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Nittany Lions Head to Princeton

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By Michael Renahan, Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - The Penn State Nittany Lions look to wrap up the 2013 regular season with a win on the road against the Princeton Tigers, Saturday in New Jersey.

The Nittany Lions enter the game riding a four-game winning streak, outs-coring their opponents 64-39. The team has been on a tear since starting the season 4-3. In their last eight games, the Nittany Lions have gone 7-1, and they now have their highest ranking of the season at No. 6.

8515759 (1).jpeg"Well I mean I think we're just continuing to try to get better," said head coach Missy Doherty. "There are certain aspects of our game, seeing in the Hopkins game that we had to improve on. We've been working hard to do that this week. There comes a point where the season is in the player's hands and we try to prepare them as best we can and make game adjustment if we need to, but, you know, it comes to a point where our success right now is all on how the player's intensity and how they come out to play."

Although the Tigers have been struggling, dropping two of their last four, the Nittany Lions know to not overlook Princeton. The Tigers welcome the Nittany Lions in dire need of a win to help their NCAA hopes. The two teams have battled it out in Doherty's first two years. Princeton won both games, including an overtime heartbreaker in Happy Valley last season.

"Princeton has been sort of a thorn in our side the past two years," Doherty said. "We've had some good seasons and, you know, we come off an emotional ALC conference regular season and, you know, we have to be ready for this game. This game means a lot to us as far as closing out the season the way we should. We've fought in a lot of hard games this year and I think that really prepares us for a game like Princeton, because it will be really similar to a lot of our close contested games."

Penn State and Princeton match up well. Both teams have been undefeated at home and played very well against conference foes. Penn State went 4-1 in ALC conference play, while Princeton went 6-1 in Ivy League play. The Nittany Lions have a slight edge in goals per game, but the Tigers have the edge in goals allowed.

The teams have played common opponents this season in Virginia, Maryland, Johns Hopkins, Cornell and Penn (Exhibition). The Nittany Lions went 3-2 against those opponents, while the Tigers went 2-3. Both teams also have seven players on the roster with 15 goals or more in 2013.

The Penn State offense has been superb, scoring 15 goals against Johns Hopkins on Sunday. Mackenzie Cyr, who continued her 22 game point streak with four points on Sunday, along with the rest of the Penn State offensive have their work cut out for them against the Tigers.

Princeton has allowed just 52 goals to their opponents on their home turf, including limiting Johns Hopkins to just seven goals in a 10-7 win.

Much like the Nittany Lions, the Princeton Tigers are led by a sophomore attacker from Maryland. Erin McMunn has 54 points for the Tigers in 2013, including 34 goals on 76 shots. On the other end of the field is Penn State's own sophomore attacker Maggie McCormick, who paces the team with 69 points.

This is Penn State's final game before opening up their ALC conference tournament schedule. Luckily for the Nittany Lions, Princeton plays a very similar style to ALC teams and should help prepare Penn State for tournament play.

"I think pretty much every game has been preparing us to play the best teams. Princeton is one of the best teams out there. It's going to be a challenge to win this game, it's a game Princeton really needs, and for us it's really important for us to close out our season on a high note," Doherty said.

Penn State spent the week preparing for the showdown by focusing on their defense. The NIttany Lions got another stellar performance from senior defenders Katie Guy and Colleen Shea against Johns Hopkins earlier this week.

Guy and Shea helped slow down an aggressive Blue Jays offense ensuring the Penn State offense a last-second goal opportunity to win the game. Along with Guy and Shea, Madison Cyr and Kelly Lechner have both improved their defensive play, forcing opposing teams into bad turnovers and leading to offensive opportunities.

The Penn State defense knows it has to improve its play, prior to heading to the American Lacrosse Conference tournament. As a team, the Nittany Lions have fared well at home going undefeated and allowing just 64 goals. However, when Penn State hits the road, the team has allowed 100 goals to their opponents.

The Penn State defense, however, has much looked much improved over the last eight games. They continue to grow and showcase their aggressiveness against opponents. When teams try to slow down their offense, the Nittany Lions have responded well and contained. When teams try to speed up and out-run the Nittany Lions, the defense responds to the challenge and stays with their matchups.

A matchup with Princeton also marks the return of two current Penn State coaches to their former employers.

Prior to coming to Penn State, Doherty worked at Princeton University. She played a major role in getting the Tigers two National Championships. Assistant coach Amy Altig also coached at Princeton helping develop one of the nation's top defenses.

After Princeton, the Nittany Lions have a few days off before heading to Baltimore Maryland for their ALC tournament opening round showdown with Vanderbilt. Penn State dominated Vanderbilt in a win earlier this season in Happy Valley, 20-14.  Game-time is set for 6:30 p.m. on May 2. 

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