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World Class Lacrosse is Closer Than You May Know

by on July 21, 2014 6:55 AM

Despite our American focus on football and baseball, it was hard not to get excited watching the world championships.

I'm not talking about World Cup soccer.

I'm talking about last Saturday night's finals between the United States and Canada in the Federation of International Lacrosse (FIL) World Championship.

This year's 10 day tournament and festival in Colorado saw 38 teams including first time entries from Israel and fan favorite, Uganda. The World Lacrosse championship was an international celebration of the fastest growing game in the world. Although Canada ended up taking the gold medal, the USA team dominated the tournament and should be proud to wear their silver medals.

Penn State was represented by alumni men's lacrosse players Drew Adams and Greg Gurenlian on the United States team and Chris Doctor on the Iroquois Nationals team (Bronze medal). Penn State Men's lacrosse head coach Jeff Tambroni was selected to serve as the Offensive Coordinator for the US team.

Over the course of the tournament, I kept picking up the local papers to see how the PSU contingent was doing out in Colorado. In this football crazed town, it wasn't surprising to read that the news that a 16 year old kid committing to play football on Saturdays at Beaver Stadium in 2016 got more press than Penn State lacrosse playing on the international level.

The best of the best in the sport of lacrosse is right here at Penn State and you would never know it by the local news. The buzz about the growing sport of lacrosse and Penn State's bright lacrosse future provides our community something other than football Saturdays to get excited about.

I have never played lacrosse but became a fan when our son played for Centre Lacrosse, the local youth league, and then on a team that was a hybrid of Centre Lacrosse and St. Joe's Catholic High School. It's a fun, fast paced game and the parents that we met during those years are still our good friends.

Summer camps, youth clinics, tailgates and fundraisers and the inevitable smell of sweaty pads and stinky cleats are all part of the fast growing sport. According to US Lacrosse, the number of kids playing lacrosse across the country jumped 3.4 percent from 2013 to 2014. An astounding 60 universities added NCAA lacrosse teams in 2013. What used to be primarily an east coast sport is spreading like wildfire across the country.

We've seen the growth in the numbers locally with teams at State High and Bellefonte. SCAHS girl's lacrosse Coach Mark Mahon had an incredible season and saw several players recognized at the regional level and recruited for collegiate level play. The boys team continues to grow.

I've told the story of the day my teenage daughters and I went to pick up their brother from lacrosse camp at Johns Hopkins. The unassuming guy in the golf cart driving around the camp and who stood with us as we were waiting for the kids to come off the field turned out to be top ranked Johns Hopkins Men's Lacrosse Head Coach Dave Pietramala. When he heard that we were from State College, he said that Penn State Lacrosse is poised for success. He said "your new coach is going to take Penn State lacrosse into the big time."

Back in the days when I was a Centre Lacrosse mom, I had the opportunity to work with coach Tambroni as the team offered to do lacrosse clinics for the community kids. After that first year at PSU lacrosse camp, my kid said "He has a lot of energy."

I've also had the pleasure of having both men and women's lacrosse players in my classes at Penn State. I've been impressed with coach Tambroni and the message that he sends to his program; the focus on academics and the expectations set by the lacrosse program (including woman's coach Missy Doherty) exemplify the "student first" in student-athlete for which Penn State is known.

A Penn State coach, standing on the sidelines at a World Championship in anything is newsworthy.

Formerly head coach at Cornell, Tambroni has a long list of awards, player's awards, players who have gone on to play in the pros and recognition by the lacrosse world. Several of my friends have daughters who played on the Centre Lacrosse U16 girl's team that Chelle Tambroni (wife of the Penn State coach and a former PSU Field Hockey All American) co-coached and that went on to successful post-season play. The Tambronis have three girls and live in State College.

A member of the Penn State community helping a team win a silver medal on the international level is at least worthy of below the fold coverage.

"The world championship was an amazing tournament from all accounts," Tambroni said in an email from Colorado. "First and foremost, it was an honor to represent Team USA. It was also a thrill to see the growth of the game as 38 countries were represented at the games.

"The crowd favorite seemed to be the Uganda squad, newcomers to the tournament, who appeared to have a ton of fun on and off the field. Their addition to the tournament speaks volumes about the game's growth."

Tambroni went on to say "Shifting gears to Penn State, we could not be more excited to enter the Big Ten this fall. The competition will be elite across the board. Our association with other Big Ten schools will also allow our athletes to feel more connected to our current Big Ten rivals in all sports."

Saturday night's World Championship Lacrosse finals provided another opportunity for the Penn State faithful to be Penn State proud. Even if you don't read about it on the sports pages, Penn State lacrosse is on the move.

Come "Fill the Hill" next Spring. You won't regret it.

Patty Kleban is an instructor at Penn State, mother of three and a community volunteer. She is a Penn State Alumna. Readers of State College Magazine voted her Best Writer of 2010 and 2012. She and her family live in Patton Township. Her views and opinions do not necessarily reflect those of Penn State.
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