By Jeff Sattora, GoPSUsports.com
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa.- The Penn State women's lacrosse team has made a habit of playing late into the season, and in its seventh consecutive postseason appearance and coming off back-to-back Final Four runs, the program is ready for the pressure and high-stakes matchups again this May.
"We had a really young team this year, we learned a lot throughout the season," Doherty said. "We're really focused in, it's a new season for us and a chance to prove where we are at this point in the season," she added.
While Doherty's squad is young, the team still is led by players with postseason experience. Junior Madison Carter leads the Lions with 57 goals on the year, followed by senior captain and Big Ten Midfielder of the Year Katie O'Donnell and sophomore Maria Auth with 56 and 52 respectively. That group is three of seven double-digit goal scoring Nittany Lions that have been members of at least one of the last two Final Four runs. O'Donnell echoed her coach, knowing this time of year is a clean slate.
"Postseason is a new season, your record is 0-0 again," she said. "It doesn't really matter what you did in the regular season because this is when it really counts."
Penn State will begin its clean slate against in-state rival Penn (13-4), who the Nittany Lions took down in the 2016 postseason to reach the Final Four. The matchup and this time of year brings a level of excitement for the program.
"We're really excited for the tournament," Doherty said. "It's such a great place to be in your season to be practicing and getting ready to play some of the best teams in the country. Going to Stony Brook and playing Penn, Penn is such a great team and it gives us another opportunity to bring our best."
"We had kind of an up and down year so to make NCAAs this year was a big thing for us," O'Donnell added. "We're really happy that we just get to keep spending the days together and keep playing lacrosse. It's pretty awesome."
For members of the 2016 and 2017 Final Four teams, like O'Donnell and junior defender Kelly Daggett, looking back and using that previous big game experience will be key for this year's younger squad.
"It's a great memory for us, the past two years we've gone all the way to Memorial Day weekend and that's been incredible for us," Daggett said. "From a heart and an effort point we really want to get their again and we keep reminding the freshmen this is what we do, we get to the Final Four."
While the freshmen have gotten that reminder and are heading into their first postseason run, the Nittany Lions are confident the group will step up.
"They've been great, it's been really awesome to see them grow from the time they came in August til now," O'Donnell said. "I really can't wait to see how they finish the season."
The Nittany Lions hope that finish to their season doesn't come anytime soon, as Penn State will take its first step to the Final Four again as they travel to Stony Brook, New York to take on Penn Friday at 5pm. The winner will face fifth-seeded Stony Brook Sunday at noon.