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Penn State Men's Lacrosse: Nittany Lions Already In Rarified Air

by on May 21, 2019 3:20 PM

It's difficult to overstate how hard it is to win a national title in men's lacrosse.

In the 47 years the NCAA Tournament has existed there have been 11 teams that have won a national title, between Syracuse, John's Hopkins and Princeton those programs account for just over half of all titles won. [For comparison, since 2000 nearly a dozen different teams have won a national title in college football]

Even making the title game can be a challenge, 16 different teams have had that honor, the likes of Maryland making it 14 times but only winning the game itself on three occasions.

The good news for Penn State, that tide is slowly turning.

Since 2010 four new programs have won their first national title with Duke, Denver, Loyola and Yale in 2018 all finally making it over the lastl hurdle.

The bad news for the Nittany Lions; they're facing Yale, the defending champs this Saturday and the only team to beat Penn State so far this season.

That road won't get any easier if Penn State makes it to Monday afternoon's national title game. This particular Final Four can account for nine national titles and 91 NCAA tournament game victories. Penn State enters Saturday having won in the tournament just twice.

The fact of the matter though, the Nittany Lions are the favorite to win it all. Experienced or not, new to the room or not, a deep and explosive offense speaks for itself, and so do the results. Penn State might be fairly new to the party, but the Nittany Lions have emphatically earned their invitation.

"We're just excited," coach Jeff Tambroni said on Tuesday. "Our program is just extremely excited to be among such an elite group of lacrosse programs. Just to have been a part of this weekend before as a kid and a coach, we're just looking forward to our opportunity."

The irony is that Penn State's opponent in Yale is perhaps the best example of getting over the hump, a 13-11 win over Duke in 2018 a program first and against a national powerhouse. So the task might be daunting, but it isn't impossible.

Equally true, Penn State's rise has not been a mistake, Tambroni and his staff have continued to grow the Nittany Lion program into what it is today. Every title season needs its fair share of good bounces, but Penn State will take the field two wins from a national title knowing that it will have not gotten this far by mistake. This success was not an accident, even if it was hard and required a lot of losing along the way.

"First and foremost I just think it has been a process," Tambroni added. "It certainly didn't happen over night, the evolution of a lot of time and a lot effort. And I think the second piece that is extremely important is just that we've had so many different helping hands through the course of the last nine years that have allowed this to happen. our players and alumni, coaches and administration. It has been an all hands on kind of experience and process."

"We truly believed that believed that if we took small steps and did it the right way and built culture first and then team second, that we would have a chance some day to have a chance and be in this conversation."

A new challenges faces Penn State, less so on the field but between the ears. Going up against the moment is sometimes the biggest opponent of a national title weekend. 

And the answer to that problem is the same it has been each of the many steps this program has taken over the last nine years and each game on Penn State's postseason run.

The message to the team is simple and constant. One that has worked well so far.

"Just got out there and be themselves."



Ben Jones covers Penn State football and basketball for StateCollege.com. He's on Twitter as @Ben_Jones88.
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