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.