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Penn State Women's Lacrosse Key Takeaways Heading into 2018

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By Briana Zuccarelli, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa.- The Penn State Nittany Lions will start the 2018 season coming off back-to-back Final Four appearances and ranking fourth in the IWLCA Preseason Coaches Poll.

The team will kick off its season at Towson on Saturday, February 10th, and they are looking forward to what this season holds for them.

 "We're really excited for the 2018 season," head coach Missy Doherty said, starting her eighth year in Happy Valley. "Each year is different here and that's what makes it really fun as a coach."

 As the team prepares for the upcoming game, here are five key takeaways to look at from their season-opening media day: 

The Strong Schedule
The Nittany Lions will face another strong schedule with 17 regular season contests, including eight home games and six conference games. 

"I think it is going to be another exciting season," said Doherty. "Our schedule is super strong again, which I think is important being ready to compete in NCAA.  We need to go as hard as we can in our regular season games." 

Seven of their games are against opponents who reached the second-round of last year's NCAA Tournament.  Two of the team's most challenging games will be against the Princeton Tigers, who the Nittany Lions defeated during the NCAA quarterfinals last season, and the 2017 national champions, Maryland.

The Team Leadership
With six starters graduating in 2017, the Nittany Lions were looking to fill big roles coming into this season. With this came the 11 freshman who now complete the missing holes for the Penn State team. 

 "Its been a learning experience for a lot of people," said Doherty. "We have a bigger freshman class coming in this year, but we have a lot of returners who are ready to step up and play starting positions."

 Maggie Gallagher, Katie O'Donnell, and Kayla Brisolari will lead the 2018 Nittany Lions as team captains.  O'Donnell, a senior, was named a Preseason All-American by Inside Lacrosse on Wednesday morning. The captains combined for a total of 103 goals and 31 assists last season.

"They are amazing captains," said Doherty. "But, I really think in any great team you have more than just the captains being leaders. We look for anybody who is stepping into those starting lineup roles to serve as a leader in some capacity." 

Some of the names coach Doherty mentioned were sophomore Maria Auth and junior Lucy Haubold.  Both girls saw the field in the 2017 NCAA semifinals against Maryland, giving them the big game experience needed in the upcoming season. 

"Those leadership roles are emerging from many different people," said Doherty. "That's what makes the game fun and hopefully it will lead to some success" 

The Atmosphere
With great success, comes an even better atmosphere and this is just what the Nittany Lions wanted.

 "I just love these players and I love the atmosphere that our team creates," said Doherty. "They always work hard and we are able to move on to some other things as coaches because they are taking care of the work ethic and pushing each other."

Coach explained the importance of the atmosphere and leadership these girls provide.  She said it allows the coaches to stay on their toes with what they can push the athletes to do, how they can get even better, and how they can continue to promote leadership amongst their players. 

"With this, when we get to game day they can take over themselves and they aren't looking over to the sidelines for the next play or the next option," she added.

 The Changing Defense and the Offensive Power
After graduating key starters on the defense, the Nittany Lions had to figure out who would be taking over those defensive positions. 

"We have some experience that we are going to have to work out through preseason," Doherty said. "These first couple of games when it comes to working on the defensive end because we graduated a lot of defenders." 

The younger players on the defense will look to Brisolari and O'Donnell to lead them and teach them the skills they need to be a successful defense like in years past. Defender Lucy Haubold mentioned that the defensive side worked hard during the offseason to form the connections and relationships needed to become one unit. 

"From an attacking standpoint, I'm going against these girls every day," said Auth. "They may be young, but as a unit they're really starting to come together." 

On offense, junior Madison Carter will once again lead the attack alongside Gallagher and Auth.  Coach Doherty explained that the offense has improved tremendously and has a lot of different weapons coming in. 

"Madison Carter is playing the best she has ever played," said Doherty. "Maria (Auth) is another one who is playing this way. To build on that we have Delaney Muldoon back from an injury." 

Carter finished the 2017 season with 70 goals, which put her at tenth in the nation. Carter was also named a 2017 IWLCA Second-Team All-American. While Auth, had a total of eight goals in the NCAA tournament and a career-high of four during the matchup against Princeton.

 "We've never been an offense that relies on one or two players," said Doherty. "We really rely on seven and even more than that. I think the overall depth that we have is the best its ever been." 

With a strong group full of experience and skill, the Nittany Lions are ready to get this season started. 

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