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By Shannon Rostick, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
 UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa.- Head coach Missy Doherty and her players, Emi Smith and Madison Cyr, had a lot to talk about as they took part in the 2016 Spring Sports Media Day on Monday at the Bryce Jordan Center. The sixth-ranked Nittany Lions have big plans entering the upcoming season coming off of their 2015 Big Ten Tournament win.

Doherty put emphasis on how being a part of the Big Ten has helped the team to grow and to establish themselves as a standout program in women's lacrosse.

"Being in the Big Ten is the best. It's an exciting conference to be a part of. We're one of the fastest growing sports in the country, so to be able to do that within one of the biggest conferences in the country does a lot for our program, Penn State, and our players and coaches," said Doherty. "To be a part of not only a great conference, but to be among some great teams in the country is a great way for us to continue to get better as a program and spread our word across nationally."

There was also talk about how the team is coming in looking like a threat this season, so while their big win last season is exciting, they need to keep their heads in the game moving forward.

"We won the championship for the first time ever and since we did win I think we have a target on our back, but we are going into this season ready to compete," said Cyr.

Even with their success in the past season, the Nittany Lions still have to come with their A-game because with new a season, come new talent to rival teams.

"Teams can be totally different when a whole year passes," said Smith. Who added she tries to go into each game the same way mentally no matter who they're playing, and if she makes a mistake to just go in and learn from it.

The new season also brings new players to the Nittany Lions as well, and with a number of talented players graduating last season, there are some pretty big shoes to fill. Fortunately, Doherty thinks that they are up to the task.

"We have some good freshman coming in. Madison Carter is hopefully one of our good scoring threats this year. We also have a couple of middle fielders, Kayla Brisolari and Kelly Dagget, who have come in and contributed really well at the mid-field," said Doherty.

"The freshman boost has been a huge help to the players that we lost last year. Them coming in and being able to assert themselves quickly has really helped us stay on the same level and compete against some good team."

Doherty also added that the leadership of the upperclassmen players has really helped the freshman players to adjust to the team and thrive on the field.

"We have a great family atmosphere on our team. Our girls want to win and be successful and seeing what the freshmen can bring, they've really embraced them as teammates and players," said Doherty.

"To have upperclassmen players on the team that can really nurture the players and encourage them to do well and encourage them to succeed has really made their transition to become competitors seamless."

With lots of young and talented players joining the team, the upcoming season looks hopeful for Penn State. After a successful exhibition game last week against Towson, the team has already gotten a small taste of the upcoming season.

The Nittany Lions were set to open their season this Saturday at Lehigh University, but the game has since been moved up to Friday at 3:30 p.m. due to expected inclement weather conditions.

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By Shannon Rostick, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. -The Penn State women's lacrosse team took to Holuba Hall Saturday afternoon to start off their season with an exhibition game against Towson. While it was a close game, the Nittany Lions looked strong against the Tigers.

Penn State started the game off strong, keeping the ball by Towson's goal and earning themselves an early lead. This lead was produced by some young players with three of the nine goals in the first half being made by freshman Madison Carter, who scored four goals in her debut with the team.

Head coach Missy Doherty talked about the strengths of her offensive end in the first half and how they adjusted well to Towson's unique defensive strategies.

"In the first half our offense was really finding each other well. Towson plays a different defense than you normally see. So to be able to adjust in the game, I think they did really well," said head coach Missy Doherty.

While the team started off strong in the first half, Towson came back in the second to give the Nittany Lions a run for their money.

Doherty talked about how the team wanted to push their offensive transitions in the second half to get shots off quicker, which was not as successful as they would have hoped. This contributed most to Towson catching up in the score.

"We wanted them to push the offensive transition and work on that. I think when we did that though we had some unfortunate turnovers. I like that they are pushing it, but I think we need to be better at executing when we do that," said Doherty.

This season is set to bring some major challenges, with Penn State being in a conference with some tough competitors. The team is definitely up to the task though and the coaches are making sure of that.

"We have a pretty hard schedule overall, almost every single game we play in the Big Ten is against a top ten or twenty overall. Even outside of the Big Ten our coaches schedule some tough teams just to keep us on our feet," said senior Erika Spilker.

Another senior player, Ally Heavens, also talked about how although this upcoming season looks to be tough, the team is looking forward to the challenge and is ready to keep up their A-game.

"What's so exciting about this season is that there is never going to be a lull. With a difficult schedule ahead, every game is going to require us bringing our all," said Heavens.

This exhibition game has been a great opportunity for the team to get some real playing experience before the regular season starts. With just a week before their first game of the season, the girls have a good idea of the areas they need to work on before playing in their first official game of the season next Saturday, February 13 at Lehigh University.

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By Shannon Rostick, GoPSUsports.com Staff Writer

University Park, Pa.- Women's Lacrosse head coach Missy Doherty has a lot on her plate as she leads her team into the upcoming season. The team, currently ranked sixth in the Women's Lacrosse Coaches Association (WLCA) poll, is coming into the 2016 season with a 2015 Big Ten Tournament Championship under their belts. But with a number of new rule changes and a number of talented teams on their schedule, the Nittany Lions have a challenging season ahead of them.

Coming into the 2016 season there are a number of major and minor rules changes that are being enacted. These new rules include a self-start rule, as well as more lenient calls when it comes to empty stick checks and three second penalties against defenders.

Doherty, who had a hand in making these new rules, talked about her role in getting these new rules onto the field and the kind of impact it will make on the game.

"The rules committee did all of the work in writing the rules, but I was a part of a separate committee that put in a proposal for the self-start rule," said Doherty.

Doherty said that all of these new rules will allow for less stoppages, which is something that has always prevented the game from going as smoothly and quickly as possible.

"They have always called lacrosse the fastest sport and now it is going to be even faster and things can move along quicker," she said.

Although these rules are going to be beneficial to the upcoming season, it is going to be tough to get used to these rules for both the players and the officials. They have been playing and observing the game without these new rules for so long, so it will tough to get used to these changes in the start of the season.

"It's a learning curve for everybody. I have a lot of sympathy for the officials because our players are practicing with the new rules every day, but the officials only get practice with it a few times a week, so getting into the groove of things may be difficult, " said Doherty.

Doherty emphasized that learning the rules and gameplay are not the only important parts to having a successful championship team. She has been working with her team in focusing on their mental game to create a stronger team as a whole.

"We're preparing them for all situations where things could go either way. I can't give them confidence, but I think that structuring drills a certain way and pointing out the mental things and not just physical things in their play is a way that we can get that edge," said Doherty.

With the high national ranking the team is clearly full of talent, and Doherty really highlighted how her team's success stems from their overarching talent in all positions.

"We have a lot of great players. I think across the board you can't really narrow in on one player. We have a lot of talent both offensively and defensively and I think we can really give anybody a run for their money," Doherty said.

Doherty also emphasized the fact that her duties as a coach only go so far in making her team successful. She believes that it is also on the players to take over and be confident in themselves in order to take their team to the next level in the more difficult games of the season and ultimately bring them back to the Big Ten Tournament Championship.

"If the coaches have to do too much, it doesn't bode well in those clutch games of the season. The more the players are able to take over and lead and be a force within one another, the more of a chance we have to do well in the post-season," said Doherty.

Penn State is one of four teams in the Big Ten that are ranked this season and they will face off with another eight teams ranked in the top twenty.

The Nittany Lions will be kicking off their season this Saturday with an exhibition game against Towson. After that the team will head into their first official game of the season on February 13th at Lehigh University.

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By: Shannon RostickGoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa.- With the Penn State Women's Lacrosse upcoming season kicking off this weekend, last year's Big Ten Champions are busy preparing for the 2016 season.  With many new rule changes this season, there is going to be a lot of learning to do for the Nittany Lions.

This upcoming season will bring many changes for the team, with many significant rule changes being implemented in the new season. While these rule changes are going to be a challenge to learn and get used to for the team, many of the players agree they will greatly improve the way the game is played

With a new rule that allows quick starts after a foul, a player can now pick up the ball after being fouled and immediately start game play. This change will allow for the game to keep running more smoothly and quickly.

"Usually you have to wait for the referees to set you up and place the defense before you start again," said senior Jenna Mosketti.

Erika Spilker, another senior, said, "game stoppage has been a complaint in women's lacrosse for a long time now, it takes so much time and every little foul is a stop, but now if you get fouled and you can just pick up the ball and start again."

The players also talked about the new three-second rule, this rule allows defenders not marking another player to stand in the 8-meter arc for longer than 3 seconds without penalty. 

"With the new rule they don't really call three-seconds unless you are blatantly standing in the middle of the 8-meter," said Spilker.

The players all agreed that this new rule does make it harder for attack players to get through the defense and make a shot on goal, but on the defensive end of things it is good to be able to send more defenders. 

With all of these new rules the players said there is going to be a learning curve early on in the season, especially with a couple of the changes being so major.

"The first couple games of the season are going to be a learning lesson for everyone getting used to the new rules," said Spilker. 

Aside from working on learning the new rules, the players also talked about how the entire team is working on themselves to improve this season.

"Missy (Head Coach Missy Doherty) has really had us focusing on the mental aspect of our play. She has had us working a lot on believing in ourselves and staying calm under pressure during games," said Ally Heavens.

The players said that working on their mental state during games is going to help them become stronger not only as individual players, but as an entire team. The team has also been working between and during practices to build upon team bonding and keep things fun during the season.

"Every week we have our hard practices and then sometimes during our easier practices we will have competition days," said Spilker.

The players all agreed that these more laid back practices help the team to throw some fun into their practice schedules and allow the team to get refreshed throughout the week.

With all three girls being seniors, their futures in lacrosse are very up in the air. Spilker said she is staying for a fifth year, so she will still be playing in the 2017 season, but Heavens and Mosketti are graduating in the spring. Regardless of their time left with the team all three girls expressed their desire to stick with the sport after graduation.

"I kind of want to coach. I'm still not over lacrosse yet and I'm keeping the door open for anything, but I think my passion is with coaching right now," said Heavens.

These seniors have a promising season ahead of them and they said their goal is to work hard and once again get back to the Big Ten Championship this season 

The team kicks off their season at home with an exhibition game at Holuba Hall this Saturday, February 6 at 3 p.m. against the Towson University Tigers.

VIDEO: 2014-15 Year in Review with Sandy Barbour

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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - GoPSUsports.com talks with Director of Athletics Sandy Barbour to review a superb 2014-15 season for Penn State Athletics.





Follow GoPSUsports.com's Tony Mancuso on Twitter @GoPSUTony

VIDEO: 2014-15 Season Highlights

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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Penn State's 2014-15 season was one marked by excellence on the field, in the classroom and in the community. GoPSUsports.com takes a look back at the campaign in a season highlight reel.


Commemorating 25 Years of Penn State and the Big Ten

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Penn State has won 92 Big Ten titles, including 21 in women's soccer (16 regular season).



By Tony Mancuso
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Just four months into his tenure as commissioner of the Big Ten Conference, Jim Delany recalls an idea brought to the table by former Illinois President Stan Ikenberry.

It was October of 1989 when Ikenberry, who spent time as a senior administrator at Penn State earlier in his career, broached the thought of adding an institution to the Big Ten for the first time since Michigan State was invited to become a member in 1949.

The Big Ten then began a formal research process of an institution that would bridge a Midwestern league to the East.

The Pennsylvania State University was on the table for discussion as a superb academic institution with a rich tradition in athletic success.

Delany, whose sister attended Penn State as a graduate student, didn't need much convincing. He knew the level of potential a partnership between Penn State and the Big Ten could foster.

"The Big Ten hadn't changed in many, many decades, but I thought if the opportunity to expand presented itself it was a no brainer," Delany said earlier this week. "Excellent academics. Excellent athletics. And pointed towards the East Coast, I thought there was a lot of potential there. That was my recommendation at the time."

The process moved forward with the presidents and chancellors of the Big Ten institutions discussing the topic before news broke just before the holidays in December of 1989 that Penn State could be on its way into a new conference. Under the direction of athletic director Jim Tarman at the time, Penn State had been competing as an independent in football for more than a century, and the rest of the department had been a member of the Atlantic 10 since 1976.

When the news initially surfaced, women's volleyball head coach Russ Rose, who along with field hockey coach Charlene Morett-Curtiss are the two current Penn State head coaches who were on staff in 1989, was giving a presentation at the annual women's volleyball coaches convention (AVCA) about the importance of NCAA Tournament at-large bids for teams in smaller conferences.

"I remember talking in front of the group about the importance that not all of the at-large bids go to the bigger conferences and that there were good teams in other conferences even though they didn't have the same notoriety, said Rose. "We have a lunch break. I turn on ESPN at lunch, and I see that Penn State is going to be a member of the Big Ten. I come back. I say to some people that I would like to retract what I said about at-large teams."

The formal process concluded with a vote in Iowa City on June 4, 1990, at which time Penn State was officially accepted as a member of the Big Ten Conference. Twenty-five years have passed in a partnership that allowed both the University and conference to reach unprecedented heights on the field and in the classroom.

"From a broad perspective, at the time, my view was that it was a tremendous fit for both sides. And history has proven that," Delany said. "With all the other expansions around the country, I'm not sure there was one that benefitted both institution and conference as much as this did, largely because of the characteristics of Penn State were so well matched with the characteristics of the Big Ten."

The positive news zipped throughout campus shortly after the vote in Iowa.

"I remember hearing about the announcement from Mary Jo Haverbeck, from the Sports Information office," said Morett-Curtiss. "She told me about us going in and how it was going to have a major impact for women's athletics at Penn State."

It was an announcement that changed the landscape of funding and development for all of Penn State's 28 programs at the time, and it was a day Morett-Curtiss remembers quite well.

"Ironically, I had gone for a run that day on the trails near Sunset Park and as I'm running, I see someone walking in front of me and it was Joe Paterno," Morett-Curtiss said. "And it was that day, so I said to him, 'hey what's going to happen?' He said, 'I think this is going to be a really good thing for Penn State and the exposure all of the programs are going to get.'"

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The women's volleyball program captured Penn State's first Big Ten title in 1992, marking volleyball's first of 16 conference crowns.

 
Penn State's teams felt the impact of the Big Ten conference almost immediately.

"What it did for us when we joined the Big Ten is that it No. 1 it resulted in a reassessment of the levels of commitment we had to the various programs," Rose said. "We became fully funded when we joined the Big Ten. Prior to that, we were not fully funded. And we were not fully staffed. Entering Big Ten, collectively, for all of the sports resulted in us having a new commitment from the University to try and be competitive. From a volleyball perspective, we had been competitive prior to that, but playing in the Big Ten in women's volleyball made us better because the level of competition was better than we were experiencing in the Atlantic 10."

At the time, women's volleyball had just one assistant coach on the staff alongside Rose and nine scholarships to field a roster. Joining the Big Ten boosted the program to full funding and 12 scholarships.

"As I look at it now, we could have had some great teams if we had funding in the early years," said Rose. "That was just the way that it was.  When you take a job, that is the job you took. When we joined the Big Ten, a lot of us got a better job without having to move. But it's way more competitive. Recruiting is a lot different than what we had experienced in the Atlantic 10."

The same can be said for what Morett-Curtiss experienced within the field hockey program.

"The financial support from a scholarship standpoint was huge right away," said Morett-Curtiss. "And knowing our field that we were going to build was going to be a first rate facility."

The investment for success around the Big Ten stood out during Penn State's transition. Every institution and athletic program strives to be the best. It's a trait that has not changed during the department's 25 years as a member, and it's something that will be a trademark of the Big Ten for decades to come.

"The level of commitment to being good across the conference, everybody cared," said Rose. "I don't believe every conference across the country has that sort of commitment in all of their sports. I think that is one of the things that makes the Big Ten really unique. If they offer it, they care and they want to be relevant."

Penn State's time in the Big Ten has been marked by excellence in the classroom and on the field of play. In all, Penn State's programs have accounted for 92 Big Ten championships from 15 different programs - 76 regular season and 16 post-season. Additionally, more than 170 student-athletes have accounted for nearly 300 individual Big Ten titles.

Penn State student-athletes have earned more than 5,000 Academic All-Big Ten recognitions since it joined the conference, with its three highest totals during the past three years, led by 296 in 2012-13.

"Penn State's entrance into the Big Ten not only changed the intercollegiate sports landscape, it also changed our academic landscape and our future. Our size, our academic reputation and our athletic tradition matched up well with Big Ten schools," said Penn State President Eric Barron, who also noted that all Big Ten schools are flagship universities for their states. "The academic side of the Big Ten is known as the Committee on Institutional Cooperation (CIC) and the institutions together have annual research expenditures topping $10.2 billion -- more than the Ivy League and the University of California System combined -- and they educate a total of nearly 600,000 students. The benefits from being part of such an outstanding and prestigious organization with such an expansive footprint across the nation are immeasurable."

The women's volleyball program earned Penn State's first Big Ten crown during the 1992 season, just one year after the team began competing in the league. The title marked the first of Penn State's superlative 16 Big Ten titles in women's volleyball, in addition to seven NCAA Championships since 1999.

Like women's volleyball, the women's soccer program has been a benchmark of success in conference play. The program became the department's 29th varsity sport in 1994. Since then, Penn State has won an unprecedented 16 conference titles, including a string of 15-straight from 1998-2012.

The football program claimed the Big Ten title in its second season of competition during an undefeated Rose Bowl championship campaign in 1994. Coach Joe Paterno's '94 squad became the first Big Ten team to ever post a 12-0 record. The '94 crown marked the program's first of three Big Ten championships to date (2005 and 2008).

The fall season of 2005 stands out as a monumental period in Penn State's history within the conference. Nittany Lion teams clinched five Big Ten titles in a span of 30 days. The list included field hockey, football, men's soccer, women's soccer and women's volleyball. Since the fall of 2005, Penn State teams have won 51 Big Ten championships (5.1 titles per year in a 10-year span).

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Penn State clinched five Big Ten titles in a span of 30 days during the fall of 2005, including one for the women's volleyball team.



It's impossible to quantify how the partnership between Penn State and the Big Ten altered the recruiting landscape for the teams on campus and how the recruiting gains equated to success on the field of play. But pitching a world-renowned education with an elite conference affiliation cultivated relationships with premier student-athletes.

"The name recognition was big for football, but when you see how many of the Universities and programs have been successful on a national level, I think that has greatly helped," Morett-Curtiss. "Exposure for all of the Universities within the conference has helped us all grow. Combining the academic side of what these Universities have with the athletics, it's a very powerful combination when we go out recruiting student-athletes."

A big piece to the exposure of Penn State teams during the past 25 years was the launch of the Big Ten Network on Aug. 30, 2007. More than 800 Penn State sporting events have aired live on the BTN since it launched. The benefits of the conference's TV network, which is in more than 60 million homes,  increased visibility across the country for the department in a way that cannot be measured.

"The Network was a major step for us," Morett-Curtiss. "Just having the opportunity to have games on TV so that little girls can watch and learn about the sport. It's helped, not only exposure for the program, but it's helped the sport grow. It's just a phenomenal avenue for us to showcase our University and the sport."

The BTN's impact goes back to what Rose talked about as one of the immediate impacts his program felt - funding. Not only did the BTN infinitely increase exposure for Penn State teams, it has played a paramount role in increased revenues for each institution.

"Certainly, the Big Ten Network has been instrumental in generating funds for the Universities and the conference and the bowl revenue sharing has resulted in more money for all of the schools and the conference," said Rose.

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In 2008, Penn State captured its third Big Ten title in football en route to a trip to the Rose Bowl.

 

While the competitive atmosphere is intense between teams across all of the conference's sports, each member institution understands that the individual success aids in the growth of the collective conference.

"I think the relationship has been a really positive one," said Rose. "There are a lot of similarities between the various Universities."

"Everybody in the Big Ten shares what they do and why they do it; best practices," said Dave Baker, Associate Athletic Director for Business Operations. "We share lots of ideas, at least from the business manager and ticketing perspective. We learn things from one another. And there aren't secrets. We all work together and try to help each other out...We all don't do things the same way. We all have limitations, but we are all looking to help one another out for the betterment of the conference.

"Some people would find it hard to believe that people in the Big Ten root for other Big Ten teams in the postseason, but we do. We follow what is going on...It is a cooperative spirit and a partnership."

Baker is one of just a handful of Penn State administrators and coaches who have been with Intercollegiate Athletics during the past 25 years. That list includes Jan Bortner, who was head coach of the men's tennis team in 1990 and has since transitioned into a role as an associate athletic director. Among the key changes Baker felt from the business operation centered on travel. Bus trips were the norm for Penn State teams in the Atlantic 10, but the geography of the Big Ten led to more plane travel.

A quarter century has passed since initial discussions of a new relationship took place and bonds were formed. Many things have changed significantly for Penn State, the conference and intercollegiate athletics nationwide, but it's been 25 years marked by growth stemming from a vision in 1989.

"Pennsylvania is a very important state. It served as a bridge to the East for us. It made our football offerings stronger," said Delany. "It has been excellence with national championships in a variety of sports. And I have always felt that the 1994 Penn State team was the best team in the country; no disrespect to Nebraska. When you look at the players that team had (five first team All-Americans on offense) and what that group accomplished. That team was the national runner-up. That was a tremendous football team. I've seen some very good basketball teams both on the men's side and the women's side. And obviously, the wrestling and volleyball programs have been dominant on the national scene."

Penn State has won a total of 27 national championships since joining the Big Ten, including three in 2013-14, and the department's collective success speaks for itself.

By no means was the integration in 1990 an easy one, but the partnership between the University and Big Ten is a match that enabled both sides to mutually prosper in a way neither side could have envisioned when the formal vote concluded 25 years ago today.


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The wrestling team began a string of four-straight Big Ten titles in March of 2011.





Follow GoPSUsports.com's Tony Mancuso on Twitter @GoPSUTony

Nittany Lions Look Back on Historic Season

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By Julie Bacanskas, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Playing its first season in the Big Ten Conference, the Penn State women's lacrosse team knew this year would be filled with challenges and triumphs. The team battled hard, winning 16 games for the first time since 1989 and making the NCAA Quarterfinals for the third time in four years.

Nevertheless, the team's greatest feat came in the form of a first for the program and its conference. Despite the competition, the Nittany Lions were crowned the first-ever Big Ten Champions. With all of these accomplishments, it is clear that this program is destined to excel.

"It was a really fun year," said head coach Missy Doherty. "I think from day one it was a really good energy on the team. When we started, we had to shift a couple players due to injury and asked a lot of some young players. I think they really did their job stepping up, and thankfully we had some really great wins this year. We're Big Ten Champs, and I certainly think we have a lot to be proud of."

The growth and dominance of the team's defense is one aspect Doherty and the rest of the Nittany Lions are especially proud of because at the start of the season, it was not a strong point. Injuries required a lot of shuffling, and when all was said and done the team's core defenders were made up of a number of former attackers.

Sophomore Natalie Schmitt shifted to defense, as did Abby Smucker. The two really bolstered the Lions on the back end and had to make numerous adjustments as they gained a greater understanding for the position throughout the season.

Smucker, who seemed to captain the young defense, really stood out as her performances solidified the team. She was even named the Big Ten Tournament MVP for her play, showing just how hard she and the rest of the defense worked to improve.

This strong play from the D, in addition to the team's balance offense, played a key role in the team's success, especially in the newly formed Big Ten Conference.

"I think that we're really a tough conference, and I think we're continuing to grow with all the exposure that we get through the Big Ten Network," said Doherty. "It just really feels like our sport is taking off across the country, which is awesome. So, we had some great exposure. I thought the tournament was exciting, and our season finale against Maryland was really exciting. I think everyone can see that we're a really competitive conference."

With teams like Northwestern and Maryland as conference rivals, winning the Big Ten Tournament was all the more special for the Nittany Lions. Penn State had to work hard and play its best games possible to come out on top, and that is exactly what it did.

The Nittany Lions will forever be the first Big Ten Champions, and that is an accomplishment that can never be taken away from them.

"I would probably say winning the Big Ten Tournament," said Doherty of the team's biggest accomplishment in the 2015 season. "It was the first year for our conference and we went in with really great teams. We beat Northwestern twice, which was a really amazing feat given their history and how good they are. I think that was a big step for us, and then getting a tough draw for NCAAs and making it through the Virginia weekend was just another really good weekend for us."

These big wins and strong play would not have been possible without the dominant Nittany Lion offense. Captain Maggie McCormick led the way with 67 points, becoming Penn State's all-time leader in assists with 137 in her four-year career. She registered 43 this season alone.

McCormick was not the team's only offensive weapon, as it had nine players reach at least 10 goals. Tatum Coffey, Steph Lazo and Madison Cyr each had 43, 41 and 38 goals respectively. When one player was shut down, Penn State always had another attacker ready.

The Lions were dangerous all season long. They played a number of close games, were ranked nationally on a consistent basis and were the first Big Ten Champions. The team will lose nine seniors next year but returns a majority of its starters. The future of Penn State lacrosse is as bright as ever.

"I think after this year specifically, we've begun to establish ourselves as a top team nationally," said Doherty. "I think sometimes it's hard to keep pushing open doors and keep turning corners, but I think this year, especially with our Big Ten win and our wins over some really great teams, really helped establish our program as a team that's going to compete for those top spots. The girls know the energy we put into this season and how hard we worked. They're ready to do that again."

Nittany Lions Prepare for NCAA Quarterfinal Matchup Against UNC

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By Julie Bacanskas, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Sometimes the unknown is frightening, but other times it is exhilarating. The unfamiliar in sports can offer new challenges, new levels of competition and new levels of play. As the Penn State women's lacrosse team travels to take on North Carolina for the first time since 2009, it is ready and excited for the opportunity. The Nittany Lions will bring their best.

To get to this position, the Lions have had to take down Johns Hopkins and Virginia. Both games were intense, close matchups. Nevertheless, with Penn State's (16-4) play as of late, winning 11 of its last 12, it is prepared for any challenge, especially a challenge like the Tar Heels (16-3).

"We're really excited," said head coach Missy Doherty. "It's been a great year for us so far, a lot of really exciting games. I think with the Big Ten Tournament Championship and playing Hopkins and Virginia in the first two rounds of NCAAs, we've really been tested here with some really tough games. It makes us more excited for the next game to see what we're going to bring, and certainly playing North Carolina, who we haven't played yet before, is going to be a fresh new test for us this weekend."

Key to the Nittany Lions' success this season has been its deep offense and reliable goalie, Emi Smith. In the team's second round game alone, Smith made 14 saves. Her efforts have continued to keep the team in close games.

Scouting UNC, the Tar Heels have a similar offense to that of the Nittany Lions. Like Penn State, they do not rely on one scorer and have 10 athletes with double-digit goals. While that fact may seem daunting to some, the team's defense will be more than ready. It gets to practice against its own offense, which has nine scorers who have accumulated at least 10 goals this season. 

"I think defensively we really need to focus on the cutters and the one-v-one defense," Smith said. "Watching their film is really a big factor for it, and having such a good attack on our side is a huge contribution because they can help us prepare for a team like UNC. Our attack is just as good as UNC's attack, and that's huge for our defense because we can practice all week long and prepare for their attack. So, I definitely think going into this weekend is just watching film, running through their plays, running through the shots that they take and overall just playing our aggressive defense."

For this game, the team is not relying on just what its coaches say about UNC. Doherty has instructed each of the Lions to prepare their own scouting report of the Tar Heels, forcing them to get a closer look at their opponent prior to the game.

"Our coaches sent us a template, and we're all creating our own scout for the team, which we haven't done before," said junior Madison Cyr. "It's giving all of us the opportunity to learn the style of each player that we're getting ready to play against."

In this Elite Eight matchup, Penn State will rely heavily on its midfielders. The team has seen tremendous effort from them, both offensively and defensively, all season long. They particularly stepped up after the team lost captain Kelly Lechner to injury, and Doherty has been particularly pleased with all of them.

Five of the team's top scorers are midfielders and each has reached the 30-goal mark. Tatum Coffey leads the way with 42, followed by Steph Lazo who has 41, Cyr who has 36 and Katie O'Donnell and Jenna Mosketti who each have scored 30.

"It's a huge advantage because if one player gets shut down, we have so many more to work with," said Cyr of the scoring depth. "We're not just counting on one player to win the game or score the goal. We have so many people and so many different styles of attacking, whether it's a feed or one-v-one."

This group does not only score. Their defensive play has also been huge this season, and they will look to once again bring their best on Saturday. Coffey has the most caused turnovers on the team with 23, while Mosketti and Cyr lead the way in ground balls. These players bring balance to the team, which has been a big asset to the Nittany Lions.

Even with its skill, Penn State enters this Elite Eight game as the underdog. The No. 7 Nittany Lions know this game against No. 2 North Carolina will be a battle, but they are not letting rankings effect their preparation or how they play. This team has each other's backs. They just need to continue communicating and relying on one another.

"I think our team is great," said Doherty. "They get along really well. The camaraderie has been amazing. The team kind of mojo has been just fantastic all season. With these big games, as a coach, you really hope your team takes over and the players take over, and they've made my job so much easier with their drive and their work ethic and their leadership this year."

With the opponent aside, making the Elite Eight for the third time in four years is an accomplishment these Nittany Lions are proud of. This year, they don't want to end at this level. They want to continue playing together, continue winning and continue their season.

"It's kind of surreal," said Smith. "I mean my freshman year we went to the Elite Eight, and last year was kind of an upset because we lost first round NCAAs. But, I think this year we're definitely excited because we're going. That's a huge thing for us because I have a feeling we don't want to stop, and going into UNC that's a huge aspect because we want to make it to the Final Four."

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Lions Down Virginia and Hopkins to Stay Alive in NCAA Tournament

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By Julie Bacanskas, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Nine seniors on the Penn State women's lacrosse team missed their graduation ceremonies this weekend in favor of playing in the NCAA Tournament. After the results of both the first and second-round games, they and the rest of the team could not be happier about that decision.

Instead of walking in caps and gowns the seniors competed with their teammates, helping the Nittany Lions (16-4) defeat both Johns Hopkins (14-4) and Virginia (12-7). With the two victories, this team is officially part of the 2015 Elite Eight.

"I love spending time with my team," said goalie Emi Smith. "I love playing with this team. It's an exhilarating experience to be able to go this far in the NCAAs, and I would not be more excited or happy without these girls. They are pretty much the contributors for us going this far."

Once the Blue and White knocked out the Blue Jays, the team had its sights set on a rematch with the Cavaliers. When the two programs met earlier in the season, Virginia secured the victory with a go-ahead goal four seconds before the conclusion of the game.

With that loss in the back of their minds, the Nittany Lions were determined to have a different outcome in Sunday's match. It was not going to be another heartbreaker.

Defensively, Penn State had one of its best performances of the season. Virginia outshot the Lions, 34-21, won more ground balls, had half the number of turnovers and were far more successful in its clear attempts. Nevertheless, the defense consistently did its job, turning in key plays when it mattered most.

"Our defense was great all game," head coach Missy Doherty said. "We really had a huge clearing problem in this game. We got a lot of balls on the ground. Our D came up with the ball, and then we didn't take care of it as much as we should. So, it's a credit to them for getting the ball back to us time after time."

Really leading the way on the back end, however, was Smith. The junior made 14 saves throughout the entirety of the game, solidifying the win and allowing the Lions a chance to move on in the tournament. The performance was one save shy of her season best, which came in March against Vanderbilt.


"I think Emi stood on her head today making unbelievable saves," Doherty said following the game. "Every game is a little different. Sometimes our offense takes over, our defense takes over, and today, Emi kind of took over. So, it was a great effort by her and a great effort by our team to come up with some huge goals at big times."

In terms of offense, the Nittany Lions once again saw scoring from across the board. Madison Cyr and Katie O'Donnell both collected five points in the game with a hat trick and two assists each. Steph Lazo also notched three goals against the Cavaliers, while Tatum Coffey and Kristin Brent both added two.

With Lazo's three goals and Coffey's six throughout the weekend games, both passed the 40-goal mark on the season. O'Donnell's performance pushed her to 30 goals scored, meaning five Nittany Lions have now reached that accomplishment.

"I thought overall today we really saw each other well," said O'Donnell following the Virginia game. "When everyone is working well together and we're seeing the open goal, it just goes well for everyone. Fortunately, I was on the upper end of that today. But, we were moving the ball, seeing each other, and there was a lot of communication out there today, which is key."

Moving forward, the Nittany Lions will need to defeat North Carolina to stay alive in the tournament. The game will certainly be a challenge, but this team is ready for anything. It wants to keep competing, keep winning and keep playing together. Penn State is not finished yet.

 

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