By Jeff Sattora, GoPSUsports.com
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa.- Senior Day for an athletic program is often all about the seniors playing their final time on their home field, and while that was on the mind of many Nittany Lions and their fans on Saturday prior to their matchup against the Michigan Wolverines, the takeaway postgame is about regrouping for the stretch run following a 12-11 last-second loss to end the regular season.
For Penn State head coach Missy Doherty, the team needs to take the loss and regroup before postseason play next week in the Big Ten Tournament.
"We need to be better. We're going into the Big Ten tournament and we're not going to do well if we played like we played today," Doherty said.
"We need to stay composed for a whole 60 minutes and we didn't today," junior Madison Carter added. "That's definitely a lesson we need to take moving forward. You never know what play is going to win the game and it goes down to the final seconds."
While the result didn't go the Nittany Lions' way, it wasn't all negatives for the home team to end the regular season.
Six Nittany Lions scored goals in the first half to help jump the Lions out to a 6-0 lead in the first 14 minutes of action, and seven Nittany Lions put the ball in the back of the net on the afternoon, led by two goals each from Maria Auth, Kayla Brisolari, Quinn Nicolai, and Kristin Roberto.
The six early goal scorers included two seniors on their special day, Katie O'Donnell and Maddie Gallagher, and although the lead didn't hold, the fast start was something the team can remember.
"I hope so," head coach Missy Doherty said on if the team can take positives from the balanced scoring and strong start. "We're still growing and learning but at this point in the season we really just have to be able to execute."
"When we move the ball and we're on all the same page great things happen," Carter, who scored once today, said. "We kind of fell off that in the second half a little bit but we just have to finish our shots and that makes a big difference."
The defense was another positive the team is looking to take postgame.
"Our defense did a great job coming up with some really good stops. The [Michigan shot] clock ran out a couple times, the defense was playing tough," Doherty added.
Penn State needed that defense as despite the fast start, as Michigan made a late first half run. The Wolverines got on the board with back-to-back goals to end the first half and made it three then four straight goals to start the second half, pulling to a 6-4 deficit early in the final half.
Though sophomore Kristin Roberto was finally able to end the Michigan run, putting her second goal of the game in the back of the net with 22:44 to go in the game to push the lead to 7-4, the Wolverines didn't back down, scoring again less than two minutes later to make it a two-goal game once again.
The two teams would go back-and-forth in the final 20 minutes of playing, as Michigan finally tied it at 9-9 with 5:39 to go. Penn State was able to take leads of 10-9 and 11-10 in the final minutes before the final result went the other way.
With the regular season over and postseason play upon them, the Nittany Lions are looking forward.
"We have a big week ahead of us going into Big Tens," Carter said. "People are a little bit disappointed right now, sleep on it and tomorrow we got a lot of work to do."
"We have to rebound," Doherty added. "The Big Ten Tournament gives us a second chance."