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By Ryan Berti, 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. 


By Ryan Berti, Student Staff Writer

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - One of the most important things practice can do for a team is help set up a game-like simulation of live action, preparing the players for potential problems they might have during an actual game in real time. Practice can usually do so much, while scrimmages are as close as it gets to the real thing.  Penn State though, did not get that scrimmage luxury, as it instead opened up the season with an eager opponent.

In a new year with a new team, having to face new challenges left behind by those who had graduated and moved on, it can be sometimes hard to gage exactly how a team is going to fare right out of the gate.


"We didn't have any scrimmages this year, we started off with games, so you're a little curious how the team will come in against some good competition," head coach Missy Doherty said.


A level of uncertainty was there for the team, being untested in the offseason other than by their own merits. It was still to be proven how well the team would perform after the first whistle. But, shortly after it blew, there was little doubt left in how the team would come out of the gate.

The season could not have got off to a better start. In the midst of a game that showed the Nittany Lions offense in full force, three of the team's starters tie career-highs in goals en route to a 20-9 victory over Albany. Among the calamitous crew were Steph Lazo, Madison Carter and Katie O'Donnell.


Lazo's performance, one that featured a team-high 12 points, set a career benchmark for her as she matched her career-best numbers in both goals (5) and assists (7). Her big day earned her the honor of Big Ten Offensive Player of the Week.


The reigning Big Ten Freshman of the Year, Carter, padded onto that with a barrage of her own. She led the team in goals with six and added an assist, picking up right where she left off as one of the teams most reliable scorers.


Junior midfielder O'Donnell fueled the fire with five goals, which included a series of three-consecutive scores. Once again, she scored double digit goals for her squad, which was something she was able to do over 70 percent of the time last season.


The team may have entered the season's first contest with some questions, but the group seemingly answered all of them with their incredible output on the offensive end. Erika Spilker said that with a game under the team's belt, moving forward things should only continue to improve as players get more experience against competition.


"I think for the whole team on any first game of the season, you're excited but it's all the nervousness and you're thinking 'what's gonna happen?' And 'how are we gonna play?' But I think throughout the rest of the season, the jitters turn into a little more like game excitement rather than nervousness, so I think it's good to get that out of the way," Spilker said.


Now Penn State moves forward in the season with a slate of opponents looking to find a weakness and expose it to take down one of the best teams in the country. With usually high levels of nervousness, most season openers give the opposition something to look at. But for the Nittany Lions, who opened the season firing on all cylinders, challengers are going to have to wait until they meet them on the field to try and stop a powerful team that's already rolling with momentum.


By Maria Canales, Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Under the leadership of captains Katie O'Donnell, Erika Spilker, and Abby Smucker, the No. 7 Penn State women's lacrosse team (1-0) defeated Albany (0-1) in its opening game of the season, 20-9.

"They did a great job, they're great leaders in a lot of sense," head coach Missy Doherty said of the captains. "Spilker on defense is orchestrating that team down there. [O'Donnell and Smucker] had some great plays today." 

Penn State got on the board first thanks to a goal from senior attacker Steph Lazo, but the offensive game was just beginning. O'Donnell, a junior midfielder scored the next three goals, including a beautiful shot from the 8-meter arc. 

O'Donnell's three straight goals gave the Nittany Lions a 4-1 lead halfway through the first half. The West Chester, Pennsylvania native started 20 of 21 games during the Nittany Lions' 2016 season, scoring 46 goals. She added four assists, bringing her point total to 50 by the end of the season. 

Penn State notched three more goals to finish the half up 7-5. Lazo earned two more goals while senior midfielder Abby Smucker had one.

The second half saw the Great Danes score first, but it was a five-goal scoring streak started by Lazo that put the Nittany Lions back on track. Lazo's goal was followed by O'Donnell's fourth goal of the game, giving the Nittany Lions a 9-6 lead.

Penn State inched further away from Albany as Lazo swooped in for her fifth goal of the game with 22:35 left to go in the second half. Sophomore Madison Carter and another goal by O'Donnell came in quick succession, less than 40 seconds apart.

This scoring streak doubled the Nittany Lions' lead, giving them a 12-6 edge with less than 20 minutes to go in the second half. Doherty was pleased with the Nittany Lions' strong start to the second half and noted it was veteran leadership that controlled the pace of play on offense and defense. 

The Nittany Lions once again took the reins in the second half, scoring five goals unanswered, a streak that furthered Penn State's lead, 20-9. The Nittany Lions' stellar second half performance surged them past the Great Danes. O'Donnell ended the game with five goals, Lazo with five, and Carter with six. 

Doherty said she believes what makes the Nittany Lions so effective is every player's ability to get on the score sheet and make plays.  

"That's what we pride ourselves on," Doherty said. "The fact that everyone is a threat, we don't want to just go down to one person." 

Doherty said it's extremely important that each Nittany Lion is a powerful player on the field, and that's what makes her team so dominant from the start.

She was also pleased with how each player contributed to the win, noting it was a group effort to defeat the Great Danes, 20-9.

SAAB Hosts Lip Sync Battle to Benefit THON

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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Filling the HUB-Robeson Center Freeman Auditorium with Penn State students and Nittany Lion student-athletes, the Student Athlete Advisory Board (SAAB) hosted its second annual lip sync battle Wednesday evening.

In a full for the kids effort, the annual event benefits THON, Penn State's Interfraternity Council/Panhellenic Dance Marathon to support pediatric cancer.

Featuring musical lip syncing acts from 11 different Penn State Athletics programs, months worth of planning and preparation finally came together in an energetic evening for a tremendous cause.

"I think it just bring out more of the sense of community that we really already have in athletics," track and field sophomore and lead event coordinator Tess Kearns said. "We're so strong all together but to be able to something for THON and see the impact that it's making every year - if we could just raise that number even a little bit on final reveal, that would be all the difference."

From lip sync covers ranging from Justin Beiber mixes to Beyoncé, Sia and School of Rock, the event, which was open to all to attend, brought laughs throughout the night with guest judges featuring director of student-athlete welfare and development Liz Johnson, director of Penn State's John Curley Center for Sports Journalism, John Affleck and Penn State Blue Band drum major Jimmy Frisbie. 


Penn State women's volleyball highlighted early with their Justin Beiber mix, followed up with women's soccer's rendition of Sia's "Chandelier" midway through the program. 

"SAAB THON is my favorite thing in the world," said SAAB THON chair Angela Widlacki, a member of the Nittany Lion women's soccer team. "Being able to come out here and see this huge crowd, it means so much to us and I know it meant a lot to our family the Messina's." 

Men's hockey and defending SAAB lip sync battle champion wrestling closed out the evening lip syncing to a pair of movie tunes featuring "Zach's song" from School of Rock and "Breaking Free" from High School Musical. 


With the final scores tallied, the panel of judges voted Penn State women's soccer duo of Widlacki and Liisi Vink-Lainas in the top spot this year to earn the golden microphone. Men's hockey finished second, while wrestling claimed the third-place finish.


By Ryan Berti, Student Staff Writer

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Monday afternoon, the women's lacrosse team joined the men's Lacrosse and track and field teams to speak to the media at the first session of Penn State's Spring Sports Media Days. With just under two weeks until the regular season opener, here are some takeaways from the team's comments.


Looking to Build off 2016


After a season that saw the Nittany Lions make a trip to the Final Four for the first time since 1999, Penn State finished last season with a ton of momentum and will look to pick up where it left off.


Coming off No. 4 ranking in the nation to end last year, the squad has an increased confidence and believes it can play with the best of the best.


"That process starts all over again this year, to get to the point to where no matter what team that we're playing, we really want to get out there and prove that we belong amongst the top teams in the country," head coach Missy Doherty said.


Penn State will open the season with four straight games in Happy Valley, where it has gone 29-6 over the past four years. If the Nittany Lions can generate enough steam with a solid start to the year, it should allow them to capture last season's magic and carry it with them through a schedule has the team facing a slate of eight of the country's top 20 preseason teams.


Chemistry and Experience Fuel a Seasoned Starting Lineup.


The Nittany Lions return eight of its 12 starters off last year's squad, keeping intact the majority of the starting lineup, especially on the defensive end.


"Returning a really big defensive group for the most part has helped us experience-wise and staying on top of things," Doherty said. "On defense, we're really ready to come out and stay on top of things and on offense we're still trying to gel as best we can."


Team captains and seniors, Erika Spilker and Abby Smucker, believe the fact the group has been able to prove it can go deep and knows what it's like to play in big games can help add on to the team's experience.


"It gets you the experience of being able to play the top teams and playing against other people who are the top players in the nation," Spilker said.


"[We can] just make it known to the underclassmen that there's no pressure when you get there, it's just another game. You approach it the same way," Smucker added.


Team Ready for New Playmakers


While only four starters were lost this past offseason, they made up the majority of the midfield and the goalie for last year's squad. Coach Doherty said while the team has a solid foundation, the offense will need to develop a little more in order to find some more players she can count on in clutch situations.


"I think the midfielders we lost, they were playmakers," Doherty said. "To be successful for the course of the season, we probably need two or three more people to really be those 'go-to's' that when crunch time comes, they take over and score points like those seniors that we lost did."


Doherty also said she has seen a lot of good competition from the possible netminders Cat Rainone and Madison Cunningham, and that she believes the veteran defense in front of the net will help them tremendously.


"With the experience we have coming back from defense, it helps that goalkeeping position," Doherty said. "It's not like they're going to have young players in front of them, they're going to have some pretty experienced players."


End Goals Won't Take Away from the Journey


In their national semifinal matchup with North Carolina, Penn State fell by just one goal to the eventual national champions and came as close as it gets to a national title bid. Now, with a team that has a lot of its essential core still remaining, the team is hoping to accomplish some big things.


As a rising program that is gaining national attention as a top-five ranked team in the preseason, coach Doherty said it's more important for her to focus on the play and the big moments that can come from it rather than a "guarantee" or the "end game."


The seniors, who have seen this team achieve better results each year, also want the team to succeed, but for them it's the journey that matters most.


"This is one of the hardest working group of girls that I've ever played with," Spilker said. "Just learning together and growing as a team is what I look forward to the most every season, and then hopefully that gets us to some goals we want to hit later in the season."


Penn State Lacrosse is a Family


Sunday night marked a big night for the Penn State men's lacrosse team, as one of its alums, Chris Hogan, helped lead the New England Patriots to a Super Bowl berth. The former Penn State midfielder hauled in nine catches for 180 yards and two touchdowns, giving not only himself, but also Penn State Lacrosse, a lot of national attention because of his incredible story.


Members of both the men's and women's lacrosse teams watched Hogan put on a show and said they were inspired and proud of what he has accomplished.


"Every time he caught it we were cheering for him," coach Doherty said. "Now you see someone who keeps making the best of the moments he's been presented with and what a great example for Penn State and Penn State Lacrosse."


"That was so exciting for us to see," Smucker said, while also mentioning Hogan's fiance, Ashley Boccio, also played lacrosse for the Blue and White. "It's great to see a Penn State Lacrosse family making us so proud and making the Penn State name out there in a positive way,"


There was no mention of whether there will be some form of official Penn State Lacrosse Super Bowl viewing party, but no matter how the teams view the game, Hogan can count on having the support of his lacrosse family back in University Park. 


By Maria Canales, Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Prior to their arrival on Penn State's campus, a trio from the women's lacrosse team were already great ambassadors for their school and their sport. Freshmen Maria Auth, Madison Cunningham, and Katie Schluederberg traveled to Jamaica in July as a part of Fields of Growth, a volunteer program that connects athletes and local kids together.

The mission trip was a week trip in Kingston, Jamaica. They heard about the opportunity to share their love for lacrosse from fellow teammate, freshman Yasmain Hamood, who had participated in mission trips with the same program before.

There were 20 other volunteers on the girls' trip, mostly fellow lacrosse players and coaches.

"We ran free clinics almost every day we were there," Schluederberg said. 

Auth added that in the mornings during the week they worked with high school students, but also traveled to visit the elderly and brought care packages to Dupont Primary School. The girls also visited Maxfield Park Children's Home and hung out with the kids.

The girls brought bags of clothing, lacrosse equipment, and toys to give away during their stay. Auth said she gave away all her extra lacrosse sticks so that the kids could keep playing after the volunteers left. 

"The last day when we gave out all our donations, you give stuff to girls who have been doing well in the camp or the girls who you think might need them," Cunningham said. "And there was this little girl who I noticed her shoes were bothering her."

Cunningham saw that the girl's toes were popping out of the top of her shoes, so later that night she set out to find a replacement pair.

"We spent all night looking for a pair of shoes for her," Cunningham said. "So that was really cool when I gave her the shoes and she was so happy." 

All three talked about how although the trip's primary focus was on lacrosse and sports, they were mostly impacted by the relationships they built with the local children. 

"It's pretty awesome that we were able to make that connection after just a week," Auth said, who added she keeps in contact with the girls she met through Instagram.

The three Nittany Lions were also grateful for the opportunity the trip provided for them to get to know one another before starting their first year at Penn State. All three credit the trip for creating their unique bond.

Currently, all three have settled in to their first semester of college, and have started to get into the swing of things during fall workouts. The Nittany Lions have competed in several fall tournaments so far, and the freshmen have absorbed a lot from these games.

"It's a good change of pace from scrimmaging each other every day," Auth said. "It's going to be cool to see where we're at right now and then in a couple months in February when we have our first game, how much we've improved over that time." 

The Nittany Lions conclude their fall schedule this weekend, hosting contests against Syracuse, Temple, and Cornell this Saturday, Oct. 15.




By Julie Bacanskas

PHILADELPHIA, Pa. - Coming into Friday night's matchup, the talk was at an all-time high. The only unseeded team to reach the Final Four this season, Penn State women's lacrosse was prepared to compete in its first NCAA semifinal game since 1999. Throughout the night the team proved one important fact.

The Nittany Lions are among the nation's best, a team that more than belongs in this group of elite programs.

Although Penn State saw its season come to an end at the hands of North Carolina for a second consecutive year, the Blue and White never gave in, competing until the very end. In a match that began with a three-goal Tar Heels' run, the Lions clawed their way back before dropping the 12-11 decision in the final seconds.

"It was a great game. That's really what Final Fours are all about - team's going on runs and competing hard and coming up with big plays at big times," head coach Missy Doherty said. "Thankfully our players were competing for 60 minutes. We fell a little short there at the end but I was so proud of how they worked and how hard the game was. I think we wanted to show everybody in the Final Four that there's a reason we're here and that's because we were ready for it. I think they certainly showed that today."

Down 12-9 in the second, an illegal stick called on Carolina began a momentum shift. An Abby Smucker free position goal, her second of the game, brought the team back within two and another quick score with 7:13 remaining made it a one-point game.

However, UNC was content to keep patient after regaining possession of the ball, aiming to let time tick off the clock.

"It definitely is frustrating having UNC pull us out a little bit, trying to keep possession of the ball so that we couldn't swing it back the other way," Smucker said. "We had some practice with that in our previous games. Florida used that tactic against us too. We just wanted to stay composed, stick to our game, not let them get anything easy on us. I think we did a good job on that."

Madison Cyr, who finished with two goals and an assist, forced a turnover, but a stop by Carolina's Megan Waters on a Steph Lazo shot with 40 seconds left sealed the team's fate.

Regardless of the outcome, the Nittany Lions showed their grit and determination, keeping close in a game they had already been counted out of yet again this season.

Understanding how and why Penn State reached the Final Four isn't difficult. They not only played No. 3 UNC, but also the top- two teams in No. 1 Maryland and No. 2 Florida. Those two games were also decided by a single point - Maryland a 10-9 loss in the regular season finale and Florida a 14-13 overtime win in the tournament.

It's time to stop counting the Nittany Lions as underdogs and start recognizing their capabilities. The Blue and White is becoming a lacrosse powerhouse and it has no intentions of going anywhere.

"Everyone's talking all week long (that) it's the first time we've been back," Doherty said. "I told the team, 'Listen, we've been here before. We've played these games all year. It's not like all the sudden we get to the Final Four we try to play a different game.' I think they did a great job of that. They competed. We didn't have too many crazy turnovers. If anything, we were forcing some of those, keeping their composure, getting some good shot opportunities in the second half. I don't think we force opportunities. We had some good ones to make."

"Seeing their composure, I thought it was a championship composure," she added. "We didn't pull it out there in the end but I was so proud of them and the way they competed - even when they're down by three goals or by more goals. They just kept competing. They didn't give in. You could see the fight, the resilience of this team. I thought it was awesome."

Seventeen Years Later: Penn State Returns to the Semifinals

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PSU Lax99.jpg

By Jeremy Falls, Assistant Director of Penn State Strategic Communications


Seventeen years.


The Nittany Lions return to the grandest stage in collegiate lacrosse for the first time since a similarly talented, yet underdog-type outfit, upset a national power along the way to crashing the NCAA Semifinals.


What wasn't known then, as Penn State made its ninth semifinal appearance in the then 18-year history of the NCAA Tournament, was that it would be 17 years for the Nittany Lions to reemerge as one of the final four teams standing.


Seventeen years later, another Penn State women's lacrosse team awaits a semifinal game as the Nittany Lions take on No. 3 North Carolina on Friday at 5 p.m. in Chester, Pennsylvania.


On that 1999 team, senior captain and three-time IWLCA All-American Jen Johnson (1996-99) would help lead her squad to Homewood Field, site of that year's NCAA Championship Weekend. Johnson and her teammates enjoyed certain traits all championship-caliber teams encompass.


"I think we had a very tight knit team," Johnson said. "We had a lot of great chemistry on and off the field and I think that helped our success. We had a lot of talent."


Another alumna, B.J. Johnson (nee Lucey), was a freshman on the team and remembers a similar kinship.


"We had a lot of fun, we got along very well," B.J. said. "We had some characters like JJ (Jen Johnson). It was a very happy, fun team. We played really well together. It truly was a group effort from goaltending all the way up to attack."


One thing B.J. has a hard time processing is how fast time has gone by.


"I can't believe it's been 17 years," B.J. said laughingly. "I don't think I'm that old. I saw that on Twitter and I said, 'I think I'm going to vomit.' It feels like it was 17 minutes ago."


Dialing the clock back, Penn State had to travel to Princeton in a quarterfinal matchup for the right to reach the 1999 semifinals. The Tigers were able to force overtime late after a few Penn State missteps, but it was the Nittany Lion seniors who stepped up and prevailed in a 9-6 overtime win.


That was a very exciting game," Jen Johnson added. "It was close the whole time, we made a couple mistakes down the stretch, but we ultimately did what we needed to do to secure the win. That was a very good Princeton team. We just played at a really high level to keep it going and not have it be our last game."


This year's team possesses many of the same characteristics of that 1999 team: a talented bunch that relies on senior leadership and had to overcome a heavy favorite along the way. The Nittany Lions downed No. 2 Florida on the road in the second round, while the 1999 team took down Princeton, who went on to win the 2002 and 2003 national titles. 


Johnson served as a head coach at the University of Vermont for the past 12 seasons and is able to assess Penn State's accomplishments as both an alumna and a coach.


"They've been really fun to watch," Jen Johnson noted. "They're just really impressive. I think they have a lot of skill and a lot of athleticism and speed. I've been really impressed with their confidence in key moments."


A volunteer assistant at Rutgers, B.J. Johnson might know the team as well as any graduate of the program. She not only coaches against this current team as a Big Ten foe, but after graduating in 2003, Johnson returned to Happy Valley as an assistant for four seasons (2007-10).


"This is a little bit of an unlikely team,' B.J. stated, noting that this year's team wasn't as highly ranked as the 2015 team that fell in the quarterfinals. "They're playing well at the right time and they're doing everything they need to do. They have this great opportunity and it shows how hard it truly is and how special to be among the last four standing at the end of the year."


Both B.J. and Jen have been rallying their teammates from that special 1999 team and others to support the squad on Friday night in Chester.


"I think they have a great shot of going the whole way," Jen Johnson said. "I'm really excited to be there first hand. I'll be bringing my parents. This is big, not just for the alums, but the parents. It's a reunion for them as well. I'm expecting a huge, huge turnout."


"We're getting tailgating stuff together," said B.J. Johnson. "Purchasing tickets and getting t-shirts made so we can all be together. That's all we want, is to have one, big happy group of Penn Staters."


As for the task at hand, Penn State faces a potent North Carolina side that is seeded third and ended the Nittany Lion season a year ago in Chapel Hill. Friday may see more of the Penn State Blue & White in the stands and a Missy Doherty-led squad is ready to embrace that challenge.


"To be able to represent our fans and alums in the final four in Philly is an awesome thing," Doherty noted.


As for any home-field advantage, Doherty expects to have one.


"I would hope so. We are Pennsylvania's team so we're looking forward to that advantage and making our Pennsylvania residents and our Penn State fans proud our team and our program. Hopefully everyone will be close by on Friday night."


One thing is for certain, Doherty and her charges have already made the alums before them proud of this team. Jen Johnson heaped praise on the sixth-year head coach.


"I think she's a great person, a great leader," Johnson said. "She's done a great job recruiting and I think she has two great assistants in Amy (Altig) and Brooke (Matthews). I think she's done a really good job with this team and I've been really impressed with what I've seen on film."


Jen Johnson went on to add what it means that Penn State gets to play in its home state.


"I've spoken to a lot of Philadelphia-area alums and colleagues and everyone is rooting for Penn State because people are happy to see what a great job Missy has done and a new team in the mix."


As for whether this team can reach Sunday's national championship game, it would be an achievement unto itself.


"It would be incredible," said Jen Johnson. "I think it's definitely something that can be done, they have the talent. They showed it by almost upsetting Maryland."


She went onto add there's something a little special of a potential championship game matchup as well.


"We (the 1999 team) lost to Maryland in the semis, and we'd love to see a Penn State-Maryland final on Sunday and for PSU to knock off Maryland."


Nevertheless, if things don't go Penn State's way Friday night, all of Nittany Nation will have full support.


"I'm a proud Penn Stater win, lose or draw," B.J. Johnson added. "And I bleed Blue & White and I always will. This is super special."



VIDEO: Women's Lacrosse Primed for NCAA Semifinals

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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - For the 10th time in program history, the Penn State women's lacrosse team (14-6) will compete in the NCAA semifinals when the Nittany Lions take the field to battle third-seeded North Carolina (18-2) on Friday at 5 p.m. (ESPN3)  in Chester, Pa.

Making their first appearance in the national semifinals since 1999, the Lions have built a great deal of momentum during a stout run through the NCAA Tournament bracket. After knocking off Winthrop in the opening round, Penn State has ousted second-seeded Florida (14-13) and seventh-seeded Penn (8-4) in back-to-back gains to earn a spot in the final four.

"I'm super proud of our players and of the program," said head coach Missy Doherty. "For our fans and alums, just to be able to represent them in the final four in Philly is just an awesome thing...We are looking forward to that. We are looking to make our Pennsylvania residents and the Penn State fans proud of our team and our program."

A tight-knit group, the players have relished the opportunity to extend the season one final week.

"This is a huge step for our program, and we are just so excited to finally get past the elite eight," said senior Jenna Mosketti. "In our four years here, we've made it to the elite eight almost every year, and to be in the final four now our team has been super pumped. And this week is really exciting."

"I'm so happy to be a senior and experience all of this with everyone," said senior Ally Heavens.

Looking at the matchup, the Lions are familiar with North Carolina. The two teams played in the NCAA quarterfinals last spring, with the Tar Heels topping the Lions by a score of 11-8. Penn State built an 8-4 edge over UNC in the second half before North Carolina ended the game with a surge.

Confidence is high for the Lions, who head to Philadelphia playing some of their best lacrosse of the season.

"I think transitions will be a big key for us," said senior Madison Cyr. "North Carolina is really good at riding back on the opposite end of the field. We need to take care of the ball on transition, and I think we will be successful."

Before the team's departure on Wednesday, caught up with Coach Doherty, Cyr, Heavens and Mosketti for their thoughts on advancing to the national semifinals.

Follow's Tony Mancuso on Twitter @GoPSUTony

By: Jeff Sattora, Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa.- The seniors on the Penn State women's lacrosse team have three NCAA quarterfinal appearances on their resumes in four years wearing the Blue and White in Happy Valley.  They can now add a Final Four trip to that list.  The Nittany Lions advanced to the round of four on Saturday afternoon, taking down the 7th seeded Penn Quakers, 8-4, to move on.

The win secures the program's first trip to the Final Four since 1999.   

"I can't even talk right now," said Penn State head coach Missy Doherty as she sat down to the podium postgame.  "It was awesome.  It's an awesome win for our program and just an awesome day in general." 

"We've been kind of knocking at the door the past couple years and every year's been a little bit different," she added on the program and seniors getting over the hump.  "We've been really fortunate in this tournament so far with some big wins and good learning experiences to go into such a tough Final Four next week."

Awesome was one way to describe Penn State's performance on this rainy afternoon.  Even with Penn jumping out to a 2-0 lead in the first eight minutes of play, Penn State battled. 

"You could see the nerves coming out because of the immense stress this kind of game provides," Doherty said.   "But I was so proud of them to come through strong and make huge plays when it mattered."

Freshman Kelly Daggett got the ball rolling with big plays for Penn State, as her goal down the right side put Penn State on the board 11 minutes into the game, and the Nittany Lions never looked back. 

Once Daggett found the net it was time for the senior class to shine.  Seniors Madison Cyr and Jenna Mosketti scored back-to-back goals to give Penn State a 3-2 lead they would not give up. 

The Nittany Lions continued that strong play into halftime, taking a 6-2 lead into the break.  While Penn opened the second half with a goal of their own to cut it to 6-3, that was the closest they would get the rest of the day. 

"We've shown a commitment all year to the play that we're in," Doherty said on the team being able to respond.  "We know we have great scorers and we know we were playing well defensively." 

Cyr was one of those great scorers on Saturday, as her first goal wasn't her only strong play on the afternoon.  She led the attack with two goals and two assists in the win.  

"I'm just thinking move as fast as you can and get around them," Cyr said on her offensive mindset. 

"She does a great job just seeing the cage," Doherty added on Cyr's efforts.  "She's not worried about this person or that person.  Her head is up seeing the cage and she came up with some awesome plays today."

While the offense gave Penn State the lead, it was the Nittany Lions' defense that helped secure in win.  The Blue and White held Penn's top three point scorers, including the nation's leader in assists, Nina Corcoran, to a combined zero points on the day. 

"Momentum-wise today we just got it from our defense," Doherty said.  "Emi (senior goalie Emi Smith), made some crazy saves this game and our mark-up defenders did a great job on their key players." 

Following Penn's two early goals in the game's first eight minutes, the Quakers would not find the back of the net again for 27:32 of game action. 

"The defense did a great job forcing them in a certain direction where I could make an easier save than just a one-on-one.  They work so hard down the field and on just want to back them up," said Smith, who finished the day with eight saves in the win. 

The strong play led to a great win, and that great win is a big step for women's lacrosse at Penn State.  

"It's a huge step for our program.  I love Penn State, I love our players," said Doherty.  "They work so hard and to see them experience something that they'll never forget, that's why you love to coach."

The seniors are not ready for this ride to end.

"The timing is perfect, happening our senior year we just want to stay here as long as we can," said Cyr. "We're just happy to make the Final Four."

"Being back on this field one last time, it was kind of like just give it your all, one last time," added Smith.  "It was an all or nothing type of feeling for our seniors and I definitely think that showed on the field." 

Doherty, the seniors, and the rest of the Nittany Lions will look to make a few more special memories next weekend in the Final Four in Philadelphia.  Penn State will take on the third-seeded North Carolina Tar Heels Friday night with a trip to the title game on the line. 


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