By Ryan Berti, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - At Holuba Hall, it was a tale of two halves for Penn State as it took on a physical Towson team that took the game down to the wire. The Nittany Lions ended the game on top, 13-11, but the team ran through a series of ups-and-downs in a roller coaster of a game.
Like all great roller coasters, there is the steady rise that takes you to the very top. That incline would last about the entirety of the first half for the Nittany Lions, as the contest was one-sided in their favor.
Within the game's first 90 seconds, Penn State drew first blood behind the stick of Steph Lazo as she recorded the first of her five goals on the day to put her team up 1-0. Just past the midway point of the first half, Penn State had grew its lead to a healthy seven goals, up 7-0 as a result of a six goals in a seven minute stretch of play.
The Blue and White's early success stemmed from their ability to win off the draw, going 10-2 in draw controls during the half. The ability to control the ball then translated onto offense as the Nittany Lions continued to have more and more opportunities.
On the other hand, Towson struggled without possession, as it did not have a shot until about 14 minutes into the game, while at the same time Penn State already had seven goals on 11 shots. The Nittany Lions would outshoot Tigers in the first 17-3.
Entering the half up 9-2, Penn State would feel the roller coast again, as Towson responded. Out of the gate, Towson began winning more draw controls, opening up more offensive chances for the Tigers. The visitors would then rack up six unanswered goals to draw within one in a 9-8 contest with 9:12 left in the game.
Needing to turn the tide, head coach Missy Doherty called a timeout and turned towards the bench to give freshman goalkeeper Madison Cunningham a chance within the pipes. Doherty told her team to focus on what was still left in the game rather than what had already occurred.
"I just reminded them that the game is long and that's how lacrosse goes, up and down, but just be ready to compete for every play," Doherty said.
Lazo also encouraged her fellow attackers to capitalize on more opportunities and to finish strong on their shots. She was determined to make sure her team came out on top.
"We're not losing this game," she told her team just before heading back onto the field.
After the break, the squad came back out with a sense of reestablished confidence. Penn State rallied to hold the Tigers to the full 90 seconds of their shot clock without scoring, then went down and scored four goals in four straight possessions that took a whole 85 seconds to complete.
Now up 13-8 with 3:41 remaining, Towson had its back to the wall and needed to make a run. The Tigers fought back by winning the draw controls and finding open shooters on the offensive end to tally three more goals to their total.
Now just up two with 40 seconds left and having to make a defensive stand, it was Cunningham who came up in the clutch to make her lone save of the day, giving Penn State back possession that it would not lose the rest of the game.
After all the ups and downs, the ride that was the game finally came to a halt as the final buzzer sounded, and all those who went along for the ride exited, having witnessed a great back-and-forth contest and a Penn State win.