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No. 9 Lions Defeated by No. 8 Virginia in Final Seconds

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By Julie Bacanskas, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Headed into this weekend, the Penn State women's lacrosse team knew it would have a challenge on its hand. With No. 8 Virginia coming to town, the No. 9 Nittany Lions were ready for their first big test of the season, taking on another top-ten team.

Throughout the entirety of Saturday's game, it was clear the two were evenly matched. Any time the Cavaliers took the lead, Penn State would fire back and vice versa. There was never more than a two-goal lead on either side.

Unfortunately for the Blue and White, a Virginia (2-2, 0-1 ACC) goal with four seconds left in second half proved to be the difference maker. The Nittany Lions (3-1, 0-0 B1G) suffered their first loss of the season, falling 16-15.

"Playing Virginia is always just like this," head coach Missy Doherty said. "I mean, I don't know how many games since I've been here it's been a one-point game, but I think it's been a lot. We always know it's going to be super competitive, and I think it really was two teams playing well. It was unfortunate to come out with the loss, but we had a chance to win it there in the last couple seconds. All you can ask for is those chances."

Despite the competitive nature, Doherty was not expecting such a high-scoring game. Both teams were in the double digits after the first thirty minutes.

The Lions and Cavaliers were tied at 10 after Penn State scored in the final seconds of the first half. The determination to score showed the Lions would not easily give up. They would fight until the end.

"I think it was really important," said Doherty of heading into halftime tied. "Our team fights for 60 minutes, and that's a good example of you know, it doesn't matter if there's still time on the clock. We're going to go hard. That was just a good example of going hard and finishing strong."

Throughout the game, the Lions saw goals from seven different student-athletes, continuing their strong offensive trend. Madison Cyr, Tatum Coffey, Kelly Lechner, Abby Smucker, Steph Lazo, Katie O'Donnell and Maggie Gallagher all found the back of the cage.

Cyr led the way with a game-high five goals. The junior now has eight on the season, which is not at all surprising to her coach.

"She's a clutch player," Doherty said of Cyr. "She always comes up big in big games. It's no different than any other game that we've been in that she comes in with a really good game."

With mere minutes left, it looked as though the Lions may edge out Virginia. Penn State evened the scoring once again with 2:26 remaining. The team got the ball back shortly thereafter and was able to work its offense.

However, a foul with 13 seconds left gave Virginia possession. The Cavaliers' final shot resulted in the go-ahead goal. With such little time, the Nittany Lions were unable to force yet another tie.

"It was a tough game defensively," Doherty said. "I take full responsibility for that. We had a game plan, and it didn't work. That's my fault. We want to come back for the next game and make sure that we give the players the best opportunity to win."

Although the outcome was not what Penn State was hoping for, the Blue and White battled and played for a full sixty minutes. The team was competitive and strong.

The Nittany Lions will take the field again next Saturday as look to return to their winning ways against Loyal Maryland.

Smith Emerges as Lions' Starter in the Cage

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By Julie Bacanskas, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Through the first three games of the season, junior Emi Smith has shown her importance to the Penn State women's lacrosse team. The goaltender is consistent. She makes the saves she needs to, while also having a constant presence to support her team.

Head coach Missy Doherty wanted one of the team's three goalies to step up and take the starting job this season, and that is exactly what Smith has done.

Coming into this year, the junior knew she could secure the position with hard work and dedication. Smith spent the entire summer and all of fall ball training, going the extra mile to ensure she would be prepared when spring began.

That effort molded her into a more consistent goalkeeper, which Doherty believes is the difference maker. That reliability is what sets Smith apart.

"I think it's just her consistency in practice and in games," Doherty said. "It hasn't been something where we get to a game and we decide for a goalkeeper and we're wondering how they're going to perform. She's been really consistent in practice, making the saves that she should and coming up with some that are even harder to make. So, I think consistency wise, it's been nice to have that in the cage this year. It's been a huge difference in our games."

While Doherty praises that aspect of Smith's game, the goalie prides herself on a different quality, her presence in the cage. During games, Smith is loud. She is clear. Her communication skills connect her with the defense, making the entire team a stronger unit.

The Nittany Lions' defense has already shown its dominance. The team has only been scored against nine times in the opening three games, and the Blue and White are looking to continue that trend.

"I say to my midfielders and my defense, 'Get hungry,' because we want the ball," Smith said. "We want a goal. The defense wants the ball back, so that's kind of our mentality. Get hungry. Presence is just a huge part of being in the goal. If you don't have a presence, it reflects on the defense. Then the defense doesn't respond to you."

Although Smith, and Penn State, is off to a successful start, the goalkeeper position is not always so positive. It is not only physically challenging but also mentally straining.

As a goalie, it is important to keep emotions in check. Smith knows that all too well and does her best to stay in the present, forgetting allowed goals or mistakes.

"Normally before a game, I'll just act really silly and that will kind of put me in the mood of being positive with my teammates," said Smith. "Sometimes I see my teammates getting down on themselves, and they always say to me, 'Emi, when you're funny and you are getting us all riled up with what you say and what you do in the cage, that reflects on the entire field.' So, each and every game, I just try and do the exact same thing."

This silly attitude plays into the goalie's overall confidence on the field. Smith and her teammates believe in her abilities.

The junior will make her fourth start of the season Saturday when the No. 9 Lions (3-0) take on No. 8 Virginia (1-2). With such a competitive team making its way to Happy Valley, Penn State knows it can expect a hard-fought game.

In its two losses, Virginia fell by just one point. The Cavaliers have a lot of skill, and the Nittany Lions know this will be their first real test of the season.

"It's always a competitive game," said Doherty. "I think we're really antsy for, you know, a game against a nationally-ranked opponent. I mean, it's been three really good games for us and excited to play, but to play Virginia has always been somewhat of a rival, and we're excited for the game."

Anything can happen in Division I lacrosse, but with Smith in the cage, the Lions know they
have their best shot at victory.

"Virginia coming up is going to be a challenge," said the goalie. "They're definitely one of the top-ranked teams. We've always been up by one or down by one the entire game whenever we've played them in my past two years here. I think it will be a definite challenge and a really fun game to watch."
 
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - GoPSUsports.com continues the video series "A Day in the Life" with a behind-the-scenes interview with Penn State women's lacrosse senior Tatum Coffey and strength and conditioning coach Kristina Jeffries. 

VIDEO: THON 2015 Pep Rally Dance - Women's Lacrosse

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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Check out the Nittany Lions dancing on stage during the THON 2015 Pep Rally on Saturday night.




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

Explosive Offense Key to Nittany Lions' Success

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By Julie Bacanskas, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - With 32 goals scored by 12 different student-athletes in the first two games of the season, the No. 10 Penn State women's lacrosse team is clearly an impressive, offense-oriented squad. The Nittany Lions know this dominance up front is something they have to use to their advantage in order to succeed this season.

"I think most of our experienced players are either midfielders or attackers," said head coach Missy Doherty following the team's 17-2 victory over Bucknell Wednesday evening. "We have a lot of people that like to score, and they're aggressive scorers. So, I think that's a strength of our team right now is we can score from a bunch of different spots."

Against the Bison, Penn State opened up the scoring with a six-goal run. The team netted another six following the first Bucknell tally, securing a commanding 12-1 lead at the end of the first half.

Over the course of the game, Kelly Lechner scored three times, bringing her total to five goals on the season. Nevertheless, she credits her teammates and the positive team atmosphere for this early, personal success.

"I think we just really have a great offensive camaraderie, and we're really working on our communication to work better together," said Lechner. "We have really strong players individually, and putting us together as a unit is really awesome. We just work really well together, and we get along on and off the field. So, it's just really fun to make those connections."

Another positive for the Blue and White is the fact that freshmen are already contributing. Katie O'Donnell not only notched her first collegiate point with an assist, but she also scored her first goal as a Nittany Lion to continue the scoring for Penn State in the second half of Wednesday's game.

The freshman's tally brought the score to 13-2 in Penn State's favor.

"Katie is coming off of an injured ankle, so she probably didn't get in as much in our scrimmage or the Lehigh game," Doherty said. "She played a little bit more, actually, than we thought. So, it was good to see her back at the midfield, starting to get her stride back. It was good to get her first goal under her belt for sure."

Adjusting from high school lacrosse to DI has been a process for O'Donnell, but she is excited to be here at Penn State, experiencing this time in her career with her teammates.

"It's so fast, but honestly the girls and the upper classmen have been so great at bringing not only me but every other freshman in and really helping us along the way," O'Donnell said. "That's been really helpful for me especially. I always look to them with anything, whether it's on the field or off the field.

"As a sense in the game, just having them there and we all have each other's back, that just helps knowing that we're really supportive of each other. It just makes the transition so much smoother."

The team notched four more goals in the half, nabbing the victory against the Bison. If this start is any indication of what the season will be like, the Nittany Lions have a bright year ahead of the them.

"I really think we're starting to find a rhythm with each other and really see everyone better," said O'Donnell. "We worked really hard in fall ball and then in preseason, and I think now it's really just coming together as it normally does when the season starts. So, it's nice to see. It's fun out there. You can feel the energy."

Lazo Leads the Way Against Lehigh

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By Julie Bacanskas, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - As the snow fell in Happy Valley, the No. 10 Penn State women's lacrosse team prepared for its season opener against Lehigh. Luckily for the Nittany Lions, they didn't have to compete in the winter weather, instead taking on the Mountain Hawks inside the warm confines of Holuba Hall.

Following 60 minutes of play, the Blue and White downed Lehigh, 15-7, and saw goals from six different student-athletes. Penn State came out ready, and the team did not disappoint.

"I think overall it was good," head coach Missy Doherty said. "It was a good game for us. You know, Lehigh is really good. We hadn't seen them play before, so it was hard from a scouting sense to be ready for their particular plays. I think we adjusted well, and Emi [Smith] made some awesome saves today."

Senior Tatum Coffey opened the scoring with a goal just under six minutes into the game. The Mountain Hawks answered back with two, but the Lions were not going to back down.

At the 19:48 mark of the first, sophomore Steph Lazo pounced, tying the game at two. Just over a minute later, Lazo struck again, scoring her second of what would be five goals.

Last season as a freshman, Lazo only appeared in six games and tallied one goal. Her outstanding efforts against Lehigh showed what she is capable of, and Doherty is excited to see the sophomore coming into her own.

"She did a great job," Doherty said of Lazo. "She really worked the crease well, put her shots away. She was aggressive too, which was awesome. So, it was good to see her emerge as one of our offensive leaders."

Lazo, however, felt her success was a team effort. She knows the opportunities she had would not have come about if the entire squad wasn't playing with such determination and skill.

"I felt pretty confident with the ball," said Lazo. "Our coach, Missy [Doherty] is always like, 'Steph, catch and go. Catch and go.' So, I was just doing what she was telling me, and my teammates were setting me up. I just took the opportunity and made the most of it."

Lazo was not the only offensive leader, as Abby Smucker recorded a three-goal game and Coffey, Jenna Mosketti and Kelly Lechner all scored twice. The Lions outshot the Mountain Hawks, 25-19.

Smith also made her presence known in goal for the Blue and White as she made 10 saves in the matchup. Doherty was very pleased with the goalie's play and gave her a ton of credit for the Lions' victory.

"Every team we're going to play is going to be really difficult, and we need people to make plays," Doherty said. "Thankfully, today Emi [Smith] stepped up and made a lot of plays for us, but some days it's going to be our attack stepping up and vice versa. Overall, I think it was a good, competitive game, and it was awesome to have as our first game."

With the nerves and stress of playing the season opener out of the way, the Lions can now look ahead to what the rest of the season may bring. This team is strong, and it is determined to compete day in and day out.

"It's great to start off our season with a win," said Lazo. "It gets the ball moving, or gets the ball bouncing actually. That's what we've been saying. It's just great to come out on the winning end. It's a good way to start our season. I'm really excited for it. It should be a good one."

The Nittany Lions will take the field in Holuba Hall again Wednesday night for a 7 p.m. game against Bucknell.

Nittany Lions Prepare to Open Inaugural Big Ten Season

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By Julie Bacanskas, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Sitting at the front of the media room, Penn State women's lacrosse coach Missy Doherty, senior Tatum Coffey and junior Ally Heavens smiled as they fielded questions about the upcoming 2015 season. The three discussed the freshmen class, the team's offense, leadership roles, and overall expectations for this spring, but they also discussed another timely topic, the newly formed conference.

With only a few days separating the No. 10 Nittany Lions from their first game, excitement is in the air. Big Ten lacrosse is finally here, and Happy Valley is ready for the competition.

"I think the Big Ten is going to be exciting for women's lacrosse and men's lacrosse," Doherty said. "They feature some of the top teams in the country, perennial powerhouses. For us, who we've been continuously building to be in the mix with those national powerhouses, you know it give us the opportunity to continue that mission."

The Big Ten is slated to be competitive from the get-go. Included in the conference are the likes of Maryland, the defending national champion, and Northwestern, another consistent top-five program. Nevertheless, the Lions know battling day in and day out with the best in the country will only make them stronger as the year progresses.

Rivalries will develop quickly, and tensions will be high at times. But, all of these factors only add to the excitement as the Lions eagerly await their first tastes of Big Ten play.

The development of this conference is a big step for Penn State's program, and the resulting opportunities are endless.

"Being a senior, it's really cool to see how much Penn State lacrosse has grown over my four years here," Coffey said. "I can only imagine how it's going to grow in the future from here."

A major asset for the Nittany Lions this season is its abundance of leaders in the locker room. Veterans and young players alike are stepping up, and everyone on the team is prepared to make this an unforgettable run.

"I think every year there's certain aspects of your team that are coach driven and player driven," Doherty said. "I think this year it's such a healthy atmosphere of the right things being player driven, whether it's work ethic, communication and all those things. A lot of the team has really taken that upon themselves to make it better."

The Lions return three of the top four scores from last season in Coffey, Madison Cyr and Maggie McCormick. Coffey, Cyr and McCormick had 39, 48 and 48 points in 2014, respectively. Back in net is junior Emi Smith, who is expected to start in Saturday afternoon's season-opener.

The freshmen class, however, has also begun contributing to the squad and its depth. Doherty is looking forward to seeing what these seven newcomers can do once the season is in full swing.

"We've had a couple early contributors," Doherty said. "Katie O'Donnell, one of our freshmen midfielders, has been playing just like a mature senior player. I mean, she's one of the impact players that we're going to have this year, along with some extra goalie competition there with McKenna Coyle and Madison Day down at the defensive end.

"So, it's good to see some players coming in and making an impact right away, and not only that, see some nice, young players that are continuing to learn and grow as we progress through the season."

Looking ahead, Penn State will open its season with a game against Lehigh this Saturday at 1 p.m. in Holuba Hall. Expectations for this squad are high, and the Nittany Lions do not want to disappoint.

"I think we're trying to focus on our identity and having this confidence where like no one else matters," Heavens said. "It's all about us, and I think if we go into every game like that, we're going to come out strong and there's going to be some upsets this year."

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - GoPSUsports.com introduces the new video series "A Day in the Life" with a behind-the-scenes look of the women's lacrosse locker room with senior Tatum Coffey. 

Barbour Eager to Lead Penn State Athletics

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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - The 18th of August cannot come soon enough for Sandy Barbour.

Introduced as Penn State Director of Athletics on Saturday afternoon, Barbour is thrilled to begin her tenure as the leader of an athletic program that aspires to continue its long history of excellence on and off the field of play.

"When you spend a professional lifetime serving institutions and most importantly students, you dream about coming to a place like Penn State," Barbour said. "You dream about the opportunity to lead a program like Penn State athletics. Why? Because it represents the opportunity to have it all: Athletic excellence, academic achievement, community engagement and fiscal responsibility. So thank you, Eric [Barron]. I am absolutely thrilled, over the top excited about this opportunity and about being the athletic director at Penn State."

A graduate of Wake Forest where she was field hockey team captain, Barbour grew up on the East Coast and has always had a deep passion for Penn State University and its athletic department. That's what drew her to the position when she originally spoke with President Barron about the opportunity.

Immediately, Barbour felt a connection with the people, pride and remarkable accomplishments of Penn State University and its athletic department.

"I love the 'We Are Penn State.' I particularly love what it stands for. It stands for family," Barbour said.

Barbour desires to see national titles in all 31 sports on campus. But first and foremost, she will strive to lead a department with student-athletes who are elite performers in the classroom.

"We are athletic programs again that are all part of a university," Barbour said. "Our student-athletes will be students first, Penn State is incredibly proud of the academic performance of their students and we will continue to be."

Eager to hit the ground running when she begins her duties as athletic director in 23 days, Barbour wants to learn from everyone in the department, especially the head coaches leading Penn State's 31 athletic teams.

"Unity doesn't mean one opinion, and I actually embrace that, embrace the diversity of opinion, diversity in a variety of different ways, and I actually think that will make us stronger in our ability to move forward," Barbour said. "As I said before, I have something to learn from everybody, and I'll be doing a lot of listening."

Numerous head coaches were in attendance at Saturday's introductory press conference. The coaches and athletic department staff then had a chance to mingle with Barbour at a private reception before she boarded a flight to Chicago for Big Ten meetings. The head coaches in attendance exuded great confidence in the future direction of the athletic department.

"There is a culture, history and tradition of tremendous academic achievement at Penn State and that will continue," said head football coach James Franklin. "I know it's important to our president, athletic director and all of our coaches. That will continue. I know we'll spend as much time as we need to so we can start building."


"I am truly thrilled that Sandy Barbour will serve as the next athletic director for Penn State," Lady Lions head coach Coquese Washington said. "Sandy is a strong, dynamic and passionate leader. She is also an incredibly smart visionary and strategic thinker. It is exciting to imagine all the ways Penn State University, and Penn State athletics in particular, will be positively impacted by her leadership."

"I loved everything I heard today," head women's hockey coach Josh Brandwene said. "She has passion, vision and just a great understanding of the Penn State community. Both as a head coach and as an alumnus, I am really excited to start working with her."


Barbour will return to California in the coming days to prepare for her full-time return to Happy Valley on Aug. 18, and the new leader of Penn State Athletics is fired up to get started.

"We are Penn State. I'm all in. I'm ready to get going," said Barbour.

 


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

Nittany Lions Draw Familiar Foe To Begin NCAA Tournament

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By Michael Renahan, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Right around 9:15 p.m. on Sunday, room 133 in the East Area Locker Room exploded as the Penn State Nittany Lions learned they had been selected as one of 26 teams to compete for a national championship in the NCAA Tournament.

The celebration lasted around 60 seconds before head coach Missy Doherty addressed her team and the focus shifted from celebrating to preparing.

Penn State drew Princeton in the first round of the tournament, and will travel to the Charlottesville, Va., home of the University of Virginia to open play on Friday.

"I think it's awesome," Doherty said of her program making the tournament. "This is where Penn State should be. I'm excited for our team, that we made it to the NCAAs again. It's a great goal to have every year. And to be ranked as high as we are in the country as well is just a credit to what they have done all year."

The Nittany Lions and Tigers have become very familiar with one another over the years and the two programs just met on the lacrosse field 11 days ago. Penn State defeated Princeton, 13-12, in their regular-season finale.

"Yeah, I mean, I think it's been a good week," Doherty said. "I think we could rest after our ALC tournament; the girls have been in exams all week, so it's been a good pace to work up towards this weekend. [We] potentially have two tough games, especially facing Princeton, who we just beat by a narrow margin, we know it's going to be a battle come Friday."

Princeton poses an interesting challenge for Doherty's squad. The Tigers will enter the game hungry for a win after falling to the Nittany Lions in their last matchup. They are a quick team, who likes to outhustle their opponents, and they are very effective on offense.

In their matchup on April 26, the Nittany Lions ended the first half with an 8-4 lead after outscoring the Tigers 5-1 over the last 12:44. A strong start to the second half widened the lead to 13-7. Princeton responded well, but the stingy defense from the Nittany Lions limited the Tigers offense and helped secure the victory.

For Doherty and her team, the schedule will remain the same and their focus will remain the same - win. Penn State has been hungry for this opportunity all season long. The Nittany Lions have qualified for the NCAA Tournament the previous two seasons, and have yet to advance beyond the quarterfinals. This season, they feel they have a better opportunity to make their mark on this tournament and move beyond the quarterfinals.

One of the factors heading into this game is the Nittany Lions already having experience playing at Klöckner Stadium. They traveled down to Virginia earlier this season to take on the Cavaliers and have become familiar with the stadium and all its nuances.

Historically, balanced teams also have tremendous success in this tournament. Nineteen Nittany Lions have registered at least one point this season, and it seems as if the offense can come from anyone on the roster. Heading into this first round game, the balanced attack Penn State has should be very helpful as they try to make a postseason run.

The Tigers enter their matchup with the Nittany Lions after falling to the University of Penn in the Ivy League title game, 9-6, while Penn State enters after falling to Johns Hopkins in the first round of the ALC tournament.

After a long week of practice, the moment has finally arrived in just a few days. Game time is set for 4 p.m., on Friday and you can bet Doherty and the Nittany Lions will be ready to go.

"NCAAs are one-and-done," Doherty said. "You have to go in, be ready to take advantage of each play, each moment, and play those out and have a good game."