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By Briana Zuccarelli, Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa.- The Nittany Lions now move to 5-3 after a 22-9 win against Drexel on Wednesday, March 14th. 

Penn State returned home to Panzer Stadium Wednesday afternoon after back-to-back away games this past week.  The #17 Nittany Lions took on the Drexel Dragons in 27-degree weather and snow flurries. 

"State College weather is very unpredictable," said sophomore Maria Auth. "We are pretty much used to it at this point because we practice outside a lot to prepare for games like this. It was definitely cold, but I think by the end we were used to it."

Both teams came out of the locker room strong tying the game at 1-1 within the first four minutes of play. However, Penn State quickly took a 4-1 lead after four unanswered goals. As the game progressed, the offense continued to get hot having 13 different players score at least once during the matchup. Auth led the team with a career-high of six goals and seven points.

"What that means for me is our whole offense is cooking," Auth said. "Whenever I have a good day, or anyone has a good day, it just means our team as a whole is doing well. Credit to everyone out there on offense. We move the ball to each other which gives us those goals." 

On defense, both Lucy Lowe and Madison Cunningham saw time in the net for the Nittany Lions. Lowe started in the goal for the first 30 minutes of play and had seven saves for the team, while Cunningham finished off the game in the second half with five saves. 

"Lucy was on fire," said head coach Missy Doherty. "It was hard to take her out, but we knew the quality of practices that Madison had too. We are giving them both the opportunity and keeping them both game-ready, so we will see how it progresses moving forward."

As the team celebrates the win, they also are beginning to focus on this weekend's matchup against the Scarlett Knights of Rutgers. The game will take place in Piscataway, New Jersey on Saturday, March 17th at noon. This marks the team's first game this season in Big Ten conference play.

"I think for us we need to take every opportunity we can to get better," said Auth. "Every practice, every extra rep, every game because every Big Ten game is a tough one and every team in the Big Ten can win. You never know who is going to be a good team this year, so I think we need to take every opportunity to improve." 

For freshmen Alyssa Sloane and Quinn Nicolai, playing at Rutgers means returning to their home state and playing their old teammates. Nicolai, a Morrestown, New Jersey native, will play against two of her high school teammates, Abbey Brooks and Jenna Martinelli. She explained how excited she is for this game and to go back home.

"A lot of my family is coming, old coach and they're really excited to be come see us. It's going to be cool playing against teammates that were once mine, but now they're on another team. I definitely know their style of play, so it will help us, but I'm really excited to see them."

Rutgers will be heading into the matchup at 4-4 and coming off a two-game losing streak. While the Nittany Lions are 5-3, coming off a two-game win streak. Heading into the first conference game, the team is spending time on what is important. 

"Missy's big focus is to focus on your 15 seconds," said Nicolai. "The past doesn't matter, the future doesn't matter, it's what you are going to do in the present. So, we just need to focus on what we're doing in the moment."



By: Briana Zuccarelli, Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa.- The Nittany Lions suffered a nonconference loss to Loyola-Maryland in sudden victory overtime Saturday afternoon. 

No. 13 Penn State was up 13-6 in the second half, when the no. 23 Greyhounds had six unanswered goals bringing the game to a 13-12 difference. Despite the run, the Nittany Lions held onto a lead late, but Loyola scored with 28 seconds left on the clock to tie the game at 15 apiece and bring the game into overtime, where the Lions fell, 16-15.

 "I think our schedule is tough," head coach Missy Doherty said. "We need to get our stuff together defensively and we need to figure out how to make more stops because we can't win games when the other team is scoring 16." 

Sophomore goalie Madison Cunningham recorded 10 saves for the team during her 50:43 time in net. Cunningham was then relieved by freshman goalie Lucy Lowe. Lowe was able to make two saves during the final 11:27 of game play. Lowe will now move to 1-1 for the season. 

"Lucy has done a great job," explained Doherty. "It is such a hard balance in practice and in games figuring out who is really going to come and perform, but Lucy has certainly come in and done a great job for us."

The Nittany Lions defense created some great turnovers during the game, giving opportunity to the powerful Penn State offense. Madison Cater, who had a game-high of five goals and a hat trick explained the importance of the turnovers created by the young defense.

"It was great and we just need to do that more often," said Carter. "When the defense is making a stop and the we could put the ball away, great things were happening. We just didn't have that happening as much as we could have."

Three Penn State players are now in the double digits for goals scored this season. With five games complete, Carter leads the team with 18 goals, followed behind senior Katie O'Donnell with 16 goals and sophomore Maria Auth with 13. Auth ended the game with four goals and O'Donnell finished with two.

"I think it is good," said Doherty about the offensive numbers. "We always try to be really well balanced in the offense. We want to make sure everyone feels like they can score, but I think overall today, for a couple scorers we really needed to finish our shots."

The Nittany Lions still have 12 games left on the schedule, six of which are in conference play. The team now moves to 3-2 overall and 2-1 at home.

 "She (Doherty) told us we need to trust and we need to play better defense and better attack," Carter explained. "Our offense has to put the ball away and our defense needs to make stops. We need to just play better overall. 

Carter and the rest of the team will look to make these important changes before heading to James Madison University on Wednesday, March 7th for another nonconference matchup.


By Briana Zuccarelli, Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa.- With a young defensive end of the field, the Penn State Nittany Lion offense knows it has to continue to get better and push their teammates.

 With majority of the offense returning from last year, they provide the experience needed to balance out an inexperienced defense. Head coach Missy Doherty explained the importance of this older offense for the younger players. 

"I just think when you have players with inexperience, when you're going to be playing against really good players in practice, it just helps you to learn a little bit quicker," said Doherty. "I think going against defensively, Katie O'Donnell at practice for a freshman midfielder, you're not going to face anyone that's harder to mark than her." 

O'Donnell, a senior, leads the team with 14 goals so far this season and was named the Big Ten Offensive Player of the Week as announced earlier Tuesday. Alongside her is junior Madison Carter, who has 13 goals in the first four games. Both O'Donnell and Carter have been named to the 2018 Tewaaraton Award Watch List this season, given to the top American women's lacrosse player each year. 

Doherty explained how these two leaders have set the standards for their younger teammates and the future of Penn State lacrosse through their execution and their own personal growth while on the team.

 "Katie O'Donnell does a great job at that, whether it's in the running, in the weight room, and even on game day," she said. "Madison Carter is always competing consistently and you see her doing the same things in the game that she does in practice every single day."

O'Donnell explained that she's seen herself change in many ways since her first year on the team. She became more physical, faster, and stronger. She credited the coaching staff and atmosphere of the team for the success she has had this season. 

"I think it not only contributes to my success, but the rest of our team as well," said O'Donnell. "You see Maria Auth and you see Madison Carter out there working and our defense as well. I just think the atmosphere and mentality we have on this team right now really provides any one of us the opportunity to go off on a game in any point." 

Sophomore attack, Auth has also had her fair share of goals and had an important hat trick on Saturday during the team's 16-11 win over Cornell. Auth said they don't look at the opposing team, rather they focus on themselves and what they need to make better during that week of practice.

"As a sophomore coming in now to a starting position, Maria is certainly willing to take a lot of risks and put herself out there," Doherty said. "I think she's learning a lot this year being in that role and how to maximize her efforts and work with the rest of the team, so it has been nice to see her take a premiere role this year."

Auth emphasized that the senior leaders and the team as a whole, all have each other's backs. She shared that O'Donnell is one of her biggest mentors on the team and that they have an ability to inform each other when they do something wrong without taking it in the wrong manner. 

"We have a very good conversational aspect of our team," she said. "We're not scared to tell each other when we do make a mistake and we are willing to help each other. We are very supportive of our teammates."

Through continual practice and motivation, the offense and defense have been pushing each other to go above and beyond; to make a bigger impact for the team. With this practice also comes a higher level of confidence from their teammates and the coaching staff, something that O'Donnell and Auth say they've seen grow since the first game of the year. 

"Yes, our defense is young, but they are still very talented and as the season has gone on their communication and chemistry together has gotten better as a whole," said Auth. "That is also a credit to our attack. We work very hard in practice to push our defense and that helps us on attack." 

The Nittany Lions will look to continue their win streak at home on Saturday, March 3rd. The team will matchup against Loyola Maryland at 1 p.m.


Lowe Sparks Cornell Victory

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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Playing its second game in a span of three days, No. 12 Penn State women's lacrosse capped off a 2-0 week with a 16-11 win against No. 17 Cornell Saturday. Despite some less than favorable weather conditions, the Nittany Lions were hardly phased, moving to 3-1 on the year.

With the first three weeks of the season now complete, head coach Missy Doherty sees progress, but like any coach, there's always room to grow. 

"I think as a coach you're really never exactly where you want to be," Doherty said. "You're looking at progress and you're looking to see if the things you're implementing are coming around. We did a great job clearing the ball today. We had a lot of patience and did a great job as a team brining the ball down the field which is something we've been really working on, so that's great. We're just going to keep building and fine tuning and seeing where it takes us."

Facing a 4-0 deficit early in the first half, Doherty opted to sub in freshman Lucy Lowe in net for the Nittany Lions.

"I felt like we were a little down in momentum and Lucy [Lowe] and Madison [Cunningham] both do a really good job so we figured we'd put Lucy in to see if she could give us a spark and she certainly did," Doherty said. 

Lowe proved just the spark the Nittany Lions needed as senior Katie O'Donnell quickly ignited the Penn State offense with her first of a career-high six goals to open a 4-0 scoring streak to tie the score. With fewer than two minutes remaining on the clock, the Big Red looked to halt that momentum with a goal, but Penn State was just getting started.

Quickly regrouping, junior Madison Carter won the draw control and raced down the field to bury her second goal of the afternoon. Penn State took its first lead of the day with 24 seconds on the clock as O'Donnell scored on the free position, adding one more 16 seconds later to send the Nittany Lions to the locker room leading 7-5 at halftime. 

"I think that momentum swing was huge moving forward into the game," O'Donnell said. "It took us a little while to get started and then when we ended the first half like that, we could go into halftime with confidence like, 'okay, guys we're good, we got it.' I think it was a great momentum swing coming down and attacking hard, which we needed to do the whole beginning of the first half." 

Penn State would not relinquish its lead for the rest of the game, but it didn't exactly come easy for the Nittany Lions. Cornell came within one goal of tying the score twice, but each time Penn State had an answer.

After back-to-back Big Red goals with 10:48 left in the game, Penn State called a timeout to regroup. It was veterans O'Donnell and Carter who came through out of the break, opening another 4-0 scoring run to lift the Nittany Lions to the win. 

"It was just good to see them operate at full pace," Doherty said. "Madison Carter and Katie O'Donnell just had some great plays. Around them too, people are really coming along. There's a lot of players really gaining some valuable experience in these early games. It's good to see us getting better and better."

As new faces settle into their roles in the early part of the season, it's an encouraging step in the right direction for Penn State's upperclassmen.

"As a senior it's so awesome to see them come on the field with confidence like that," O'Donnell said. "I think it's only going to keep improving as the year goes on. It's only our fourth game so I'm so excited to see what they are going to have for the rest of the season."

Perhaps nobody proved more pivotal in gaining the valuable experience than Lowe, who earned her first collegiate win in goal, making eight saves for the Nittany Lions.

"Lucy was great. Some of the interceptions she had were momentous and gave us great momentum for the game," Doherty said. "She came up with some huge kick saves that I don't even know if everyone could appreciate if they were sitting far from the field. She really gave us a spark to kind of turn that game around."

Lowe would hardly take credit for her standout performance, giving it back to the improving Nittany Lion defense.

"I give a lot of credit to my defense, they were coming up with a lot of good interceptions and ground balls," Lowe said. "I give so much credit to them. The communication what huge and I think they also helped just bring the spark to the defense and keep the game going."


By: Briana Zuccarelli, Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa.- The #12 Penn State Nittany Lions returned to Panzer Stadium on Wednesday for their home opener against the Duquesne Dukes, earning a 19-8 victory for the Nittany Lions. The win came off a 14-13 victory at Lehigh this past weekend and the team was excited to be finally playing on home turf. 

"I'm super pumped to be home again at our home stadium," said senior Katie O'Donnell. "Being on the road is sometimes tough, but we always make it work. There is nothing better than coming down here for game day and having our family and friends in the bleachers."

In the games against Towson and Lehigh, where the team went 1-1, the Nittany Lions experienced a one-point difference in the final score. Heading into the game against Duquesne, the team was looking to play quicker and get a lead from the start to keep the team confidence high throughout the game.

The Nittany Lions did just that as they started the game off hot with a 6-0 lead against the Dukes. Freshman Sophia Triandafils tallied three goals in the first nine minutes of play in the first half. This marked her first hat trick of her career. Alongside Triandafils, Katie O'Donnell and Maria Auth added to the early lead.  

"I think they did a really good job of playing faster today," said head coach Missy Doherty after the win. "We wanted to challenge our speed and really use our aggressiveness right from the beginning and they did do just that. It was good to see them step up and really build up momentum going into Saturday." 

With a young team, the coaching staff has been working to find the perfect mix for their starting lineup and after this 19-8 win, they believe they may have found that group. With the large point gap, Doherty was able to get some player some early season playing time.  

"We were really excited to get some more looks at our younger player," Doherty said. "We have a lot of talented people on the roster and it's hard to get everyone in on a gamely basis. Being able to shift some people around and see people in different positions and test people out in a game setting was huge." 

In the mix of new faces this season are freshmen Quinn Nicolai and Triandafils. Nicolai scored another goal in the team's victory yesterday, marking her fourth of her career. While Triandafils recorded four goals alone for the Nittany Lions in their win against the Dukes. She expressed what it felt like to score her career-high goals at her first home game. 

"It was really awesome," said the freshman midfielder. "Having our first two games away was kind of challenging for us because we were on the road. It is always more fun playing at your home stadium. It was really great energy all throughout the team: on the field or even on the sidelines."

As the team prepares for their weekend matchup at home on Saturday, they will continue to make the important decisions they need in order to come out successful against Cornell. 

"Coach is really stressing getting ourselves better and improving on ourselves," said O'Donnell. "We need to focus on us before we can start focusing on the other teams. Every single day at practice we need to improve, whether it's in transition or our offense or defense. That's day in and day out what we will be focusing on in practice."

 The game against Cornell will begin at 3 p.m. following the men's lacrosse team taking on Robert Morris at noon.

VIDEO: 2018 THON Pep Rally Dance

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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Among the most highly anticipated THON weekend events, check out women's lacrosse's athlete hour pep rally dance!


By Briana Zuccarelli, Student Staff Writer    

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa- After a one-goal loss in their season opener against the Towson Tigers, the Penn State Nittany Lions women's lacrosse team learned the key parts of their game they need to work on heading into the remainder of the season.


"There were a lot of question marks that we are continuing to fill," head coach Missy Doherty said. "We graduated half of our starting lineup and most of that was on the defensive end. A lot of that requires experience playing in some tough games, dealing with different situations that come about. We had to go through those during the Towson game."

Due to the changes in the game day schedule requirements, the Nittany Lions were unable to play a game before February 9th and had to jump right into playing a ranked Towson. Doherty explained how this change shifted the teams schedule and didn't give them the opportunity to put a scrimmage in.


"Obviously anytime you're going into a season with a younger team, you want to have that experience," Doherty said, on how an exhibition game could have helped her team. "That being said, we had a lot of learning lessons in our first game."


With losing half of their starting lineup, mostly on the defensive end, the Nittany Lions had to start some young players who have never played in a collegiate game before the matchup last Saturday. Doherty explained that they played around with the lineup during the game in order to find their best defensive unit and will continue working on finding it.


"We were starting a young goalkeeper and starting a new round of defense," said Doherty. "As the game started to progress and we kept going through the game, we kept getting better and better; started to make some defensive stops, started making some big goals and we fought the entire game. We almost scraped our way back to tying it up there in the end, so I like to see the fight."


As the team prepares for the upcoming matchup against Lehigh in Saturday, February 17th, junior Madison Carter expressed that the team is taking the loss as a learning lesson to help the team bounce back.


"As a team I think we can do a better job at taking care of the ball," Cater said. "We kind of had a lot of turnovers. So being confident with the ball and what we're doing on the field. We need to execute all over the field from every single person on the field to people that come off the bench; we need to work together."


While some Nittany Lions are still gaining experience on the field, the game Saturday will provide a familiar opponent for the Penn State program.  The Nittany Lions are 25-0 all-time against Lehigh, including wins three straight years.   


Carter and senior Katie O'Donnell combined for nine goals in last year's win over the Mountain Hawks, and the team will look to repeat that performance.


No matter what the final outcome is on Saturday, Penn State is ready to gain experience, keep improving, and see where this season takes them. 


By Briana Zuccarelli, Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa.- The Penn State Nittany Lions will start the 2018 season coming off back-to-back Final Four appearances and ranking fourth in the IWLCA Preseason Coaches Poll.

The team will kick off its season at Towson on Saturday, February 10th, and they are looking forward to what this season holds for them.

 "We're really excited for the 2018 season," head coach Missy Doherty said, starting her eighth year in Happy Valley. "Each year is different here and that's what makes it really fun as a coach."

 As the team prepares for the upcoming game, here are five key takeaways to look at from their season-opening media day: 

The Strong Schedule
The Nittany Lions will face another strong schedule with 17 regular season contests, including eight home games and six conference games. 

"I think it is going to be another exciting season," said Doherty. "Our schedule is super strong again, which I think is important being ready to compete in NCAA.  We need to go as hard as we can in our regular season games." 

Seven of their games are against opponents who reached the second-round of last year's NCAA Tournament.  Two of the team's most challenging games will be against the Princeton Tigers, who the Nittany Lions defeated during the NCAA quarterfinals last season, and the 2017 national champions, Maryland.

The Team Leadership
With six starters graduating in 2017, the Nittany Lions were looking to fill big roles coming into this season. With this came the 11 freshman who now complete the missing holes for the Penn State team. 

 "Its been a learning experience for a lot of people," said Doherty. "We have a bigger freshman class coming in this year, but we have a lot of returners who are ready to step up and play starting positions."

 Maggie Gallagher, Katie O'Donnell, and Kayla Brisolari will lead the 2018 Nittany Lions as team captains.  O'Donnell, a senior, was named a Preseason All-American by Inside Lacrosse on Wednesday morning. The captains combined for a total of 103 goals and 31 assists last season.

"They are amazing captains," said Doherty. "But, I really think in any great team you have more than just the captains being leaders. We look for anybody who is stepping into those starting lineup roles to serve as a leader in some capacity." 

Some of the names coach Doherty mentioned were sophomore Maria Auth and junior Lucy Haubold.  Both girls saw the field in the 2017 NCAA semifinals against Maryland, giving them the big game experience needed in the upcoming season. 

"Those leadership roles are emerging from many different people," said Doherty. "That's what makes the game fun and hopefully it will lead to some success" 

The Atmosphere
With great success, comes an even better atmosphere and this is just what the Nittany Lions wanted.

 "I just love these players and I love the atmosphere that our team creates," said Doherty. "They always work hard and we are able to move on to some other things as coaches because they are taking care of the work ethic and pushing each other."

Coach explained the importance of the atmosphere and leadership these girls provide.  She said it allows the coaches to stay on their toes with what they can push the athletes to do, how they can get even better, and how they can continue to promote leadership amongst their players. 

"With this, when we get to game day they can take over themselves and they aren't looking over to the sidelines for the next play or the next option," she added.

 The Changing Defense and the Offensive Power
After graduating key starters on the defense, the Nittany Lions had to figure out who would be taking over those defensive positions. 

"We have some experience that we are going to have to work out through preseason," Doherty said. "These first couple of games when it comes to working on the defensive end because we graduated a lot of defenders." 

The younger players on the defense will look to Brisolari and O'Donnell to lead them and teach them the skills they need to be a successful defense like in years past. Defender Lucy Haubold mentioned that the defensive side worked hard during the offseason to form the connections and relationships needed to become one unit. 

"From an attacking standpoint, I'm going against these girls every day," said Auth. "They may be young, but as a unit they're really starting to come together." 

On offense, junior Madison Carter will once again lead the attack alongside Gallagher and Auth.  Coach Doherty explained that the offense has improved tremendously and has a lot of different weapons coming in. 

"Madison Carter is playing the best she has ever played," said Doherty. "Maria (Auth) is another one who is playing this way. To build on that we have Delaney Muldoon back from an injury." 

Carter finished the 2017 season with 70 goals, which put her at tenth in the nation. Carter was also named a 2017 IWLCA Second-Team All-American. While Auth, had a total of eight goals in the NCAA tournament and a career-high of four during the matchup against Princeton.

 "We've never been an offense that relies on one or two players," said Doherty. "We really rely on seven and even more than that. I think the overall depth that we have is the best its ever been." 

With a strong group full of experience and skill, the Nittany Lions are ready to get this season started. 

Historic Season Ends in NCAA Semifinals

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FOXBORO, Mass. - A bitter loss in the NCAA national semifinals isn't the type of ending that anyone would want to close out a season, a historic one nonetheless.

Perhaps more than the sting of the loss or the sight of the scoreboard though, is the character and determination of those who were instrumental in making it all happen.

"It definitely didn't go our way today," head coach Missy Doherty said, reflecting on a 20-10 NCAA semifinal loss to top-seeded Maryland. "I'm so proud of our players to get us here and the season that we had was just awesome."

Penn State shot out to a 7-0 start to open the year, with a trio of wins coming against top 20 teams. By Big Ten time, the Nittany Lions went 5-1 with their only conference loss coming by way of a close 16-14 setback against the Terps, merely weeks ago.

As the NCAA postseason arrived, Penn State had reset from a loss in the Big Ten Tournament, scoring an NCAA Tournament-record 19 goals against JMU in the second round. The Nittany Lions then gritted out a 14-12 win against Princeton in the quarterfinals to earn a repeat trip to the NCAA national semifinals, marking the first time PSU has made back-to-back appearances in nearly 30 years.

As the wins continued to stack up, a new Nittany Lion emerged with a career day, or key contribution on seemingly every occasion, only helping to bolster Penn State's final tally in the win column to 17, marking the most victories in a single season since 1989.

Embedded in the foundation of every successful season though is the character of a team's veteran leaders, something the Nittany Lions surely have no shortage of this year.

"When you first take over a program, you want the players to buy into what you maybe can do, and then as soon as you start doing those things you're able to recruit with what's going on at the current time," Doherty said.

With both buy in and production as the result of the now senior class, for Doherty, the class embraced the vision and then set out to make it a reality.

"To see all of those guys really contribute greatly both on and off the field has been a huge reason why we're in these matches and in the mix," Doherty said. 

For First Team IWLCA All-American senior Steph Lazo, each opportunity to make strides toward the vision has been a point of reflection all week.

"Our first year we lose in the first round," Lazo said. "Second year, my sophomore year, we were Big Ten champs. And then last year we go to the final four, this year we go to the final four."

Perhaps one of the most prolific seniors in Nittany Lion history, Lazo concluded her final game in the Blue and White with a pair of points against the Terrapins, scooping up her own rebound for a lone goal in the second half. She ends her career ranked seventh on the Penn State all-time list with 211 points.

Along with fellow seniors in defenders Abby Smucker and Erika Spilker as well as goalkeeper Cat Rainone just to name a few, it's the entire senior class responsible for paving the way. 

"I told them, I'm like, you have to keep knocking on the door before you can go through it, and we don't do that without the leadership of our seniors," Doherty said.

Although leaving behind a proud legacy both on and off the field, for Lazo, what's still to come for Penn State is certainly promising.

"We have fought all season ever since we stepped on campus in August, the future looks super bright, and I couldn't be more proud," Lazo said. 

Among a deep group of returners, Penn State sophomore Madison Carter and juniors Katie O'Donnell and Maggie Gallagher highlighted Friday's NCAA national semifinal outing. O'Donnell led the way with four goals while Gallagher finished with three to match a career-high mark.

Carter chipped in one goal and grabbed seven draw controls, etching her name into the Penn State record book as the fourth Nittany Lion in program history to score 70 or more goals in a single season.

Drawing from the positives from a year for the ages, the Nittany Lions will look to take the good with the bad today, but certainly there's every reason to head home to Happy Valley proud. 

"I love our players, and I love being part of the group, not just on the field but off the field," Doherty said. "They're great students, and they're great people, and they have such great character. I just want the best for them."

Reach Arielle Sargent at or follow on Twitter @arielle_sargent

Nittany Lions Arrive in Boston

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BOSTON - Penn State women's lacrosse is officially on location, with Wednesday's travel day seeing the Nittany Lions arrive safe and sound in Boston ahead of Friday's NCAA national semifinal matchup at Gillette Stadium in nearby Foxboro. 

Surrounded by Penn State coaches, staff and student-athletes, the Nittany Lions departed East Area Locker Room around 2 p.m. only to be met with the cheers of an enthusiastic crowd, sending the group off to the airport in style. 

Penn State flew charter to Bedford, Massachusetts before hopping on the bus to arrive at the hotel, situated right in the heart of the city.

Earlier this week, head coach Missy Doherty as well as Nittany Lions Erika Spilker, Madison Carter and Maggie Gallagher all met with the media to preview Penn State second consecutive trip to the NCAA national semifinals.

Making a back-to-back appearance in the final field of four remaining teams for the first time in nearly 30 years, Penn State is battle tested and poised to make the most out of this year's opportunity. 

Penn State punched its ticket to the NCAA national semifinals with a tough 14-12 win against Princeton last weekend in the NCAA quarterfinals. For Doherty though, grinding out a gutsy NCAA Tournament win against the Tigers, having to embrace the feeling of both emotional and physical levels of the tight game is tremendous preparation headed into Friday evening.

Friday's matchup presents a familiar challenge as the fifth-seeded Nittany Lions prep for top-seeded Maryland, a perennial NCAA national semifinal contender having made it in each of the last nine consecutive season.

During the regular season matchup it was the Terps who pulled away in the second half for a 16-14 win. Regular season familiarity though, isn't something that Doherty considers as giving the Nittany Lions a major advantage. 

"I think when you get into that situation, you can see it in the tournament this year, everybody is beating everybody, you never know which game so you really have to be focused on yourself," Doherty said. "Regardless of who we are playing, we need to be ready to play but it's always exciting, we know the tradition of Maryland and we're certainly ready to bring our best and establish our own traditions." 

Penn State is well underway in establishing those traditions with Madison Carter topping the Nittany Lion sophomore single-season record list with 69 goals to surpass a record last set in 1983. Carter's tally is second to junior Katie O'Donnell, who has 61 on the year and senior Steph Lazo, ranked third on the squad with 45 goals. 

Perhaps what's made Penn State so exciting to watch this year though, is in the element of surprise, with new Nittany Lions stepping up with major contributions in at clutch moments.

Particularly evident in last week's win, freshman Maria Auth highlighted the outing with a career-day, scoring four goals to go along with an assist. 

"She played fearless and came in and made huge plays and I'm so happy for her that she stepped up for the team," Doherty said. "That's what this championship journey is all about, that next person being ready to step up." 

Looking toward Maryland, Doherty noted postgame last week that Princeton and the Terps have similarities in that that they too have a plethora of offensive options. 

"Maryland has a lot of scorers it is their strength and certainly approach is more of a team approach it can't be one person stopping one girl on that team, it has to be really everybody keyed into what's going on," Doherty said. 

With the top-ranked scoring offense nationally, Maryland is averaging 16.96 goals per game.

Draw controls will also be key for the Nittany Lions, as Carter also noted postgame last week that possession is key to generating offensive opportunities.

"It's definitely going to be a battle, Maryland is really great at getting the draw too so it's going to be a grind out there," Carter said.  

Outside of Maryland though, Penn State is also making time to savor the moment along the way.

"Like Missy said, it's all about being in the moment and kind of taking in every experience," Spilker said. "We have the banquet, we have pregame practices and those kinds of things, so it's just taking in every moment, getting excited for that and then moving on to the game and being in the moment there."

Fourth-seeded Penn State and top-seeded Maryland meet Friday at 5 p.m. in Gillette Stadium, with the matchup streaming live on ESPN3.

Reach Arielle at or follow on Twitter @arielle_sargent


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