Rules of the Game
Collegiate men’s lacrosse is a spring team sport that can be played both indoors and outdoors; Penn State’s lacrosse team plays at the new Penn State Lacrosse Field (opened for the 2012 season), or in Holuba Hall due to inclement weather. Outdoor fields are 110 yards long and 60 yards wide. A goal that is six feet long, six feet high with a net backing is placed 15 yards from each end line. The field is divided into three zones: a midfield area that is 40 yards long, and two attack/defensive areas that are each 35 yards long on either side of the midfield area.
The object of the game is to move a round ball (7 ¾ - 8 inches circumference) into the opponent’s goal. Players may carry, throw, or bat the ball with a stick with a netted pouch on its end, referred to as a crosse; players may also may roll or kick the ball. A maximum of four players (not counting the goalkeeper) may use a long-stick, with a length of between 52 and 72 inches. All other players must use crosses with a length of between 40 and 42 inches; the goalkeeper’s crosse may be between 40 and 72 inches long. Each team is allowed a maximum of ten players (including the goalkeeper), but teams may lose a player for up to three minutes due to a penalty.
A regulation game lasts 60 minutes, divided into four 15 minute quarters. Sudden-victory (first goal wins) overtime periods of four minutes are played as needed. When the ball is in play, a team must at all times have a minimum of three players inside its offensive half of the field, and four players (not counting the goalkeeper) inside its defensive half of the field.
Lacrosse is a physically punishing sport. A player may hit (check) any opponent who either has possession of the ball or is within five yards of the ball with his body or stick. Body checks must be made from the front or side, and above the waist but below the neck. Stick checks may be made from behind as well as from the front and sides. Players may be penalized for excessively violent play; personal fouls are called due to illegal or extreme physical play or unsportsmanlike conduct. They result in penalties of from one to three minutes, during which time the offending player leaves the field and his team plays shorthanded. . A player is expelled from the game after committing five personal fouls. Technical fouls, involving non-violent rules violations (such as holding, illegal screening, and goalkeeper interference) may result in either a 30 second penalty or forfeiture of ball possession
Penn State Men’s Lacrosse History
The Penn State men’s lacrosse team began varsity competition in 1913 under coach Walter Farley, winning its first game against Penn and then tying the Bronx Lacrosse Club. Including Farley, six different coaches led the Nittany Lions through 1934 (the 1918 season was cancelled due to the influenza epidemic). None coached for more than six years, or compiled an overall winning record, and the team had only six winning records in that time span. Andy Shaner and Hap Frank were Penn State’s first All-Americans (2nd and 3rd team, respectively).
In 1935, Nick Thiel became head coach, remaining in that position for 22 seasons. In 1936, Penn State became a charter member of the United States Intercollegiate Lacrosse Association (USILA), the current organization governing collegiate lacrosse. Current head coach Glenn Thiel is Nick’s son, and has overtaken his father with 30 seasons under his belt at Penn State. In between the tenures of the two Thiels, Dick Pencek coached for 14 of the 21 seasons, becoming the first head coach with a winning record at Penn State. Pencek’s best team was in 1975, winning nine games while losing only two, and the following year his squad won seven games and lost two.
The younger Thiel (Penn State class of 1966) coached the University of Virginia to the 1970 USILA national championship and the 1972 NCAA championship in his eight seasons at Charlottesville before returning to his alma mater. In 1987, the Nittany Lions won 10 games, the most in school history up to that time. They duplicated this feat in 1989, 1990, and 1996, and won a school record 11 games in 1995. Thiel’s most successful stretch was 1989-1992, when the team won 10, 10, 9, and 9 games, respectively. All told, Penn State teams have finished the season with a top twenty national ranking 17 times, including consecutive rankings from 1990-2003.
In 2000, Penn State joined the Eastern Collegiate Athletic Conference (ECAC) Lacrosse League, which sends its champion to the NCAA Championship Tournament each year, and in 2010 switched to the Colonial Athletic Association (CAA). Beginning with the 2015 season, the Big Ten will support men’s lacrosse and hold a Championship Tournament. Penn State joins Michigan and Ohio State, new Conference members Maryland and Rutgers, and also Johns Hopkins in this competition. (Note: Hopkins will compete as a “sports affiliate member” - it is a not a member for other sports and academic programs. With this accommodation, the Big Ten champion will receive an automatic bid to the National Championship Tournament.)
The 2013 season was the greatest in school history.The team ended with a 12-5 record (a school record for victories), won a PSU record 10 consecutive matches), attained its highest national ranking ever during the season (8th), and played in the National Championship Tournament (losing in the first round 11-10 to Yale). The Nittany Lions finished the season ranked 11th in the polls. Along the way, the NIttany Lions won the regular season CAA championship (losing in the final of the CAA Tournament to Towson, 10-7) and Jeff Tambroni was CAA Coach of the Year. Goalie Austin Kaut was a 1st team All-American and also was named National Goalkeeper of the Year; he was a 1st team All-CAA, and was named CAA Player and Defensive Player of the Year. T. J. Sanders was the unanimous choice as CAA Freshman of the Year.
The 2017 season ended as arguably the best in Penn State history up to that time. The team was ranked #1 during the season, it’s first ever place atop the rankings. The Lions finished the season with a 12-4 record, losing to eventual national champion Maryland 8-6 in the 1st round of the Big Ten Tournament, and then to eventual final-four participant Towson 12-8 in the 1st round of the NCAA Tournament. The 12 wins tied for the most in school history, and Penn State’s 10th place final ranking was the highest ever for the Lions.
The 2019 season was one for the ages. The Nittany Lions were ranked 1st nationally for most of the season and finished with a 16-2 record (5-0 in the Big Ten). They won their first Big Ten Tournament title, their first NCAA Championship Tournament game (25-10 vs. UMBC), then defeated Loyola (MD) to advance to the final four. In the national semi-final game, Penn State lost to Yale 21-17; ironically, the Lions suffered their only other loss to Yale (during the regular season, 14-13). The 16 wins was the most in Penn State history, and the team also scored 323 goals, shattering their previous best of 221.
Jeff Tambroni was named Big Ten Coach of the Year, Chris Sabia was the Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year, and Grant Ament was unanimously selected as the Offensive Player of the Year. Mac O’Keefe set a Penn State and Big Ten record with 78 goals scored. Sabia, Ament, and O’Keefe were named to the All-Big Ten 1st Team, and Sabia and Ament also were 1st Team All-Americans.
Ament’s season was incomparable – he set an NCAA record for assists in a season with 96 (the previous record was 77!!!!). As a result, he was a finalist for the Tewaarton Award (given to the nation’s best player) and won the Jack Turnbull Award (nation’s most outstanding attackman).
Several Penn State football players have also played lacrosse for the Nittany Lions. The most notable are Harry “Lighthorse Harry” Wilson (midfield, 1923 honorable mention All-American), Joe Drazenovich (defense, 1950 honorable mention All-American), Rich Mauti (midfield, 1975-1977 All-American, including 2nd team in 1976), and Rich Caravella (goalie, 1976 North-South All-Star Game Most Valuable Player).
NCAA Tournament Appearances
2003, 2005, 2013, 2017, 2019
USILA Top 20 National Ranking
1981 (12th), 1990 (16th), 1991 (14th), 1992 (16th), 1993 (19th),1994 (17th), 1995 (13th), 1996 (18th), 1997 (13th), 1998 (15th), 1999 (12th), 2000 (20th), 2001 (15th),2002 (13th), 2003 (11th), 2005 (11th), 2006 (16th), 2013 (11th), 2014 (17th), 2017 (10th) 2018 (20th), 2019 (3rd)
Big Ten Regular Season Championship
Big Ten Tournament Championship
George Ritter - D (1938, `939, 1940)
1938-1940 All-American (1940 1st Team)
1940 North-South All-Star Game
Rich Mauti – M (1975, 1976, 1977)
1975-1977 All-American (1976 2nd team)
1977 North-South All-Star Game
Drew Adams – G (2006-08)
2006-2008 ECAC Goalie of the Yr/All-ECAC
3-time honorable mention All-American
2009 North-South All-Star Game
Austin Kaut – G (2011-14)
2011-14 1st team All-CAA
2011 CAA Rookie of the Year
2013 CAA Player of the Year
2013, 2014 CAA Defensive player of the Year
2012-14 All-American (1st team 2013)
2013 Kelly Award – National Goalie of the Year
2014 USILA Scholar All-American
Chris Sabia- D (2016-2019)
2017-18 All-Big Ten 2nd team, Honorable Mention All-American
2019 1st Team All-American and All-Big Ten
2019 Big Ten Defensive Player of the year
Nick Thiel (1935-1956) 87-109
45 All-Americans (33 honorable mention)
1965 inductee in Lacrosse Hall of Fame
1945, 1947 USILA Man of the Year
20 North-South All-Star Game selections
Dick Pencek (1962, 1965-1977) 70-68-2
10 All-Americans (8 honorable mention)
10 North-South All-Star Game Selections
Glenn Thiel (1978-2010) 236-186
2 NCAA Tournament appearances
17 top 20 USILA rankings
31 All-Americans (27 honorable mention)
30 North-South All-Star Game selections
2005 ECAC Coach of the Year
1970 USILA Co-National Champions (Virginia)
1972 NCAA National Champions (Virginia)
1996 Inductee Virginia Lacrosse Hall of Fame
Jeff Tambroni (2011-present) 84-52
CAA Coach of the Year (2011, 2013)
CAA regular season championship (2013)
Big Ten Coach of the Year (2019)
1st NCAA Tourney victory and final 4 (2019)
1st Team All-American – George Ritter – M (1940); Austin Kaut – G (2013), Grant Ament (2019); Chris Sabia (2019)
National Goalkeeper of the Year – Austin Kaut (2013)
CAA Player of the Year – Austin Kaut – G (2013)
CAA Defensive Player of the Year – Austin Kaut – G (2013, 2014)
ECAC Goalie of the Year – Drew Adams – G (2006, 2007, 2008)
ECAC Rookie of the Year – Drew Adams – G (2006);
CAA Rookie of the Year – Austin Kaut – G (2011); T. J. Sanders A (2013) Big Ten Specialist of the Year – Gerard Arceri (2018)
Big Ten Offensive Player of the Year – Grant Ament (2019)
Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year – Chris Sabia (2019)
1st Team All-CAA – Steven Bogert – D (2013); Jack Forster – A (2013); Danny Henneghan M (2013); Austin Kaut – G (2011-2014); Tom LaCrosse – M (2013); Matt Mackrides – A (2010, 2011, 2012); Ryan McGarvey – D (2012); Tyler Travis – D (2013); Shane Sturgis – A (2014)
1st Team All-ECAC – Drew Adams – G (2006, 2007, 2008); Pat Heim – D (2005, 2006, 2007); Chris Hogan – A (2009); Matt O’Malley – D (2004); Dan Saltsman – D (2006, 2007); Jesse Tarr – D (2005); Nate Whitaker – A (200;: 2005, 2006); Matt Zappia – D (2003)
1st Team All-Big 10 – Nick Aponte (2016), 2017; Grant Ament (2017) Gerard Arceri (2018); Mac O’Keefe (2018); Grant Ament (2019); Mac O'keefe (2019); Chris Sabia (2019)
All-Americans – 143 selections, including 104 Honorable Mention
North-South All-Star Game Participants – 73, including 1999 Most Valuable Player John Chescavage (A)
U. S. Intercollegiate Lacrosse Association Scholar All-American – Matt Mackrides (2012); Nick Dolik (2013); Austin Kaut (2014), T. J. Sanders (2016), Nick Aponte (2017), and 5 others
National Team Members (U.S. unless otherwise noted) – Drew Adams (2014); Greg Gurenlien (2014); Matt Sexton (England, 2014)