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By Ryan Berti, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Behind the lead of some quality individual play, Penn State was able to capture a solid team win over Lehigh, 18-9.
The Nittany Lions were able to hold the Mountain Hawks to under double-digit goals, but it was a strong offensive outburst to start the game that got the ball rolling for the Blue and White.
Both teams traded goals in the first two minutes, with Lehigh scoring the latter of the two, but it would be the visitors' last goal for over 20 minutes as the Penn State offense took over by dominating possession. The team went two big runs; one that saw three more goals in the first ten minutes of action, and another that had the Nittany Lions four goals in a three-minute span that started with 10:44 left in the half. The seven unanswered goals would give them an 8-1 lead heading into the final 7:30 of the first half.
Sophomore attacker Madison Carter was the main cog in the Nittany Lion offense, as she scored a team-high five goals and added an assist on the day. Along with the likes of Katie O'Donnell, who found the back of the net four times, and Steph Lazo, who played more of a facilitator role with two goals and two assists, the offense found a lot of chemistry out of the gate and was able to find a lot of open lanes.
"We're really working well as a team. We're really working all of our options hard, so it opens a lot of things up," Carter said. "We're really understanding each other, reading each other, so it looked really good today."
After a late run in the half by Lehigh, the teams would enter the break with a 9-5 Penn State lead.
Senior Steph Lazo opened up the scoring in the second half with her first goal of the game to get Penn State into double digits. This started the chain of events that saw the Nittany Lions add three more to the scoreboard in under a minute, making it 12-5.
Following another Carter goal, the Mountain Hawks answered back with four goals of their own to tighten things up. First-time starter at goalie Madison Cunningham showed promise early on, but coach Doherty felt like it was the right time to make a move to give her team back some momentum and brought in senior Cat Rainone with just over 15 minutes remaining in the contest.
"We needed a momentum changer there and I was happy to be that person," Rainone said.
She came in and did just that, becoming a stalwart for her team as she denied every opportunity by the opposing team. In her brief time in between the pipes, she recorded five saves and did not allow a single goal the rest of the game.
With a reliable defense and more chances with possession, Penn State's offense was able to close the game out strong, scoring the game's final five goals in order to double Lehigh, 18-9.
Rainone said postgame her strong performance gave her a lot of confidence for herself and her team, and believes this game can give the unit some fuel moving forward.
"I feel really good with my team, feel good how everyone's playing and things like that," Rainone said. "I'm excited to see the rest of the season,".
The Nittany Lions now move to 3-0 on the year and coach Doherty said she has been very proud with what her team has been able to accomplish so far after all their hard work.
"They've worked super hard this whole year," Doherty said. "They've
consistently worked hard in practice and I think it showed in the first three
games. Regardless of their runs the other team went on, we still competed hard
and finished the game pretty well."
By Ryan Berti, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - One of the most admired things about sports is its ability to take one's minds off of things. It's one of sports' best qualities, and sometimes for those who follow and play sports it can be easy to get carried away, passing around terms like 'hero' and 'sacrifice' as normal descriptions of the incredible things that can happen between the lines.
Every year in the Penn State community, however, something
happens that breaks beyond those barriers of thinking just between the lines,
branching out into something greater.
Friday marks the start of the 44th annual Penn State IFC/Panhellenic Dance Marathon, also known as THON. THON is a 46-hour event where Penn State students raise money for the fight against pediatric cancer. Over the year it has been a staple of the Happy Valley community and has raised upwards to 137 million dollars for the cause.
The yearly event brings a level of excitement to University Park, and the women's lacrosse team is one of the marathons biggest supporters.
"We love THON," head coach Missy Doherty. "It's such an amazing experience and kind of a life-changing event when you go in and you see all the passion that Penn State and the students have for kids suffering from pediatric cancer. It kind of takes your breath away."
The dance marathon brings a lot of traffic, alumni, and others onto the University's campus each year, and with that creates not only a larger mass of support for those dancing, but also for the rest of the Penn State community like with the athletics programs that still have home games on THON weekend.
During the festivities, the women's lacrosse team will be taking on Lehigh Saturday afternoon in the Blue and White's first outdoor game of the season. With the field right next door to the Bryce Jordan Center, Doherty thinks it can provide an essential boost in support for her squad.
"We'll see all the people walking by in their tutus and their high rainbow socks, giving us a couple shutouts as they walk up to THON, so the energy level is greater and just to feel that school spirit during our game is awesome."
Saturday night, following the game, the team will join many of the other sports programs here at Penn State for the highly celebrated Athlete Hour. During the designated hour of THON, athletes from all across campus will compete with each other not on a field, but on the event's stage in a dance battle to try and prove their team has the best moves on campus.
The hour is one of the marathons most anticipated each year, and the women's lacrosse team will be throwing its hat into the ring as one of the teams competing. It's something the team is putting a lot of effort into, but coach Doherty says their talents might be best suited for the turf.
"The girls are practicing diligently their dance act for athlete hour and I'd have to say they're way more talented thankfully on the field than they are on the dance floor," Doherty said. "But the energy they bring and the excitement is really fun and you know they're really excited to contribute to that event."
Coach was unable to be able to provide any details on the dance number the team plans to do, saying "music nowadays is not my thing," but she did say that the team was working hard on their moves.
But even with the event is all about having fun and providing moments of joy to those in need, the team understands the deeper meaning the annual marathon represents and takes that message to heart when approaching their duties on the field.
"It gives you a life perspective, especially heading into these games where you think ground balls are a big deal and then you get a hit in the gut with what life's all about. It's good to have those reminders and be supportive of such a great cause," Doherty said.
The Nittany Lions will take on the Lehigh Mountain Hawks outside at The Penn State Lacrosse Field this Saturday at 3 p.m.
By Ryan Berti, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Separated by a mere 3,450 miles, two teams from two different countries and two different continents came together to compete and represent some of the best their nations have to offer on the lacrosse field.
That's what happened Wednesday afternoon, when the Wales Women's Lacrosse National Team came to Holuba Hall to partake in an exhibition with the Nittany Lions, edging Penn State 13-12 with a goal in the closing seconds. It consisted of two 30-minute halves of action with a continuous clock and featured a mixture of international and collegiate rules.
Penn State, coming off a 2-0 start to the season, was able to use the scrimmage as both a chance to regroup and to get a look at some of the younger and less-experienced players on the team. Coach Missy Doherty utilized a lot of her less-seasoned players and was pleased with how they handled their time on the field.
"Tonight we were really able to see a lot from the players that are up-and-coming players. So it was an interesting game to see who emerged as maybe our next leaders of the future," Doherty said. "It was just good to see that the people you think are the possible next leaders were the ones that did really stand out."
Among the young standouts mentioned were freshman attacker Maria Auth, freshman midfielder Shannon Moore and sophomore midfielder Reilly Masterson, all underclassmen who made major contributions throughout the duration of the exhibition.
On the other hand, Wales was in the midst of its trip through America's lacrosse capitals for its annual USA tour. Penn State marked the fifth of nine stops in Wales visit to the States that lasts from the 12th to the 18th, spanning three states. Wales already had finished its tour of several Virginia schools and now is working through Pennsylvania and Maryland in matchups against some of each state's top lacrosse schools.
The tour acts as an opportunity for the national team to get better as well, as they are in a World Cup year. Wales is one of just six national teams to play in every single Women's Lacrosse World Cup since its inception in 1982. This year's July tournament will feature 28 teams, including Wales, as they compete to be called the world's best.
Being a national squad, the team boasts players from all different backgrounds and styles of play, making them a special task for the Nittany Lions.
"The players were telling me the ages vary from 17 to 32 on their team, so it's just a wide variety of different styles and what they're bringing," Doherty said. "They were just so gritty that you don't know quite what to expect."
The match was competitive all throughout as the teams traded runs and were equally matched across the board. But even at the end of an hour of battling, pushing one another to the limit, both teams met at midfield to congratulate one another and share a moment as friends, taking a group photo together to encapsulate it all.
After traveling to Amsterdam and Greece last summer to play international competition and now expanding that to an in-season exhibition, the Blue and White continue to play teams from across the border, something the team hopes they can continue in the future.
"Being able to play someone new, especially from a different country, is always kind of a cool thing," senior Steph Lazo said. "I'm pretty honored we get to do that."
Penn State will continue its regular season schedule this Saturday at 3 p.m. when the team hosts Lehigh.
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.
By Ryan Berti, GoPSUsports.com 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, GoPSUsports.com
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.
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, GoPSUsports.com 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, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff
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.
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