UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Fourth-seeded Penn State women's lacrosse is moving on to the NCAA
Tournament quarterfinals following a 19-14 win against JMU Saturday afternoon.
Tied for the second highest Nittany Lion scoring output of the season and the second-highest in an NCAA Tournament game, the final score hardly does justice to telling the story of a back-and-forth outing featuring a wide spectrum of emotions across 60 minutes.
"We're really excited for the win, it was a great game," head coach Missy Doherty said postgame. "That's what you're going to get when you get to the NCAA's, there are no easy games."
Jumping on the scoreboard less than a minute into action, Penn State quickly made things look easy, widening the advantage to seven, 8-1, helped out by three early goals from Madison Carter.
The Dukes came storming back though, switching up the momentum with a 5-1 run to arrive within three, 9-6, at halftime. James Madison only continued to surge out of the break, scoring three straight to knot the score, 9-9, at 26:49.
The Nittany Lions quickly regrouped, responding with back-to-back goals from Katie O'Donnell and then Carter, to spark a 5-0 scoring streak that built the Penn State advantage back to five, 14-9.
"Lacrosse is just a game of runs so I think as a team we just do a good job of staying consistent and we know when to not freak out when they get a run on us," Carter said.
Aiding Carter in the second-half surge, O'Donnell also noted that calm composure was key in kick starting an already potent offense on display earlier in the opening frame.
"I thought we just had to settle it down a little and settle ourselves down a little bit," O'Donnell said. "I think we let their first half run get to us a little bit and we lost our mentality on offense. Second half, we just thought, move the ball, move ourselves, be decisive and we got back into the flow and kept pushing transition, which definitely helps us out."
Between Carter and O'Donnell, the duo combined for 10 of 19 goals, including two on the free position and an additional pair of assists.
Finishing with a career-high eight points, Carter also edged the advantage on the draw, registering 12 draw controls.
"Haley [Warden] is really good at the draw and she really gave our team a run for their money on the draw," Carter said. "I was just trying to mix up what I was doing and the girls on the line came in and helped out to really box out the girls and it was really good to have those possessions because it kept the momentum of the game going."
For Doherty, although pleased by the offensive output, she noted that the early postseason test would only provide learning lessons headed to the upcoming quarterfinal match against Princeton, set for 1 p.m. Sunday, May 21 at home.
"JMU played so well, they brought it for 60 minutes, they just kept attacking, attacking, attacking and really tested our defense," Doherty said.
Much like JMU, Penn State and Princeton have already met during the regular season with the Nittany Lions earning a 13-8 win against the Tigers on the road near the end of March. Princeton knocked off Cornell in the NCAA Tournament second round with a dramatic 11-9 win against Cornell.
"I think the grill of our season has prepared us for that consistency in approach, when you go through our Big Ten games, when you go through our tough out of conference schedule, you have to be focused each game," Doherty said.
Reach Arielle at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow on Twitter @arielle_sargent