAPTAIN Senior Kyle Zittel (Eden, N.Y.) was named the 2015 Penn State’s men’s lacrosse team captain, the program’s first solo team captain since 1978. A defensive midfielder, Zittel played in all 13 games for the Nittany Lions, picking up a career-best 11 ground balls and causing four turnovers. Zittel, an Eden, N.Y. native, also excels in the classroom. The science major has a cumulative 3.5 grade point average and earned a 4.0 grade point average during the fall 2013 semester. After graduation, he intends to enroll in medical school.

TAMBRONI IN HIS FIFTH SEASONGuiding the Nittany Lions through the inaugural season of Big Ten Lacrosse, Jeff Tambroni is in his fifth season as Penn State’s head coach in 2015. With a 35-24 record, Tambroni has guided his Nittany Lion teams to .500-or-better records in each of his four seasons at the helm.

Last Updated April 17, 2015