By Michael Renahan, GoPSUsports.com Student Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa - On a day where returning players took over against Penn, Penn State showed that although they are young and that they have the firepower every team searches for.
With a roster of 16 sophomores and freshmen, and only three seniors, the inexperience is there. However, no one would guess that after watching the Nittany Lions take on the Quakers in Saturday's exhibition match.
Penn State returned five of their top six scorers from last season including Molly Fernandez, Mackenzie Cyr and Maggie McCormick. The young Nittany Lions have a strong nucleus that makes the team strong, and head coach Missy Doherty loves.
Fernandez, the senior attacker, is returning after leading the team in goals last year. McCormick, also an attacker, led the Nittany Lions in points last season and looks to continue her success in 2013.
Mackenzie Cyr finished second in points as a sophomore and emerged as an outstanding attacker under Doherty. Sophomore Tatum Coffey was named a pre-season all American after a stellar freshman season, which included 34 goals.
Kelly Lechner quietly had 20 goals in her freshman season, and looks to build on that in 2013.
When the team took the field Saturday to take on Penn, it was no surprise where the offense came from for the Nittany Lions.
Penn State got four goals from Fernandez, three from McCormick and two from both Lechner and Cyr. Midfielders Haley Ford and Coffey both added a tally in the contest.
The offense, which seemed to be in sync throughout the match, helped a defense still getting their feet set.
"I think we want to look even more awesome than that. We tend to be a very feedy team, we like to assist a lot, and we have to start opening up some drives for the people that are great challengers on our team," Doherty said.
As the Nittany Lions start their 2013 season this Wednesday, it's important to look at the conference in which they play.
The American Lacrosse Conference currently has five teams ranked in the top 20, including Penn State at No. 10.
Along with Penn State, Northwestern and Florida both start their respective seasons in the top 10. Northwestern is the top team in the country at No. 1, and Florida comes in at No. 3.
The Lions will play both this season. They travel to Northwestern (April 5) and take on Florida (March 30) at home.
Along with the Nittany Lions, Gators and Wildcats, the Ohio State Buckeyes are ranked in the top 20 at No. 13, and the Johns Hopkins Blue Jays are ranked at No. 19.
The Nittany Lions advanced to the NCAA quarterfinals last year before losing to Florida. They finished with a 12-7 record overall, and a 3-2 record in the ALC for a third place finish.
The conference has been well decorated accounting for seven NCAA titles and 98 All-Americans.
Penn State starts off conference play on March 17, when Vanderbilt visits University Park.
The Nittany Lions beat Vanderbilt, 12-11, last season in an overtime thriller. The Commodores finished 2012 with a record of 8-8, and 1-4 in conference play. The team lost their top five point scorers after 2012, and enters this season unranked. Penn State has won the last two matchups between these teams.
After Vanderbilt, The Florida Gators are in town for a top ten showdown. The Nittany Lions lost to Florida twice last season, including a 15-2 defeat in the NCAA quarterfinals. The Gators have already begun regular season play starting 3-0 for the first time in program history. Penn State will look to beat Florida for the first time since Missy Doherty became head coach.
Conference foe Northwestern won the national championship for the second season in a row. The Wildcats have won seven championships since 2005. Penn State will visit the Wildcats on April 5. The Lions last beat Northwestern in 2003 and the Wildcats have won their first two games in 2013, beating USC and Massachusetts.
The Nittany Lions take on Ohio State on April 14 for their fourth conference match of the season. Penn State has had success against the Buckeyes winning their last four matchups. The Buckeyes started 2013 with a loss to Louisville.
Penn State closes out their 2013 conference scheduled against Johns Hopkins, who enters this season ranked at 19. The Blue Jays beat Penn State in the first round of the conference championship last season, 13-12.
The American Lacrosse Conference has been referred to as one of the toughest in the nation. With perennial powerhouses like Florida and Northwestern, Penn State has its work cut out for it.
The Nittany Lions are young, but talented, and understand what it means to play in the American Lacrosse Conference.
"When it gets to NCAA time, thankfully, we will have been playing against the top teams of the country, so it's not like were going in wondering what the competition will be like," Doherty said.
The conference does bring out the best in each team. Senior attacker Molly Fernandez recognizes that playing the best in the nation prepares you for the postseason and NCAAs.
"It just gets us a little bit more prepared for the post season, and it's always great to play the best there is out there, and fortunately we have that with our conference so it's a great thing to have," Fernandez said.
The Nittany Lions face their first conference opponent on March 17, when they welcome Vanderbilt.
Veteran Experience Shines in Exhibition as Lions Eye Season
By Michael Renahan, GoPSUsports.com Student Writer
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