By Jeff Sattora, GoPSUsports.com
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Coming off one of the best regular seasons in school history, the fourth-seeded Penn State Nittany Lions (15-3) are ready to make a postseason run, and that all starts this weekend in Happy Valley.
Facing the winner of Friday night's Louisville-James Madison game on Sunday at 1 p.m., the host Lions are excited and know they've worked hard to get here.
"Coming into the tournament bidding you never really know what's going to happen, but we knew we had one of the best resumes in the country and to get the fourth-seed is a credit to the players and how hard they worked all season long," said head coach Missy Doherty.
Not only is the fourth-overall seed a nice bonus, the team will also get to play on its home field during opening weekend.
"We're really excited it's a home game," Doherty said. "Playing here is always awesome, our facility is amazing. We're really excited to have our home crowd, our alums, and our fans. The energy at Penn State is always amazing so it definitely gives us an edge playing at home."
"There's nothing better than playing on our home field and filling the hill with our parents, friends, it's always a great atmosphere," added junior midfielder Katie O'Donnell.
While 2017 is a new postseason run, Doherty and her squad will lean on experience from 2016, when Penn State made a run to the Final Four.
"You have to remind yourself that you have the ability to do this and to play with confidence because we've been there before," O'Donnell said on using last year's run. "If we can do that it will help us in the long run."
Leading that charge will be the Big Ten's Attack Player of the Year, senior Steph Lazo. Lazo, the program's first winner of that award, led the Big Ten with her 82 points and 39 assists for the season, while her 43 goals ranked seventh in the conference. Her point and assist totals also placed her 16th and 20th in the nation in those two categories.
Doherty credits Lazo's hard work for her success this season.
"She just kept getting better and better every year," Doherty said. "To have the year she had this year with some of the best defenders marking her throughout the season is a credit to her and the season she had."
Although Lazo may have been recognized, one of Penn State's best weapons is its number of weapons as a group.
"I think it's a huge advantage for us (to have so much talent)," Lazo said. "If you take one of us out there is six other girls that can score and make plays on the offensive end. We're all a big powerhouse, all 11 of us on the field."
Those powerhouse players are ready to go, and the way they've been playing this season, a Final Four is within reach again.