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By Ryan Berti, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - It would be an understatement to say this year for the Penn State women's lacrosse program has been nothing short of special. Even in all the history held in the stiches of each Blue and White jersey that steps onto the field each game, this group of girls has come out and strung together a season that stands up with the best in the program's history.

 

Among the season's accomplishments are a 13-1 start that matches the programs best since 1989, when the Nittany Lions did the same and rode onto a 19-1 final record and a national championship victory. Playing road games are tough, but Penn State currently boasts a 6-0 road record outside of Happy Valley. The squad still has to travel to tough Big Ten foes in Northwestern and Michigan, but if it can stay perfect it would be the first time since 1985 that the team has done so in the regular season. And also, the Nittany Lions have three scorers with over 30 goals each, with those same three players combining for 171 total points on the season.

 

Of course, with a season so special, there have to be special players as well. Penn State has exactly that in senior attacker Steph Lazo, a player who has continued to etch her name in the record books as she finishes her final act.

 

"It's really special. Coming in you kind of always want to make an impact and you just constantly want to raise your game," Lazo said. "Every year I've been here I've improved I think and it was just a personal goal of mine for the regular season to try and hit 200 points."

 

Not only that, but with her current pace and career standings, she has a chance to join an even more exclusive club.

 

Already having amassed 194 career points (T-13 all-time in program history) and 79 assists (T-7), with just five more goals (currently at 115) she can also move into the top-15 all-time in career goals for the Blue and White, making her just one of nine people who can say they share that company.

 

So what is it that the attacker brings to the game that has brought her such vast success over her storied collegiate career? Head coach Missy Doherty says it's her leadership, ability to finish, and speed that makes her one of the quickest attackers in the nation.  Those all factor into how she has been able to leave it all out on the field. But along with those, the coach said maybe most important of all was the genuine excitement she has for the game.

 

"No one celebrates harder than she does after a score and I think from a momentum standpoint when you have someone that gives you that energy after a big play it certainly helps the team," Doherty said.

Lazo not only makes an impact on each game scoring, but she also gets her teammates involved. As the team leader in assists while ranking sixth in the country with 33 on the season, she finds it crucial to spread the wealth and believes that her and the team only get better with the chemistry of her teammates.

"I think being a team player is a huge part of my game because I love helping my teammates and stuff like that and seeing their successes is literally one of those things that I feed off of," Lazo said.

 

She has done a lot in her career in Happy Valley, but among her accolades, Lazo said the best part about her journey has been the team's ability to go further each and every year her senior class has been here. Doherty agreed and said the program has been on the rise right along with her.  

                            

"I think our program has grown as she's grown," Doherty said. "From her freshman year doing well to her sophomore year winning Big Ten's and then junior year going to the final four, she's kind of met right where our program has gotten better. So certainly her having the year that's she's having this year has reflected on our team's performance."


If her future is as successful as she has been in between the lines, Lazo will have a career full of big accomplishments and success. Her plan is to one day become a coach and to bring her unique aspect of the game to her coaching. If coaching is not in the cards though, the Rehabilitation and Human Services major has a plan to move into child life series by becoming a specialist in dealing with pediatric cancer.

 

But for now the future can wait. The regular and postseason still have roughly two months left, and Lazo and this senior class as a whole want to make the most of the time they have left. With the achievements this class has had, a national championship still remains the ultimate goal they have yet to conquer.

 

Until their fate is decided through the road the team still has to travel, Lazo and her teammates will wait, but that does not mean they can't hold back from their overall excitement in what lies ahead.

 

This year we can't wait to see what happens," Lazo said.

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By Ryan Berti, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - The fifth-ranked Penn State Nittany Lions, for most of the first half, found themselves in uncharted territory.

 

With a command in time of possession thanks to owning the draw control, it was the Virginia Cavaliers that took a note from the Nittany Lions' playbook and got out to a fast start. With Penn State facing a sizable deficit and playing an unfamiliar role, the squad needed to find a way to get back to their usual style of play and bounce back.

 

Following a Virginia goal to make it a 5-2 lead for the visitors, head coach Missy Doherty took initiative and called a timeout with 12:36 remaining in the first half. The team understood what they needed to do, and on Senior Day the players knew who to look to to lead the way.

 

Seniors Cat Rainone and Abby Smucker took charge with both their play and composure. While both were aware of the current situation, they kept things cool and collected, and the rest of the team followed suit.

 

"We definitely have the athleticism on the team so that wasn't an area where we were struggling, it was more mentally, so we just needed to regroup as a team, calm each other down and stay composed and just finish on the small things," Smucker said. Rainone seconded that with words of advice for her fellow teammates like "next play" and "still a lot of time left" to make sure the team's mindset was focused on the right things.

 

The rest of the team answered their call as the Nittany Lions would rally to score 10 of the contest's final 13 goals in a 12-8 win. But, while the offense eventually got going, it was the defense that opened the door.

 

Virginia continued to hold onto the ball for long stretches of play, keeping the Penn State defense constantly on its toes. Constantly mirroring the Cavaliers quick attackers, the Blue and White kept them contained and made plays as needed. Rainone stepped up and made two huge saves on shots that would have kept Virginia rolling, but the senior goalkeeper shut each attempt down with standup saves from a stick's length out. She would go on to have 14 saves on the day

 

Good defense turned into good offense as the final three minutes of the half came with a huge swing in momentum.

 

Freshman Maria Auth was hit on a pass while striding down the field into Cavalier territory. She crossed in front of the net without letting off a shot and ended up losing possession, but there to scoop up the ground ball next to the goal was senior attacker Steph Lazo who quickly rifled off a shot while colliding with a Virginia defender. The ball blew by the goalie and gave Penn State its first goal in nearly 18 minutes, making it a 6-3 deficit.

                         

A heads up charge taken by Smucker with 57 seconds left would win the Nittany Lions the ball late in the half, and a following penalty by Virginia's Maggie Jackson gave Penn State a brief advantage. It ended up being just enough for Penn State as Katie O'Donnell squeaked a goal into the half's final four seconds and gave the Nittany Lions a much-needed boost heading into the half that led to their second half win.  

 

Also providing them life was the record crowd on hand to witness the top-five team's Senior Day game. The game saw 922 people scattered across the hill and the bleachers, giving Penn State the encouragement it needed to mount a comeback.

 

"When something goes our way and the crowd cheers it definitely swings the momentum in our favor and I think today was a home field advantage for sure," Rainone said.


After the break, it took the Blue and White just under nine and a half minutes to even the score at six. The teams again would trade goals, but with 16:33 remaining, Maggie Gallagher broke through to give Penn State the 8-7 lead, its first since the matchup's opening eight minutes.

 

Success at the draw spoke volumes for the Nittany Lions' offensive burst. After losing six of the game's first eight, Penn State crawled back to win the war with a 13-9 lead in the department at the end of the day.

 

The players continued to carry solid defense into quality offense and owned the closing 10 minutes. Two more goals by O'Donnell, giving her a team-high four on the day, and three more total would allow Penn State to close the game strong and give the unit the Senior Day win. The win marks the Blue and White's 13th on the year and gives the program six straight wins.

 

While it was not the smoothest ride, the end result was still as Penn State hoped and allowed the seniors to cap off their special day in style.

 

"The past four years have been great here, and like I've said before, each year we've made strides in the right direction as a program, so to finish on a high note here on Senior Day was awesome," Smucker said.

 

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By Ryan Berti, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Even with how unpredictable college lacrosse can be, as seasons come and go, there are always a few guarantees; games will be won and lost, one team will ultimately be happier than the rest, and some careers will inevitably reach their end. Sports can sometimes take away these opportunities earlier than others, but most student-athletes face this fate from the hands of time.

 

The closer players are to reaching the end of that tunnel, the more that presence is felt. But, while many may worry or fret, Penn State senior goalkeeper Cat Rainone takes the time to step back, be aware and cherish the moment while she can.

 

"When I'm standing in cage in a game or at practice and at the other end, I kind of just look around and soak in the scenery and realize that I'm not going to be playing on the same field forever," Rainone said. "It's definitely bittersweet."

 

The netminder is one of nine seniors for the Nittany Lions who will be honored at this Saturday's game against Virginia for senior day. Each player, and the collective teams they have impacted over the past four years, will be celebrated in a ceremony just before the start of the game.

 

This senior class is one that has without a doubt left a mark on Happy Valley and turned the women's lacrosse program into something better than when they came in. After a freshman campaign in 2014 saw the team go 10-8 and a first round exit in both the ALC and NCAA tournaments, the Penn State program has grown with this current group of seniors. Since then, the team is 42-13, claimed the inaugural Big Ten Tournament title back in 2015, and made two deep runs into the national tournament, reaching the quarterfinals in 2015 and the semifinals last year.

 

"I think this senior class couldn't have set a better example for what we want our student-athletes to be like," head coach Missy Doherty said. "I mean their leadership is excellent, their drive to compete has been great, the way they welcome in our younger players. I think they've set the best example for the future players and how we want to be as a part of our program."

 

One contributor to the squad's successes as of late has been the aforementioned Rainone, a player who has had to be the defense's anchor when it matters the most. Coach Doherty said she has been more than pleased with her play and that it all stems from her dedication and drive.

 

"Cat has been awesome this year. I think it's a credit to her and the work she's put in to get better every day. It's one of those things where she's done everything she can to get better and better and thankfully our team has been the benefit [sic] of her hard work," Doherty said. "To have someone that's worked so hard play such a critical position certainly is a reason why we've been able to come away with the win."

 

For Rainone, the clock continues to tick, but she has realized in the time she has had to reflect that has a lot to be thankful for as a Nittany Lion.

 

Whether it is the bonds she created with teammates like fellow senior Steph Lazo, the laughs shared throughout the years at practice, or the overall thrill that can only come when throwing on the Blue and White and stepping into the cage, Rainone feels she has had a positive experience and does what she can to give back to the underclassmen just as her upperclassmen once did for her.

 

After now four years of sacrificing herself to be the team's last line of defense, the goalie expects to enter an accelerated program to earn a bachelor's degree in nursing, a profession that allows her to continue her efforts in helping others.

 

"I want to help people," Rainone said. "I think working in the medical field fits me as a person because I get to wake up every day and that excites me. I'll get to wake up and I'll get to be able to help somebody, even if it's not everybody, I'll be able to go home and say 'well at least I helped at least one person that day.'"

 

While the medical field can be demanding, Rainone said falls full of 6 a.m. workouts and multiple days a week of intense conditioning in her time playing lacrosse has set her up on a path to succeed since she already knows the time and commitment that goes into something that is a constant grind.

 

Along with that is the understanding that just like as a being a goalkeeper, being perfect is an unattainable goal, yet she still does everything in her power to save one shot, or in this case person, at a time.

 

"You're not going to save everybody, not everything's going to be rainbows and things like that and you just have to take that and find the good in every situation," Rainone said. "Like in a game where we're losing and things aren't going your way, you just have to look at the positives like 'we're competing, we're a top five team,' if we stick together we'll be fine. I think that aspect translates really well into the medical field."

 

That same drive and passion will be something this team will look to tap into as the light of the regular season continues to slowly set over the horizon.

 

Whether the program's recent success will continue is still yet to be seen, but it is certain this group of seniors' experience and poise will prove to be invaluable come postseason play.

 

"Towards the end of the season, the games become more and more in the players' hands and I think they're starting to respond really well to that responsibility, but the success of our remaining season is gonna be heavy on our leadership, and I'm really confident in the leaders that we have," Doherty said.

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By Ryan Berti, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - After fighting back from an unusually slow start, Penn State rolled past Big Ten foe Ohio State 16-12 for the team's 12th win of the year.

The early goings of the first half featured a rare defensive duel for the Nittany Lions, as the first 15 minutes of the half only featured three total goals as Penn State held a slight 2-1 lead. Much of the first half was a back-and-forth battle between the two squads, but the Buckeyes went on a run that would give them a commanding lead.

 

Ohio State tied things up at two with 13:13 left in the first half thanks to a Molly Wood goal, her 36th of the season. Over the next nine minutes, the Buckeyes outscored the Nittany Lions 5-1 to take the 6-3 lead heading into the half's final four minutes.

 

But just when it looked like Penn State would be heading into the half with a sizeable deficit looking for answers in the second half, the squad suddenly turned it around.

 

The Blue and White opened things up with a snipe from senior captain Abby Smucker. Standing around the 12-meter line, she fired one into the top-right pocket of the mesh and got by a diving Jill Rizzo who was standing too far out in front of the net. The goal made it a 6-4 game and was the first of her three goals on the day.

 

"I have to attribute that goal to my teammates," the captain said, mentioning the whole team's contributions. "[My] teammates opened up a lot of space for me."

 

Penn State rode its newfound momentum and finished the half strong, closing out the final 3:37 with three goals to make it six-all at the half. The final two were scored by Madison Carter, who scored the tying goal on a free-position with 14.4 seconds left on the clock.

 

Carter had another big day as she tallied five goals and an assist to her stat line. She has been on a bit of a tear as of late, making it now 14 goals and 17 points over the last three contests. Head coach Missy Doherty said Carter has been huge for the team as of late.

 

"You know Mad Carter, weirdly enough, you finish the game and you're like 'Oh my god she had so many goals.' She just does a good job at scoring goals at important times, and it's a credit to her," Doherty said.

 

Three unanswered Penn State goals grew to eight at the start of the second half. The squad spread the wealth as five different players scored a goal for the Nittany Lions in the first six minutes after the break to push the Blue and White to a big 11-6 lead.

 

The offensive explosion could be credited to the teams increased pace after halftime. Coach Doherty had a talk with the team at the half and got the team to get back to their usual style of play.

 

"Missy at halftime was just telling us we just need to push our legs a little bit more and just go hard to cage, right off the catch just go hard," Smucker said. "We have a lot of speed on this team, a lot of depth, so I think we just needed to push our legs a little more."

 

Penn State's defense also came to play in the second half, limiting the Buckeyes to six total goals, two of which came in the final few minutes when the win was all but assured.

 

The Blue and White now move to 12-1 on the season and move into the final four games of the season. Next up is a matchup with Virginia next Saturday, April 8 against Virginia for senior night. The opening draw I at 1 p.m.

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By Ryan Berti, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - This year's 11-1 Penn State squad has already proven to be a team to be remembered, but last game the team added another line to its storied season thus far.

On Wednesday against Drexel, Madison Carter (102) became yet another player in Penn State's history to be granted admission into the career 100-point club, as she tallied five points off three goals and two assists. She joins Katie O'Donnell (125) as the second Nittany Lion this season to reach the plateau and now is one of three players on the team who have achieved the mark (O'Donnell and Steph Lazo). Lazo (188) has the likely opportunity to become the 12th person to ever don the Blue and White and crack 200 points.

 

"To hit that mark is a credit to her and how hard she's been working and how hard the team has rallied around her," head coach Missy Doherty said on Carter's accomplishment. "I think it comes from great team play and the ability to assert yourself, and it's nice to see on the team we have different players stepping up and doing that every year."

 

The three, comprising of one sophomore, a junior and a senior, showcase and represent Penn State's solid mix of age throughout the roster while also showing that regardless of the age, players of all sorts have big-time experience and have contributed immensely on the field.

 

Each game has presented its own unique set of challenges, and with that constant pressure from tough competition as they go down the backstretch of the season, Doherty believes it will make her team that much more ready to show up when it matters most.

 

"We've had a lot of really tough games this year and every game there's been different scenarios we can learn from," Doherty said. "It's nice to see when the game is on the line and your leaders step up. You get big plays from different people each game, so we never really know who's going to pull away, but we certainly have the people that can make big plays in big-time."

 

Penn State will need as many big plays as it can get down the latter part of the schedule since the final five games present collisions with some of the best programs in lacrosse.

 

Still on the slate are three top-20 teams in the country, including No. 1 Maryland in the regular season's penultimate game. Also in the way stands Big Ten foes in Michigan and Ohio State, with the Buckeyes having the Nittany Lions number in two of the last three regular season contests.

 

While it's a challenging road that lies ahead, Penn State welcomes the challenge as they plan to use it as fuel and preparation for the postseason that stands ahead.

 

"I think any time you go into postseason you want to make sure you have a great road to it, and you know I think our last five games kind of reflect our entire season," Doherty said. "We have a good mix of games of great, tough teams to play, so it's a great way to get ready for postseason with the teams we have left on our schedule."

 

With that same mindset of taking each game as a chance to better yourself, Doherty and her Nittany Lions plan to run through the gauntlet that remains at full force in order to make the most out of each one. Looking at the schedule, it appears the final five games should present plenty of opportunities do just that

 

"It's just continuing to grow and get better, and taking each lesson we learn from each game we're playing in order to build on the last one," Doherty said. "We've learned a lot of things about our team as the season's progressed, and we're looking to get better on Saturday."

 

Penn State will take on the visiting Ohio State Buckeyes at the Penn State Lacrosse Field this Saturday, April 1 at 1 p.m.

 

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By Ryan Berti, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Bel Air, Md., a small community 30 miles outside of Baltimore, may not be the same as its sunny and millionaire-mansion-filled California counterpart, but it does have several things going for it. For one, it was named one of the "Top 100 Best Small Towns" back in 2015, but it also sits in the hotbed of lacrosse country and is called home to three Nittany Lions in Maggie Gallagher, Sarah Piazza and Abby Smucker.

 

The three grew up playing lacrosse together in the area and eventually all attended C. Milton Wright High School. There they joined forces and together went to three semifinals appearances in as many state tournaments. Piazza and Smucker, both one year Gallagher's elder, also were starters in 2010 when the team made its way to the state championship game.

 

Combined, the three served five years of captainship for their high school squad and amassed 10 all-county selections. Each were ranked high on recruiter's wish lists for their own individual merits, and each decided to go to the best possible place for themselves, but in the end it just so happened that they all ended up deciding the best place to play was for Penn State.

 

"I feel like we all just took our own path with that and then it all just kind of worked out," Piazza said about the recruiting process. "We'd have some people at home that we'd also get that next chapter with, so it kind of made it more special."

 

Piazza and Smucker made the jump to Division I in 2014 and were joined a year later by Gallagher after she wrapped up her senior high school season. The girls said those early years of making the switch to college helped them out dramatically in both an on and off the field setting. Having others with them that they already knew helped make the big, and sometimes intimidating, first impression of Happy Valley a little smaller.

 

"Off the field we had a little bit of home that came with us to State College right away," Smucker said about the ease of the transition. "And then on the field as well. We knew each other's tendencies so it kind of made that transition into college lacrosse kind of a little easier."

 

That on the field chemistry can be seen every game day as the three have meshed together on the field. When together, Piazza holds down the fort as a defender while Gallagher and Smucker work the midfield.

 

Together on the attack, the two midfielders have shown how effective their harmony can be. Both have started every game played this season and have racked up a total of 29 points off 19 goals and 10 assists. Gallagher's 18 and Smucker's 11 are good for fourth and sixth on the team.

 

"I think it definitely translates on the field, especially now that I'm back on the offensive end where Maggie is too," Smucker said. "We've definitely been seeing each other very well both on and off with her rolling on the crease and me up top."

 

But the group's bond goes far beyond what they can do each time they pick up their sticks. Over the years, lacrosse has brought them closer than just being teammates; they've become family.

 

"It's just like a family, which is what I think kind of drew us all to Penn State in the first place is that it just had such a family atmosphere," Piazza said. "We were close in high school, but I think just spending these last four years together made us even closer like I said on and off the field," Smucker continued. "We've grown together, and like Sarah said before, we're kind of like a family now," Smucker said.

 

With Piazza and Smucker both seniors, soon the group's saga will come to an end. Until then, the three still have the rest of the season to make the most of what they can, and cap off their years together in the best way possible. But, even without a story book ending, the three say the journey has been great and that they are proud of what they have been able to do with their unique opportunity.

 

"We've just been given such a great opportunity here at Penn State to play lacrosse together and like making the most of it and having fun together," Gallagher said.

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By Ryan Berti, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Behind Penn State's three-headed monster on the attack; Madison Carter, Steph Lazo and Katie O'Donnell, the Nittany Lions were a force to be reckoned with as the trio showed up in full force against Rutgers in an 18-7 victory.

 

Each of the three tallied a hat trick (Carter - 4 goals, O'Donnell - 4, Lazo - 3), making it the third time this season three Nittany Lions have recorded a hat trick in the same game. The other two instances occurred on the road at Duquesne (Lazo - 5 goals, Carter - 4, Auth - 3) and in the opening week, when the trio did the accomplishment almost twice over (Carter - 6 goals, Lazo - 5, O'Donnell - 5).

 

Combined, the three tallied 18 points off of 11 goals and seven assists. The three played a major factor in the team's offensive output, having a hand in 14 of the team's 18 goals.

 

"That's what you want to count on in these games especially going into Big Ten is your leaders really need to step up and thankfully they did that today," head coach Missy Doherty said on the three's leadership and play.

 

While the group as a whole left a big mark on the game, individually each one brings something unique to the table.

 

Carter, while leading the team in goals both against Rutgers and on the season, dominated the draw control and gave the Nittany Lions a huge advantage in the battle for possession. Her wheels and killer instinct on the field played a huge factor as on multiple occasions she simply outran everyone else in play, scoring momentum shifting breakaway goals.

                                                             

Lazo acts as the efficient point guard, where every successful offensive possession runs through her. Not only did she contribute with her stick with Saturday's three goals, but she cut through the defense to make open lanes and found the ball to teammates with precision even when they were barely open. She was able to use her keen vision and passing to help teammates light up the board a whopping six times against Rutgers, raising her yearly assist total to 26.

 

Last, but not least, O'Donnell is one of the squad's reliable attacker who can hit from long range and seems to always find an open spot near the net. She also has been a fire starter for the program as a main catalyst in many of the team's scoring runs. With her four goals Saturday, the junior now has now tallied 115 points with 104 goals, and has recorded multi-goal games 23 times over the past two seasons.

 

Coach Doherty says a good deal of the team's offensive success came from both finishing shots and the chemistry the attackers shared, opening up the door for the team's playmakers.

 

"[The attackers] worked the ball really well, I thought down the stretch we had some more legs really going hard to the cage," she said.  "Once we got our cutting and our rhythm going they did a good job at using all the attackers, not just one or two."

 

Lazo and Carter said postgame that they are glad to be producing for their team and that it's nice to see everyone contributing.

 

"You always want to come out and do your best, and the fact that the three of us are producing good numbers, it's always nice to want to consistently do that for your team," Lazo said. "I think we want to make our coach proud and make our team proud."

 

But the girls still remain humble as their own "biggest critics," and know that their success only goes as far as the rest of their teammates around them.

 

"Everyone on our attack is a threat and we always hone in on that so it's really good to get everyone involved and get the ball moving," Carter said.


Penn State now heads on the road for a three-game stretch. Up next is Princeton on Tuesday, March 21, at 2 p.m.

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By Ryan Berti, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - With the best program start in nearly three decades, the Nittany Lions went into Spring Break with a 5-0 record and a seemingly endless source of momentum.

 

Although they would be spending most of the break on campus, Penn State entered week-long academic hiatus with a perfect record and with a chance to clear their minds and focus on the three games on its slate.

 

The first two games were solid victories for the Blue and White, extending their record to a superb 7-0. But like all good things, they must come to an end, and the Nittany Lions suffered their first loss of the season in the final game before the student body returned to campus again for classes, falling to No. 10 Colorado 16-11.

 

Even though the spotless record may be gone, head coach Missy Doherty says she finds value even every game, including the team's loss.

 

"I really think we've taken a lot of learning lessons from every game," Doherty said. "I think after a loss you start overthinking everything so we're trying our best to figure out what's been sort of consistent issues and just improving our intensity defensively for 60 minutes. The other team's going to come at us harder throughout the game so we have to be ready to match their intensity."

 

The reflection does not last too long, however, Doherty says. After the squad realizes where there is room for improvement, their mindset shifts to the next opponent on the challenging road still lies ahead.

 

"All of our games are so difficult. We have a pretty tough schedule so you really have to be ready for the next game regardless of what just happened, so I think we've really felt that with the teams that we're playing. You don't really have time to think about anything else other than the team you're playing," Doherty said.

 

That opponent this time happens to be the Rutgers Scarlett Knights.

 

Rutgers marks the start of the Nittany Lions' Big Ten schedule, one that Doherty says is no cake walk but still a welcome challenge they look forward to each year.

 

"I think it's one of the toughest conferences in the country," Doherty said. "Every year there's different rivals for different reasons. Opening up with Rutgers, we want to make sure we're representing Penn State well in the Big Ten. Lacrosse is fairly new to the conference and we think it's a very exciting sport so we're ready to get it started."

 

The Scarlett Knights present an interesting challenge for the Lady Lions. While they appear towards the middle of the pack or bottom end in most team statistics in the conference, they boast an adequate amount of depth in order to compete with anyone. On their five wins during the season, a different player has scored the game-winner in each contest and are the only team to do so.

 

"They work really hard the whole game. They have a bunch of different offensive threats," Doherty said. I want to make sure we play good team defense and put our shots away. It was the focus for us after the Colorado game to make sure we sink a couple more of our shots and overall just play better Penn State lacrosse."

 

This weekend's contest will also mark the end of a three-game home stand. Soon after, a three-game road trip will test the Nittany Lions as they aim to get back on track to the perfect play that started they started the season with.

 

Penn State will takes on Rutgers on Saturday, March 18 at 1:00 p.m. sharp in Holuba Hall.

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By Ryan Berti, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - How teams finish often translates directly into the final score, showing who was able to put the game away and be better than their opponents in the most crucial part of the game. While Penn State's spotless 5-0 record speaks for itself in that department, often times it's the front end of the game where the Nittany Lions leave the biggest mark.

In four of the five games played this season by the Blue and White, Penn State has struck first with the opening goal in each of those games. The only game the team was unable to do so was on the road against Duquesne, at which the Nittany Lions responded by scoring 10 of the remaining 13 goals scored in the first half which included a stretch of six unanswered goals.

 

Head coach Missy Doherty credits, among other things, the strong-minded nature of the team as the players don't second-guess themselves out on the field.

 

"Our offense has to be ready to play aggressive and do the simple things well. I think sometimes our decision making is a little slower, but when its fast and we're decisive about what we want to do we really have some people that are hard to stop," Doherty said.

 

In the first half alone, Penn State only outdoes its own second-half scoring by a single goal, but when it comes down to how much it overmatches its opponents, the numbers are pretty lopsided. The Nittany Lions have put up 40 goals on the year in the first 30 minutes of action, which is good enough to double the competition at just 20 total goals in the first. When it comes down to sheer volume of shots, it's all Penn State again as they lead in total first half shots 80-50 and shots on goal 63-32.

 

That production stands out in the first handful of minutes as well. When looking at the first 10 minutes of play, the Nittany Lions outscore their challengers at a 14-4 clip, allowing them to usually have a commanding lead right out of the gate.

 

A good deal of that kind of output can likely be chalked up to winning the battle at draw control. Penn State has won every first half battle from the draw this season, doing so at a whopping 2.5-1 ratio (46-19).

 

"The draw control has been a huge, huge factor this year for us in a lot of those games, because when you get possession, obviously you have a better chance to score," Doherty said. 

 

Despite the vast early success, the team says dominating early is not something it necessarily preaches, as everyone's eyes are set on the long haul.

 

"I think we're bought into this 60 minutes sort of philosophy, it just so happens that we've been able to start some games off efficient," Doherty said.

 

But of course, the team says it's still a big boost early on that allows them to get settled in.

 

"It's not like we're always stressing that we have to be the first one to score, but it's always nice to get the ball in the net first, kind of get the momentum going," senior Steph Lazo said.

 

Coach Doherty says holding onto that full game mentality with an early lead can sometimes make the task at hand that much harder though, as her team needs to be careful not to let too much off of the throttle.

 

"I think the early lead is nice, sometimes I think it's deceptive if you get it quickly but its only been four minutes into the game we still have 56 minutes to go," Doherty said. "You have to buy into those full 60 minutes."

 

The team has been able to do just fine in that department, even if some games get closer than the team would like, as the team continues to produce throughout each game into the closing minutes.

 

Even with the fast starts, the squad knows that in order to win, they can't take plays off and play like every second counts, because during the course of a game you never know what is going to end up being the deciding factor.

 

"You never know what plays gonna win the game," Doherty said. "Sometimes when you look back on the full 60 minutes, that first 5-minute stretch was where we won the game. So I'm always telling them that and to take advantage of every second because you never quite know what's going to give you the edge."

 

Penn State will travel to Baltimore to take on Loyola Maryland on Saturday, March 4. The opening draw will commence at 3 p.m.

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By Ryan Berti, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - As the No. 6 team in the country, Penn State is stockpiled full of seasoned veterans that have no shortage of in-game experience under their belts. But, while the upperclassmen may do the heavy lifting, the Nittany Lions still have a healthy dose of young talent on their roster.

 

One such player is freshman attacker Maria Auth, who introduced herself to the Penn State faithful against Duquesne on Wednesday. In the first road game of her collegiate career, the young shooter stuffed her stat sheet with three goals en route to her first collegiate hat trick.

 

"I was just excited to be able to contribute in a big way to the team," Auth said as she talked about trying to make the most out of her minutes. "That was definitely a big accomplishment for me and it was exciting."

 

Head coach Missy Doherty also praised her abilities on the field during the game, as she led the younger players in giving Penn State some extra life with the sticks.

 

"She did a great job and really in Duquesne a lot of players went in and really brought up the level of our game," Doherty said. "[The underclassmen] did a great job of lifting our team up when we maybe needed a little more energy."

 

Auth is one of several younger players that has been able to leave their mark on the field this season. Coming off of her big game, she now sits at five points on the season off of four goals and an assist. The attacker is also doing it at an efficient clip. While her numbers may still have a small sample size this early in the season, she currently sits tied for the team's second-best shooting at a .667 clip, trailing only the team's leading point-getter in Steph Lazo (.739).

 

Early on, coach Doherty already sees things she likes in the freshman as a lefty attacker that adds another wrinkle to the offense.

 

"She's just a really skilled attacker, a great scorer and competitor, so you know getting some more goals from that left side," Doherty said. "It just adds to our arsenal there on offense."

 

The Maryland native is one of 13 imports on the team from the state, hailing from the rural community of Street which resides just five miles south of the Pennsylvania border. In her time in the "Old Line State," Auth had an impressive resume not just on the field but in the classroom as well.

 

In four years of action, she racked up accolades as a US Lacrosse First-team All-American, a two-time Crab Draw All-Star game MVP and a two-time Lacrosse Academic All-American, among many others. Coming off an 87-goal season her senior year with 68 draw controls and 20 caused turnovers, the college lacrosse scene was her oyster, and it was the big-time atmosphere of Happy Valley that caught her eye.

 

"I just always wanted to come to a big school.  I could never really see myself at a small school and the athletic environment definitely helped," Auth said. "There's just so much tradition with athletics and academics here that it just drew me to Penn State"

 

Now that she has nearly a year under her belt, Auth says she has the hang of things, but it took her a while to ease into the whole process. Like many student-athletes, time management was a habit she had to pick up quick in order to stay on top of things both in practice and with the books.

 

The strong foundation of upperclassmen and leadership on the squad helped her find comfort instead of commotion, however, as they helped her transition as both as teammates and role models.

 

"The upperclassmen are amazing. They're great leaders on and off the field at both academics and athletics, so it's always great to have someone to look up to," Auth said. "I definitely couldn't have transitioned as well without their help."

Now with a few games under her belt, the first-year player is gaining confidence as she continues to contribute more and more. With more time and more reps, Auth will find her place as a member of the Blue and White while she continues to live her dream.

 

"Everyone dreams of coming to a D-1 school for sports, and to have it be everything I imagined it would be, it's an awesome feeling to be a part of something so big," Auth said.

@GOPSUSPORTS

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