UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. (WTAJ) — After reaching the NCAA semi-finals in 2019, Penn State Men’s Lacrosse hit a wall and last years team won just three games. Resiliency though is one of the teams best qualities. In 2019 the Nittany Lions were 16-1 heading into the final four and were the favorites before losing 21-17 to Yale.
“Riding that journey to the Final Four are pretty much free loading just because we didn’t have to do too much. All the work was already done,” said senior T.J. Malone. “Going through a couple of losing seasons, we, we realized that it’s not as easy as those guys in 2019 made it seem like and we kind of tried to build back and try to build back to, to get to that spot again.”
While the loss to Yale was difficult, nothing compared to the years that have followed. Penn State won just 11 games the previous two seasons, which is a low point that T.J. Malone knows too well. Malone played a big role on the 2019 squad, scoring 30 goals as a freshman. However, injuries marred the next three seasons and Malone missed all of last year.
“It’s something that he has loved to play his whole life and to see it taken away at that level for about a year and a half,” said head coach Jeff Tambroni. “And he was going through injury and surgery and then our recovery. It was tough. It was tough on him.
Malone bounced back this season. His career high 33 goals led the Nittany Lions and was named the Big Ten’s Offensive Player Of The Year.
“To have him back on the team and to have him back leading this team, you know, you don’t need any other reason or any other direction to point to that, TJ, about why this team is so resilient, why this team believes it can win every time we step on the field.”
Malone is one of five seniors still on the Penn State roster who played on the 2019 squad, a core that exemplifies head coach Jeff Tambroni’s motto of leaving something better than when you found it.
“I think each and every class that comes through here does something. They leave something behind that you hope is just a little bit better or some way improved in our program in this group of seniors, those five in particular. But the other seniors as well have done a terrific job of bringing more of a championship mindset in.”
The Nittany Lions opponent in the semi-finals will be Duke on Saturday.