Editors Note: Penn State Lax Club President Jake Purzak provided the NCLL with a recap of fall ball and a quick look at what they expect in 2020.
It has been half a decade since Penn State has been NCLL Division I Champions; five long years since the Frederick Cup has last visited Happy Valley. The Nittany Lions came close last season in reaching the Elite Eight, but a conflict with graduation occurring on the same weekend as the playoffs sidelined many of the team’s upper-class leaders.
“Last year’s loss really hurt us,” said Coach Grant Swisher. “We felt we were one of the better teams in the league, but with graduation falling on the same dates of championship weekend, our potential was very limited with a short roster in the Elite Eight.”
The Nittany Lions are determined to do what last season’s team was unable to. An extremely promising fall ball season gives senior president and defenseman Jake Purzak hope that Penn State will go deep in the spring of 2020. “I was excited to see this fall how well our close defensemen and LSM’s played,” said Purzak. “Many of them are returning starters and with this new year of experience, they should be ready to make a run in May.”
Purzak also noted how the younger players became acclimated to high-value roles on the team.
“It was great to see some of the rookies step up in big ways this fall. Robert Esgro, who is a new freshman goalie from The Haverford School, is taking over as the starter this season. He fits in really well as a leader with the defense and the team in general.”
Jon Seagers, senior president and midfielder from Lancaster, shares a similar optimism for the chemistry in personnel.
“This fall, we showed that our individual play and talent on offense is really strong, as well as our ability to create for ourselves,” said Seagers. “We have promising attackmen in Colin Cahill, Brian Shobaken and Ryan McDermott working well alongside our talented sophomore duo from Seton Hall Prep.”
Senior attackman Cahill secured recognition as the Nittany Lions’ leading scorer this fall with seventeen goals.
“I’m optimistic because we have a really talented roster and we definitely got better as the fall season went on and we got to play together more,” said Cahill, a LaSalle College High School product. “We played some really good teams over the fall and hung in there with all of them.”
Jon Seagers added that with all the success the Nittany Lions enjoyed this fall, there are still areas for improvement.
“We need to focus more on ball movement and creating off ball opportunities,” Seagers said. ”We plan on coming back in the spring in better shape and relying heavily on our chemistry of the veteran starters while depending on our younger players to act as spark plugs when the game plan is not progressing the way we had hoped.”
Coach Swisher agrees. “During the off-season, we’re going to work on improving our practices and game prep. I also will be trying my hardest to encourage players to stay in shape and enhance their lacrosse skills by holding more preseason workouts. The fall season showed that the raw talent is all here, more than it has in a long time, and I’m confident that we have all the pieces and depth to go the distance this season.
The Nittany Lions will enter a two-month off-season before beginning preseason work in January 2020.