By: Shannon Rostick, GoPSUsports.com
Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa.- This upcoming weekend is a big one for the Penn State women's lacrosse team. Not only because they will be playing one of their biggest competitors, Ohio State, but also because it marks the team's first televised game of the season on the Big Ten Network.
This is a huge deal for the team because it allows more fans to watch them in action and more importantly, it allows prospective players to check out what the Nittany Lions have to offer.
Sophomore midfielder Katie O'Donnell talked about her experience before coming to Penn State, and how watching games on television had a role in her decision to commit to the Nittany Lions.
"I followed Penn State before and after I committed. I made an effort to watch them play and it was cool to watch and think that you'd love to be a part of that team," said O'Donnell.
These televised games give prospective recruits more opportunities to see how the team plays together, which is especially helpful for recruits who are not close by.
When thinking about committing it is important for these players to see the team playing in a game setting as many times as possible, and for those high school players who live further away from University Park, that is not always feasible.
Penn State has many players who came from farther states, like seniors Emi Smith and Heather Harman who are from Colorado and Georgia respectively.
"TV coverage helps for the game in general and it helps with recruits too, especially with recruiting from farther and farther away," said O'Donnell.
The coaches and players alike are excited to see more and more televised games during the season, as it raises awareness for Penn State's team and the sport in general.
Lacrosse is growing in popularity season by season, especially with Penn State moving up in the ranks in the Big Ten. Penn State wants the best players in the country on their team, and the publicity helps to get their name out there to players across the country.
O'Donnell's first televised game experience was last season as a freshman. She talked about how, although it is exciting at first to be on TV, the players do not see too much of a difference during televised games and that it thankfully does not have an impact on gameplay.
"You don't really think about it during the game; the game doesn't change too much, minus a few extra timeouts for TV," said O'Donnell.
"The first time as a freshman last year it was definitely like 'oh my gosh, I'm going to be on TV,' but after that first game it all becomes just the same."
The players do a good job of forgetting about the TV side of things, which is good because they can't afford to lose focus, especially during their Big Ten games and leading up to the postseason.
Last year marked the first Big Ten tournament for women's lacrosse, and for players like O'Donnell it was an incredible experience to make a tournament run in her first year with the team.
"It was a great experience coming in as a freshman and getting into the postseason play. It was new and exciting and it was fun to have that kind of win, especially with that group of girls," said O'Donnell
"It was the first Big Ten tournament in women's lacrosse and for Penn State to get that win was a really awesome experience," she added.
O'Donnell said the team is even more motivated to get to the tournament again after knowing what they can achieve as a unit.
"When you accomplish something like that you only want to keep getting better and it's definitely a goal to get back to the postseason by improving every game," said O'Donnell.
"It's not something spoken, but it's something we are always working for."
With a 9-2 record so far in their season, Penn State is fighting hard to get back into postseason play and repeat as Big Ten tournament champions.
The No. 9 Nittany Lions will continue their season on Saturday, April 9 against the No. 12 Buckeyes at Ohio State starting at 4 p.m.