Penn State's Tambroni applies brakes to rising expectations
When Penn State successfully wooed Jeff Tambroni away from Cornell, fans and observers quickly stamped the Nittany Lions as a playoff contender.
Slow down, Tambroni is cautioning.
“I’m smart enough to know that when I was at Cornell, it took so many hands to kind of stir that pot – from the alums to the administration to our strength and conditioning coaches to our assistant coaches to each member of that team – to get to the point where we garnered some success,” he said Thursday. “… I don’t think with just my addition here, all of a sudden we’ve become an instant playoff contender. I think that’s extremely unfair because I know that one man doesn’t have that power – at least I know that I don’t. I just think that in regards to building a team, you’ve got to get everybody on board. … I think we understand that we’ve got a lot of work to do. Anything is possible, but I think we understand and can appreciate how much work it actually takes to be one of the last 16 teams standing.”
Still, Tambroni has the pedigree to turn around Penn State, which has advanced to the NCAA Tournament just twice (2003 and 2005) in 98 years, He compiled a 109-40 record in 10 years with the Big Red and never once had a sub-.500 mark. Tambroni guided Cornell to three Final Fours in the last four seasons, and the school had captured at least a share of the last eight Ivy League titles.
“We certainly don’t want to focus all of our efforts on just winning, but we would like to establish more of a consistency in regards to our results and our efforts – both on and off the field – that will hopefully pay dividends into the future about where we compete in college lacrosse,” Tambroni said. “I think we’re all hopeful that someday, we’ll be considered a team that is competitive year in and year out and is more of a mainstay in the NCAA playoffs, which we realize is going to be an extremely difficult challenge with all the other teams trying to do the same exact thing.”
*The Nittany Lions won just twice in 13 contests last spring, but that doesn’t mean they’re toothless. The attack returns a pair of starters in junior Matthew Mackrides (36 goals and eight assists in 2010) and sophomore Billy Gribbon (23, 8), and sophomore Nick Dolik (21,6) appears poised to join them on the first unit. Add a pair of midfielders in sophomore Kyle VanThof (6, 9) and senior Colton Vosburgh (8, 4), and it’s not far-fetched to think that the offense could lead the way early in the season. “I would say that at this point, we’re a little bit more mature and a little bit further ahead [on offense],” Tambroni said.
*The defense welcomes back a pair of starters in senior Matt Bernier and junior Bill Davis. But Tambroni is leaning towards starting freshman goalkeeper Austin Kaut over senior John Nichols and sophomore Dave Baker, who made all 13 starts last year. “To Austin’s credit, he played well in the fall and started for us in that UMBC scrimmage and played well,” Tambroni said. “It was his first start as a freshman in a fall scrimmage, learning a brand new system. I thought he did well, and I’d say that if I had to project right now who our starter would be, I think it would be fair to say that Austin is probably going to be that guy.”