Renahan, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - The Penn State Nittany Lions fell to the Northwestern Wildcats, 15-7, in the NCAA quarterfinals Saturday night in Evanston.
The loss marked the end to an extremely successful season for head coach Missy Doherty and her team. It was the third time the Nittany Lions loss to the Wildcats in 2013 and second year in a row they lost in the quarterfinals of the NCAA Tournament.
Freshman Madison Cyr had a solid night for the Nittany Lions scoring two goals on three shots and playing hard defense against the Wildcats. Along with Cyr, fellow freshman Jenna Mosketti had two goals while Molly Fernandez, Kelly Lechner and Maggie McCormick each had one.
On a warm night in Evanston the Nittany Lions struggled to get going offensively allowing the Wildcats to jump out to an early lead. The normally sound Nittany Lions turned the ball over often in the early parts of the game and the Northwestern Wildcats took advantage taking a 5-0 lead in the first 20 minutes.
As a team, Penn State turned the ball over seven times in the first half to just four from the Wildcats. The Nittany Lion's difficulties controlling the ball continued limiting the team to just three goals in the first half. By the end of the game, the Nittany Lions had started to play their style forcing the Wildcats into seven turnovers of their own, but it was too little too late.
Penn State scored four goals over a six minute span in the second half of the game to bring the deficit down to eight, but they would not be able to bring it any closer than that by the final whistle. They outscored the Wildcats 4-2 in the second half and took three more shots, but the 13-3 first half deficit was too much to overcome.
The fast pace Nittany Lions could not get out on breaks early to get transition goals. Penn State has been dominant with their transition play in 2013, but the Wildcat defense shut down the Nittany Lion offense throughout the game. Penn State only had four shots in the first half and 16 by the end of the game.
Penn State also struggled off the draw. The Nittany Lions had had success in the circle during the early rounds of the NCAA tournament against Canisius College and University of Massachusetts, but the Wildcats owned the draw control on Saturday night grabbing 25 to Penn State's 17.
Defensively the Nittany Lions battled hard but struggled to keep the Wildcats off the scoreboard. Northwestern moved the ball very effectively against the Nittany Lions finding cutters and drawing fouls to create free position opportunities. It felt as if the entire first half was played in Penn State's defensive zone.
Emi Smith was unable to repeat her solid outing from last weekend. The freshman allowed eight goals in the first half before Doherty put in backup goalie Ayla Halus. Smith did return to the game in the second half and played much better recording two saves.
In the first half the Wildcats had five free position opportunities scoring on three of them to widen the lead. In uncharacteristic fashion, the Nittany Lions committed 12 first half fouls to help allow the Wildcats to control the pace of the game. Throughout the season, the Penn State defense had become known for its hard, but intelligent, contesting of opponents. They took charges and forced turnovers regularly but were unable to do so Saturday night.
Seniors Katie Guy and Colleen Shea played at an extremely high level against the Wildcats. Shea had two forced turnovers, but a team high six fouls. Guy, who entered the game No. 10 in the nation in caused turnovers, had three of her own in the setback.
The 2013 season was the most successful under third year coach Missy Doherty. The Nittany Lions took a very young team far into the NCAA tournament. Throughout the year, the team grew both offensively and defensively and matured together. Penn State saw players like Maggie McCormick and Kelly Lechner become stars and a freshman class that is sure to excel in the coming years.
The Nittany Lions enter the offseason with a lot to be proud of. While they didn't win a national championship this season, they certainly set high expectations going forward.
Strong Season Closes at Northwestern
Renahan, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff
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