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Returning Seniors Key To Penn State Lacrosse 2021 Roster

When the coronavirus forced the cancellation of spring seasons, no team in Happy Valley was better positioned for a championship run than Penn State men’s lacrosse.

With conference play looming, Penn State was in prime position to battle for the Big Ten crown. Although they stumbled against Yale and Cornell, the Nittany Lions were undoubtedly an NCAA contender due to a strong upperclassmen group.

In the aftermath of the season cancellation, star attacker Grant Ament announced his departure from Penn State. With that, many fans assumed other seniors would follow, leaving an inexperienced team for 2021 and beyond.

But then, they came back.

Ament’s attacking partner Mac O’Keefe announced he would return to Penn State for a fifth year. The Syosset, New York native has since been joined by seniors Nick Cardile, Colby Kneese, Gerard Arceri, and TJ Connellan with the intention to return.

“Our staff is thrilled with some of the decisions, but we understand the decision that are being made to move on and begin their professional lives,” coach Jeff Tambroni said.

Playing time will be hard to come by for incoming freshmen and role players with the intention of moving up in the depth chart. Due to Ament’s departure, the most important hole will be finding an attack partner for O’Keefe.

Ament and O’Keefe have combined for 530 points for Penn State and formed one of the most prolific duos in college lacrosse.

O’Keefe has shown that he can take over games by himself, but without good service, the senior may not be as effective next season.

“[O’Keefe is] the best shooter and goalscorer that I’ve ever been around,” Tambroni said. “That is a huge asset to add to the program…He was the first one to come into my office and say ‘Coach, if this happens, I’m coming back.'”

Arceri’s return bodes well at the face-off X. The face-off specialist will ensure that Penn State will see a lot of possession as a result from restarts. On the defensive end, both Cardile and Connellan will lead the line. Cardile led the team in caused turnovers in 2020, and will captain the side again next season.

Arceri had no doubts that he wanted to play once again for the Nittany Lions in 2021.

“A lot of the underclassmen were asking if we were coming back, and the first thing I said was, ‘Yeah, I’ll be back. Don’t you worry,'” Arceri said.

On the defensive end, it was a daunting task for younger opponents to thwart Cardile, Connellan, and goalkeeper Kneese in 2020.

One year later, the three defensive players will be an absolute juggernaut.

It will be a long offseason, and the collegiate lacrosse landscape will look a lot different in January. However, Tambroni should feel confident with his current personnel. While the departure of Ament will surely be felt, the returners are more than capable of a national title campaign.

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About the Author

Otis Lyons

Otis is a sophomore majoring in print journalism and is one of Onward State's associate editors. He lives just north of San Francisco, and is a diehard San Jose Earthquakes fan. Feel free to send over your soccer hot takes to his twitter @otisnlyons1 and instagram @otislyons

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