By Shannon Rostick, GoPSUsports.com Staff Writer
University Park, Pa.- Women's Lacrosse head coach Missy Doherty has a lot on her plate as she leads her team into the upcoming season. The team, currently ranked sixth in the Women's Lacrosse Coaches Association (WLCA) poll, is coming into the 2016 season with a 2015 Big Ten Tournament Championship under their belts. But with a number of new rule changes and a number of talented teams on their schedule, the Nittany Lions have a challenging season ahead of them.
Coming into the 2016 season there are a number of major and minor rules changes that are being enacted. These new rules include a self-start rule, as well as more lenient calls when it comes to empty stick checks and three second penalties against defenders.
Doherty, who had a hand in making these new rules, talked about her role in getting these new rules onto the field and the kind of impact it will make on the game.
"The rules committee did all of the work in writing the rules, but I was a part of a separate committee that put in a proposal for the self-start rule," said Doherty.
Doherty said that all of these new rules will allow for less stoppages, which is something that has always prevented the game from going as smoothly and quickly as possible.
"They have always called lacrosse the fastest sport and now it is going to be even faster and things can move along quicker," she said.
Although these rules are going to be beneficial to the upcoming season, it is going to be tough to get used to these rules for both the players and the officials. They have been playing and observing the game without these new rules for so long, so it will tough to get used to these changes in the start of the season.
"It's a learning curve for everybody. I have a lot of sympathy for the officials because our players are practicing with the new rules every day, but the officials only get practice with it a few times a week, so getting into the groove of things may be difficult, " said Doherty.
Doherty emphasized that learning the rules and gameplay are not the only important parts to having a successful championship team. She has been working with her team in focusing on their mental game to create a stronger team as a whole.
"We're preparing them for all situations where things could go either way. I can't give them confidence, but I think that structuring drills a certain way and pointing out the mental things and not just physical things in their play is a way that we can get that edge," said Doherty.
With the high national ranking the team is clearly full of talent, and Doherty really highlighted how her team's success stems from their overarching talent in all positions.
"We have a lot of great players. I think across the board you can't really narrow in on one player. We have a lot of talent both offensively and defensively and I think we can really give anybody a run for their money," Doherty said.
Doherty also emphasized the fact that her duties as a coach only go so far in making her team successful. She believes that it is also on the players to take over and be confident in themselves in order to take their team to the next level in the more difficult games of the season and ultimately bring them back to the Big Ten Tournament Championship.
"If the coaches have to do too much, it doesn't bode well in those clutch games of the season. The more the players are able to take over and lead and be a force within one another, the more of a chance we have to do well in the post-season," said Doherty.
Penn State is one of four teams in the Big Ten that are ranked this season and they will face off with another eight teams ranked in the top twenty.
The Nittany Lions will be kicking off their season this Saturday with an exhibition game against Towson. After that the team will head into their first official game of the season on February 13th at Lehigh University.