Some break records.
Grant Ament obliterates them.
It’s difficult to pick the highlight of Ament’s spring. The redshirt junior attackman from Doylestown was a unanimous choice for Big Ten Offensive Player of the Year. Ament became the first Penn State finalist for the Tewaaraton Award, given to the national lacrosse player of the year.
“He has that intangible characteristic of a great leader and a field general. That goes a long way in terms of his confidence, and others’ confidence too because he exudes that,” commented Penn State coach Jeff Tambroni. “It becomes very contagious. He is extremely poised with the ball in his stick. His mentality is to create an environment where others are going to be better around him.”
Ament set a new Nittany Lion single-season points record (126), anchored the most prolific offense in the country and guided Penn State to its first Final Four.
“I was lucky enough to get a decent amount of credit for the offense but we had a great mix of players from all over,” Ament deflected.
“Everybody took the pieces they were given when they were younger and we blended it together.
“Coach Tambroni decided to step back this year and let us play however we wanted to. We would get set into a formation and then do what we wanted with that,” Ament continued. “It was always an open conversation around what was working, what wasn’t working and what we think we should do next.”
It is Ament’s superlative help on the attack that truly sticks out. His 96 assists this year vaporized the old NCAA single-season record of 84. For perspective, Ament had more assists than over half of the Division I teams.
“He has a skill set that is elite. And that has come from years of working on his craft,” Tambroni continued. “He has put himself in position to put the ball where it needs to be, when it needs to be at any given point throughout the course of the game.”
Ament was a prep All-American at the Haverford School. Despite a wealth of college options, choosing Tambroni’s Nittany Lions was easy; the Ament family has a slew of Penn State diplomas.
“The thing that jumped off the page for me is how good of a person (Tambroni) was,” Ament recalled. “His mission was not necessarily based off of wins and losses but more based off of what he could do to impact us and make us better people once we left the university.
“My teammates and I wanted to start the writing of a record book,” Ament continued. “To end the season 16-2 is something you can hang your hat on.”
Ament led Penn State in scoring as a freshman and earned an Honorable Mention All-American as a sophomore. A medical redshirt sidelined him in his 2018 junior spring.
Any doubts about missed time were immediately erased in Penn State’s first two games this February. Ament racked up 17 points as the Nittany Lions hung 44 goals in convincing wins over Villanova and Robert Morris. From there, Penn State lost just once in the regular season.
“Everyone has to go through their journey, and that journey is going to include some obstacles and some triumphs,” Tambroni mused. “It’s managing your way through those things that creates the maturity and a preparation for life after college.
“Through it all, I think (Ament) has gained a great perspective. He has always been an elite lacrosse player. But he has actually turned outward and become a better teammate and a better mentor. He has helped others through his experience which,” Tambroni concluded, “is a pretty impressive response to a very difficult time.”
“You go through so much with those guys, not even lacrosse related,” Ament relayed. “We’re practicing August through May five days a week. We have conditioning every Friday morning at 6 a.m. It’s awful, but you go through it together. As you go through these tough moments, that is where you build trust with one another.
“The other thing: We’re always told to go out and have a smile on your face. I think that is one thing with college sports,” Ament continued. “You can get so tied up with who you’re playing, the cameras and whatever it may be that it takes away the enjoyment of it.”
Ament chalks up Penn State’s success to “one, we had faith in each other and two, we had a lot of fun doing it because we became so close.” After pounding UMBC 25-10 and Loyola 21-14 in NCAAs, Penn State landed in Lincoln Financial Field on Memorial Day weekend to combat Yale in the national semifinal. PSU fell 21-17 but Ament, an Eagles fan, could still appreciate the journey.
But Ament is crystal clear about the Final Four: Any heights achieved by the 2019 Penn State lacrosse team are mere stepping stones for further success.
“There is a blank board for us. We haven’t written anything in the 2020 chapter of Penn State lacrosse … yet,” Ament declared. “When I got back from D.C. for the Tewaaraton Ceremony, it was back to the gym, back on the field doing my normal stuff. The biggest step that we’re probably going to need to take is the realization of how much we put in to get to the Final Four weekend. That, and continuing to learn how to play on those big stages.
“We’re all competitive kids so we’re not satisfied with this year,” Ament pointed out. “It is pretty cool being in the conversation now. Penn State never got any love. It’s going to be interesting this summer hearing so many people talk positively about our program.”