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Lions Battle to NCAA Semifinal Spot

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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Penn State women's lacrosse head coach Missy Doherty has known since the beginning of fall that the 2017 Nittany Lions were a special group. Sunday's NCAA quarterfinal matchup only continued to prove the feeling as fourth-seeded Penn State gritted out a gutsy 14-12 win against fifth-seeded Princeton.

"It was a battle, but we've really been battling all season long," Doherty said. "I love games like that. I loved the game today. Obviously you always want to come out of it with a victory, but just to have a battle -  that's what they prepare for, that's why they work in the offseason, to face games like this where they're tested all game long." 

Through the entire outing, there wasn't a shortage in testing opportunities, as both Penn State and Princeton traded goals to keep each squad on their toes with no more than a two-goal lead.

Freshman Maria Auth sparked early momentum for the Nittany Lions, registering three goals in the opening half of the first frame.

"That was probably the best feeling I've ever experienced," Auth said. "I've never experienced anything like that, but it was a credit to my teammates getting open, helping me out with clearing through, I couldn't have scored those goals without them."

Auth, who had scored 13 goals through 17 games with one start prior to the matchup, wasn't finished though.

With Penn State trailing by one in the second half with less than six minutes to play, it was Auth again, with her fourth goal of the game to tie the score, 12-12.

In a career-high performance, Auth led the team with five points, adding one assist to a team-high four goals.

"She's a great individual attacker and through the course of the season, especially later in the season, she really became a great team attacker - started to know where to move the ball, know how people are working and mixing in that great individual talent," Doherty said. "You could really see that today."

Sophomore Kayla Brisolari responded minutes after Auth's tally with the game-winning go-ahead goal on the free position.

"She looked over to see if we wanted to work the ball but it was a tie game at that point and I was like, if you want to take it, take it, because we need a goal and she did a great job of getting in and putting that shot away," Doherty said.

Penn State closed out its longest scoring stretch with a Katie O'Donnell goal to regain the two-goal advantage, 14-12, with less than two minutes remaining. 

The Nittany Lions owned the lead on the draw in the second half, with sophomore Madison Carter finishing with 12 draw controls on the day, in addition to three goals.

"It provides a lot of momentum, you need the ball to be able to do things on offense," Carter said. "The girls on the line were coming and helping out, the girls in the circle were boxing out and we were just able to come up with those possessions which was great and really kept the momentum going." 

As the final seconds ticked off the clock, Princeton only dialed up the pressure, peppering the Nittany Lions with shot after shot.

It was senior goalkeeper Cat Rainone who proved poised under pressure though, coming up with a pair of critical late saves, denying IWLCA First Team All-American Olivia Hompe on a wide open attempt in the final seconds to lock up the win. 

"That last save she had there at the end I was like stop jumping, stop jumping, we've still got eight seconds on the clock," laughed O'Donnell. "She played great today and she had some great momentum saves and really kept us going and kept our energy up and we were able to build off of that and take it into the offensive end." 

For Doherty, the last save was simply signature Rainone at her best.

"She's a goalie who just grinds it out, grinds it out, grinds it out, and when we're at practice and it's a competitive thing, that's when she plays her best," Doherty said. "To see their top scorer come in and just take a shot wide open and her to come up with a huge save, I'm just so proud of her." 

With the victory, the Nittany Lions are set for their second consecutive appearance in the NCAA national semifinals, slated to meet top-seeded Maryland Friday, May 26 at 5 p.m. in Foxboro, Massachusetts (Gillette Stadium). 

"We're excited," Doherty said. "Our goal is to do our best every single game and certainly going against Maryland you need to be ready to be on top of things. We have things to grow from, from our last game with them but it's always a great matchup when we play them."

Reach Arielle at ans26@psu.edu or follow on Twitter @arielle_sargent

Lions Focused on NCAA Quarterfinals

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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Ahead of its fifth NCAA quarterfinals appearance in the last six years, fourth-seeded Penn State women's lacrosse is set to host Princeton Sunday afternoon in the final matchup of the year at the Penn State Lacrosse Field.

"We're so excited about our win from last weekend and knowing we have Princeton coming up, we know we have a lot things we need to work on to make sure that we play our best game Sunday," head coach Missy Doherty said. "I think the girls are really driven by that, we've recognized the things that we need to make sure we get better and they've been really diligent in practice so far in making sure they are working on those things."

It has been an all-in mentality for the Nittany Lions since the very start of the 2017 season, one that guided by stead leadership, has resulted in calm composure amidst not only challenges, but uncontrollable changes too. 

"I don't think we'll face anything for the rest of our season that we haven't faced already, in the regular season, Big Ten's or games we've been in," Doherty said. "That grind of competing for 60 minutes, there has been a different element this year with the 90-second shot clock so there's no more stalling, no more really long possessions."

With the introduction of an entirely new element in the 90-second shot clock, as Doherty puts it, anything can happen and any one team can always be in the mix, something that the Nittany Lions have simply embraced.

From shot clocks to the usual ups and downs and shifts in momentum, perhaps what's proven to keep the Nittany Lions calm under pressure comes from an unparalleled focus on what's internal.

"First half on Sunday, we played really well offensively and defensively, but more so on the offensive end," IWLCA First Team All-American Steph Lazo said. "We were a huge power house, we were up 8-1 at one point because we were playing our game, we were focused on what we were doing and we didn't let any of the outside stuff kind of play into that."

For senior three-time captain Erika Spilker, that type of composure is different from any team she's ever been a part of. 

"We don't get rattled," Spilker said. "If one thing goes wrong, it's not the end of the world, and that goes with the leadership. Because we're all pretty confident in ourselves personally and each other, it helps with the composure because if one thing goes wrong, we're going to learn from it and move forward."

Coming off of its highest scoring performance in an NCAA Tournament round two win against JMU that put the Penn State composure to the test last weekend, Penn State will look to keep it rolling, headed into yet another win or go home matchup.

That's nothing the Nittany Lions aren't used to though, coming off of last year's berth to the NCAA national semifinals.

"I think it definitely helps that we made it last year," Lazo said. "We all kind of remember that feeling of working hard to get to the final four and we want nothing less than that. We're super focused, we're ready to go and ready to play on Sunday."

As Doherty noted last weekend though, there are no easy games when it comes to NCAA Tournament time, as Princeton brings a new set of challenges when it comes to pregame preparations.

"Their scoring is pretty spread out amongst a lot of different people," Doherty said. "They make it really challenging just to pick one or two people." "They come down hard in transition, they're fast. We need to be ready to stop their offensive break."

Atop Princeton's potential scoring threats is Olivia Hompe, an IWLCA First Team All-American who was also named the 2017 Ivy League Attacker of the Year. Leading the team with a program single season record-setting 107 points, Hompe has accounted for 72 goals and 35 assists through 18 games, averaging a national-best 4.00 goals per game.

"Every time we play them every year, it's always just a gritty match," Doherty said.

Penn State and Princeton have already met in the regular season, with the Nittany Lions earning a 13-8 win on the road, but the two teams are also fairly familiar postseason opponents. Most recently, it was Princeton knocking off Penn State in the first round of the 2014 NCAA Tournament at Virginia.

That's in the past though, as Penn State looks toward another successful week of practice before putting it all out on the Penn State Lacrosse Field for the final time, seeking a second consecutive NCAA national semifinals appearance.

Reach Arielle at ans26@psu.edu or follow on Twitter @arielle_sargent

Lions Confident in NCAA Second Round Win

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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Fourth-seeded Penn State women's lacrosse is moving on to the NCAA Tournament quarterfinals following a 19-14 win against JMU Saturday afternoon.

Tied for the second highest Nittany Lion scoring output of the season and the second-highest in an NCAA Tournament game, the final score hardly does justice to telling the story of a back-and-forth outing featuring a wide spectrum of emotions across 60 minutes. 

"We're really excited for the win, it was a great game," head coach Missy Doherty said postgame. "That's what you're going to get when you get to the NCAA's, there are no easy games."

Jumping on the scoreboard less than a minute into action, Penn State quickly made things look easy, widening the advantage to seven, 8-1, helped out by three early goals from Madison Carter. 

The Dukes came storming back though, switching up the momentum with a 5-1 run to arrive within three, 9-6, at halftime. James Madison only continued to surge out of the break, scoring three straight to knot the score, 9-9, at 26:49. 

The Nittany Lions quickly regrouped, responding with back-to-back goals from Katie O'Donnell and then Carter, to spark a 5-0 scoring streak that built the Penn State advantage back to five, 14-9.

"Lacrosse is just a game of runs so I think as a team we just do a good job of staying consistent and we know when to not freak out when they get a run on us," Carter said.

Aiding Carter in the second-half surge, O'Donnell also noted that calm composure was key in kick starting an already potent offense on display earlier in the opening frame. 

"I thought we just had to settle it down a little and settle ourselves down a little bit," O'Donnell said. "I think we let their first half run get to us a little bit and we lost our mentality on offense. Second half, we just thought, move the ball, move ourselves, be decisive and we got back into the flow and kept pushing transition, which definitely helps us out." 

Between Carter and O'Donnell, the duo combined for 10 of 19 goals, including two on the free position and an additional pair of assists.

Finishing with a career-high eight points, Carter also edged the advantage on the draw, registering 12 draw controls.

"Haley [Warden] is really good at the draw and she really gave our team a run for their money on the draw," Carter said. "I was just trying to mix up what I was doing and the girls on the line came in and helped out to really box out the girls and it was really good to have those possessions because it kept the momentum of the game going." 

For Doherty, although pleased by the offensive output, she noted that the early postseason test would only provide learning lessons headed to the upcoming quarterfinal match against Princeton, set for 1 p.m. Sunday, May 21 at home.

"JMU played so well, they brought it for 60 minutes, they just kept attacking, attacking, attacking and really tested our defense," Doherty said.

Much like JMU, Penn State and Princeton have already met during the regular season with the Nittany Lions earning a 13-8 win against the Tigers on the road near the end of March. Princeton knocked off Cornell in the NCAA Tournament second round with a dramatic 11-9 win against Cornell. 

"I think the grill of our season has prepared us for that consistency in approach, when you go through our Big Ten games, when you go through our tough out of conference schedule, you have to be focused each game," Doherty said.

Reach Arielle at ans26@psu.edu or follow on Twitter @arielle_sargent

By Jeff Sattora, GoPSUsports.com

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Coming off one of the best regular seasons in school history, the fourth-seeded Penn State Nittany Lions (15-3) are ready to make a postseason run, and that all starts this weekend in Happy Valley. 

 

Facing the winner of Friday night's Louisville-James Madison game on Sunday at 1 p.m., the host Lions are excited and know they've worked hard to get here. 

 

"Coming into the tournament bidding you never really know what's going to happen, but we knew we had one of the best resumes in the country and to get the fourth-seed is a credit to the players and how hard they worked all season long," said head coach Missy Doherty. 

 

Not only is the fourth-overall seed a nice bonus, the team will also get to play on its home field during opening weekend. 

 

"We're really excited it's a home game," Doherty said.  "Playing here is always awesome, our facility is amazing.  We're really excited to have our home crowd, our alums, and our fans.  The energy at Penn State is always amazing so it definitely gives us an edge playing at home."

 

"There's nothing better than playing on our home field and filling the hill with our parents, friends, it's always a great atmosphere," added junior midfielder Katie O'Donnell.

 

While 2017 is a new postseason run, Doherty and her squad will lean on experience from 2016, when Penn State made a run to the Final Four. 

 

"You have to remind yourself that you have the ability to do this and to play with confidence because we've been there before," O'Donnell said on using last year's run.  "If we can do that it will help us in the long run."

 

Leading that charge will be the Big Ten's Attack Player of the Year, senior Steph Lazo.  Lazo, the program's first winner of that award, led the Big Ten with her 82 points and 39 assists for the season, while her 43 goals ranked seventh in the conference. Her point and assist totals also placed her 16th and 20th in the nation in those two categories.

 

Doherty credits Lazo's hard work for her success this season. 

 

"She just kept getting better and better every year," Doherty said.  "To have the year she had this year with some of the best defenders marking her throughout the season is a credit to her and the season she had." 

 

Although Lazo may have been recognized, one of Penn State's best weapons is its number of weapons as a group. 

 

"I think it's a huge advantage for us (to have so much talent)," Lazo said.  "If you take one of us out there is six other girls that can score and make plays on the offensive end.  We're all a big powerhouse, all 11 of us on the field."

 

Those powerhouse players are ready to go, and the way they've been playing this season, a Final Four is within reach again.  

VIDEO: Lions Earn No. 4 Seed in NCAA Tournament

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NEWS: Women's Lacrosse Earns No. 4 Seed I Men's Lacrosse Earns No. 7 Seed

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - It was a busy NCAA selection Sunday for both Penn State lacrosse programs. Both the Nittany Lion men's and women's squads earned top eight seeds, making Penn State one of just three programs with both teams earning top eight seeding ahead of the men's and women's NCAA DI Lacrosse Championship. 

Penn State's women's lacrosse team hosted its watch party at Primanti Brothers in downtown State College, gathering together to see the official bracket reveal flash across the big screen.

The Nittany Lions earned the No. 4 seed and a first-round bye, set to meet the winner of the James Madison (13-6) and Louisville (11-7) matchup. Penn State will host both rounds of NCAA Tournament, making their 23rd appearance in the annual postseason event.

Catch up with head coach Missy Doherty and senior Steph Lazo for an early look at reactions and expectations headed into NCAA Tournament time.

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By Ryan Berti, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - The regular season has passed and the postseason is finally here. It's been a long road for the Nittany Lions but now as they have gotten through all their games, practices and classes, they have finally made it to the point they have been looking forward to all season long.

 

"I think this is the best part of the season," senior Abby Smucker said, while also talking about where the team left off last year in its tournament success. "We're just itching to get back to that spot and ultimately move further."

 

That excitement and hunger to accomplish more has been a driving force behind the team all season. But as the postseason begins, Penn State will also have redemption on its mind.

 

The two-seeded Blue and White's first round draw in the Big Ten Tournament will be familiar foe in three-seeded Northwestern, making it a rematch from last year's tournament semifinals.

 

In that matchup, the Nittany Lions fell to the Wildcats in a low-scoring 9-6 affair and would not be able to repeat their 2015 tournament title performance. Penn State in the end would have the last laugh, however, as they went deeper than their Chicago-based rivals in the NCAA tournament, making it all the way to the Final Four before falling to eventual champion North Carolina.

 

"Northwestern's going to offer us a tough battle, they always do, but I think we wouldn't want to play anyone else," Smucker said. "Having that tough competition on Friday, if we come out on top, will just prepare us for the championship game on Sunday."

 

A win Friday night against Northwestern will only bring with it an even tougher challenge. Waiting to face them on Sunday afternoon will be the victor of the Maryland-Johns Hopkins game.

 

Johns Hopkins this season gave the Nittany Lions a run for their money in a 16-10 bout that saw Penn State come out on top. Meanwhile, tournament host Maryland handed Penn State it's second loss of the regular season in potentially Happy Valley's final game this year. Either way, the road to the tourney title will be far from a walk in the park as any matchup presents a worthy challenge.

 

While the team knows the mountain they will have to climb in order to reach their ultimate goals of taking home both the Big Ten and NCAA championships, the players remain calm and poised.

 

This is a team that is stacked with big-game experience and has no need to act because they have been there before. Even the sophomores were a part of the deep NCAA that took place last May, so every player with at least one year's experience has had its chance to play under the spotlight that comes with national play.

 

Senior Natalie Schmitt feels this type of experience is one of the team's greatest assets and that they will be taking into battle with them the knowledge of how to thrive under pressure.

 

"We know we have to play hard and then be on top [of things] for the next game," Schmitt said.

 

The team also brings with them a new level of expectations, something the Nittany Lions will have to be aware of come tournament time.

 

"It's fun being the underdogs but I think maybe we're now under a little more pressure so we've got to keep working hard through the tough games," Schmitt said.

 

Along with the drive to succeed the calming presence of vast experience, the Lions will also be motivated by the added feeling of mortality in postseason play. With a unit this tightly knit after years of playing together, these players will do anything they can to keep pushing forward in order to get one more game with the teammates they share such a close bond with.

 

"Missy has said you never know which play is going to win the game," junior Katie O'Donnell said. "Give every moment everything you have, especially in postseason when it could be your last game, you don't know when it's going to be over." 


The end of the season is on the horizon, but with experience and confidence this Nittany Lion team has, the group is ready to make a final push. 

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By Ryan Berti, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - After 84 days of tough practices and even tougher competition out on the turf, just two more days and one more game remains on the regular season schedule for the Nittany Lions.

 

Penn State will take on Big Ten rival Michigan in Ann Arbor Saturday at 11 a.m., with the final whistle marking the end of the regular season and the beginning of postseason play.

 

The regular season has been one full of spoils for the Nittany Lions as they boast a 14-2 record and top-five national ranking, but the squad has not become content with the mere success of regulation. Looking at a team that has continually progressed further through the NCAA playoffs in each postseason, including a Final Four berth last May, the Blue and White are ready to make a run and end the season on the highest of note.

 

But before then, there's still work to do.

 

Head Coach Missy Doherty says while her squad is ready to make a splash in the postseason, there is still room to improve. The matchup with the Wolverines provides both a quality matchup against a conference opponent right before the gauntlet of the Big Ten Tournament as well as a chance to tune things up.


"It's our last chance to prove what kind of regular season we want to have," Doherty said. "Every Big Ten game is a huge game for us and Michigan's really no different. We're playing there on their senior day so it's going to be a tough test but we want to get better from the Maryland game and we're taking the opportunity to try to do that."

 

In terms of where the team can make adjustments, Doherty says they can always get better across the board. In order to be an all-around threat, the team needs to continue to progress on their biggest strengths on both the offensive and defensive end.

 

"I think it's just making strong individual defensive stops and being ready for the next thing the attacks bringing. I think we want to continue doing well on the draw because getting possession is key, and then make sure offensively everybody's ready to score. We don't want to just rely on a couple of people, we want to make sure we have plenty of threats offensively."

 

The only way the team gets better in its matchup with Ann Arbor is of course by giving its all. The postseason tournaments may be just around the bend, but a lack in focus can cripple teams with high hopes late in the year.

 

Doherty plans to squash any and all chances of her team to slack off in that department. With an arrival early Saturday morning onto the Michigan campus, the Blue and White's mindset will be on giving it their all with their attention directed towards nothing but what lies in front of them.

 

"I think just effort level," Doherty said on what the team needs to bring in their matchup with the Blue and Maize. "Whether it's on the draw whether it's on ground balls whether its pushing our brake, it's just giving that little bit of effort to make sure when we walk off the field we can tell ourselves we couldn't have done anything more.

 

With a maximized effort, Doherty says the team's current pedigree can take them far. When asked how to describe her squad in a single word, the coach chose one that is essential to all great squads.

 

"I would probably say consistent, and that's such a great thing," Doherty said. "I think we've had consistent effort through the season. There hasn't been any game where we haven't worked hard and we're hoping we can bring our consistent effort on Sunday."

 

If the Nittany Lions can stay consistent, continue their all-around effort and not forget to focus on what lies ahead, Penn State has a chance to have yet another prosperous postseason and can potentially finish the season on their own terms. Until then, Michigan lies ahead, and the team plans to make the most out of what is left of the regular season.

 

"I think our regular season has shown that we can be competitive with any team in the country," Doherty said. "You're never going to reach that point of perfection but every game throughout the season has been different. Every game has shown us little things we need to do better, but I think we're ready to compete in postseason. We're a team that's going to work hard and give everybody a game and we're kind of excited to see what's next."

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By Ryan Berti, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Penn State dropped its final home game of the regular season Thursday night to the Maryland Terrapins, 16-14. The contest was one that saw a back-and-forth battle and ended with the Nittany Lions being the closest squad to knocking off the nation's top team this season.


With the win, Maryland moves to 16-0 and remains the only unbeaten team in the nation. The Terrapins also continue their incredible streak of 53 consecutive regular season wins, one that spans all the way back to April of the 2013-14 season.

 

Even though the Blue and White came up short in the end, the team still feels as if there were positives to take away from the close fought match.

 

"It was the number one team in the country. I think every year we turn a corner and I think we're showing we're right up there. It's still a long season ahead with the Big Ten tournament and NCAA's so we'll take our lessons from this game and move on," head coach Missy Doherty said on what her team can take away from the game.

 

The game also could prove valuable come postseason play, the team says. Only a date with Michigan stands in the way of the Nittany Lions before every team in the conference ships off to College Park, Maryland for the start of the Big Ten tournament. Junior attacker Katie O'Donnell said that games like these that make the team grind from buzzer-to-buzzer helps the team ease into playoff mode where every game is do or die.

 

"It was a hard fought game, both sides. We fought really hard there at the end, came up short, but I mean once you get to the postseason every single game is like that," O'Donnell said. "It doesn't matter who you're playing, what they're ranked, everyone is playing to keep their season going. So I think it's important we had this game tonight to take it as a learning lesson."

 

The loss still saw plenty of bright spots for Penn State as several of the upperclassmen stepped up to make big plays. Among the standouts were Madison Carter and O'Donnell, who netted six and five goals, respectively.

 

When the rest of the offense was struggling to get past the stifling Terrapin defense, Carter or O'Donnell were usually the ones who took charge in the final seconds of the shot clock's life to earn much-needed goals for the Blue and White.

 

"Our offense was just seeing each other really well. We were cutting through for each other, we were moving hard, we were running out options hard," Carter said about the all-hands-on-deck effort by the offense in running its plays. "All seven people down there on offense are a threat. It was just great to just move the ball, see our options real hard and finish some of our opportunities,"

 

O'Donnell was the one to open up the scoring on the day with the Penn State's first two goals, and she was the one to close the first half by putting in the team's final goal with six minutes remaining. She and Carter would each score within 23 seconds of one another in order to reclaim the momentum and the 6-5 lead.

 

The two squads eventually went into the half tied up at six apiece. In the first 30 minutes, both teams had proven their rightful place amongst the nation's best, but it was then the Nittany Lions felt they had the confidence to finish strong.

 

"Momentum's a huge thing," senior goalkeeper Cat Rainone said about the confidence heading into the half. "Being home's a big deal. Just like last home game, you get that boost of confidence, it's just you've got to get the ball and you've got to score."

 

Rainone also had herself a solid game after accumulating 15 saves on the day, eight of which were in the first half. She was the anchor in the defensive unit that held the second-highest scoring team in the nation to just six goals in the first half.

 

When the teams came out for the second half, however, the script completely flipped. The first ten minutes of play in the second half featured eight goals, with Maryland netting five for a 11-9 lead.

 

From that point on, the two heavyweights would continue to duke it out by trading goals as each put up five more. Unfortunately for the hosts, the mountain proved to be too steep to climb as two goals in the final two minutes still resulted in a two-goal loss.

 

Penn State looks to finish the season on a high note as they take on Michigan next Sunday in Ann Arbour. The first draw will be at 11 a.m.

By Ryan Berti, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - At 7 p.m. on Thursday night, the Penn State Lacrosse Field will be the venue for a top-five showdown between No. 5 Penn State and No. 1 Maryland. The high stakes of the matchup may be enough to describe why this is the biggest game of the season for the Nittany Lions, but the rivalry between the two teams must be understood in order to know just how intense the play will be under the lights.


"I think the rivalry [with Maryland] has grown throughout the first few years of having Big Ten lacrosse. It's always an exciting game," Penn State head coach Missy Doherty said. "With a team as good as them and what we're bringing to the table, it's gonna be a pretty good competition."

 

That competition should be second-to-none on the Penn State schedule this season as it goes toe-to-toe with the lone undefeated team remaining in the national rankings. But, the team is riled up for much more than that, as hometown pride is on the line for many of the Blue and White's crusaders.

 

Among the squad, 13 Nittany Lions and all three coaches grew up inside the Maryland's borders. Included in that bunch is the team's leader in points, Steph Lazo, who is excited for the matchup and says it will be a family affair.

 

"It's always nice to beat the hometown team," Lazo said. "Even though it's not at Maryland and all our family and friends can't come, we're still expecting a pretty big crowd and all our friends are like 'Yeah we're coming to support you guys. You guys are doing so well this season.' So coming out and playing the hometown team; it's always a good feeling, always a good game and we're really excited for Thursday."

 

Coach Doherty knows the team especially well. As a 1997 graduate of the university and a four-year letter winning defender, Doherty experienced vast success and says she learned a lot of her coaching ways in her time as a Terrapin.

 

But the ties do not stop there for head coach. Down on the other end of the sideline for the game will be Doherty's counterpart in Maryland head coach Cathy Reese. Reese and Doherty were former teammates for three years with the Terrapins in the 90's and claimed a national championship in every one of those seasons. Now pitted against one another as adversaries in the same conference, Doherty says they still share a friendship but know that for 60 minutes they each have to get down to business.

 

"Cathy's done a great job with the program and she's one of my good friends there in the coaching world so it's always good to play against each other. But obviously the competition gets tough once the whistle blows and that's what makes it fun to play against them," Doherty said.

 

Each coach brings a unique perspective to their respective teams which seems to stay true to their playing days.

 

Reese, a former elite attacker for the Terps during the title runs, now heads a powerful offensive unit that scores the second most goals per game in the nation (16.87). Meanwhile Doherty, a former defensive standout, looks over a team that is top-20 in the country in scoring defense and top-15 in scoring margin. She looks to transfer her defensive knowledge to her players and recognizes that the key to victory Thursday night will be through the team's defense.

 

"I think defensively is going to be our mark against Maryland. They have a lot of great scorers and you need to be ready to come out and play solid against each one of them," Doherty said.

 

As Doherty gears up her players for the vital matchup, the team will be willing and able to practice what she preaches. Lazo says she and her teammates look to the coach as a spirited leader who always is pushing them towards success.


"I think a really good word to describe Missy is passion," Lazo said. "Whether it's on the field, off the field, she's always in your corner. She's always pushing you to be the best that you can. And this is a huge week for us and she just wants us to put out our best ability."

 

Doherty, like many of the Maryland natives, may have a spot for the state and university somewhere in their hearts, but the head coach says the only colors now coursing through her veins are blue and white. She still can remember her playing days as a Terrapin, however, and says she gets reminded of those championship teams all the time by closely watching the team she gets to coach each and every game.


"[There are] a lot of similarities. The comradery, the great leadership, the ability to really compete in any game," Doherty said. "I've seen a lot of those same things within this Penn State team and it's why it's been a really exciting team to coach all year."

VIDEO: Lions Set for Maryland

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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Having returned home from the road, Penn State women's lacrosse is set to close out the final game of its Big Ten home slate, welcoming Maryland to Happy Valley for a top five matchup. The fifth-ranked Nittany Lions and the top-ranked Terrapins will meet under the lights Thursday at 7 p.m. with an opportunity to earn at least a share of the Big Ten regular season title on the line. 

Ahead of Thursday's matchup catch up with Penn State head coach Missy Doherty as well as Nittany Lions Abby Smucker and Katie O'Donnell. 

Smucker, O'Donnell

Doherty

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