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Smith, McCormick Lead the Way in Lions' Victory Over Vanderbilt

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By Julie Bacanskas, Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - A little cold and wind could not keep the Penn State women's lacrosse team down Sunday afternoon. As the time inched closer to noon, the No. 9 Nittany Lions jumped around, keeping their muscles and their minds loose.

After falling to James Madison a few days prior, the Blue and White (5-2) refused to be defeated again. They were ready to give Vanderbilt (3-4) everything they had, and following 60 minutes of play, the team showed its dominance. Penn State downed Vanderbilt, 17-10.

"We're still working out our defense a lot," said head coach Missy Doherty. "We made a couple changes. We wanted to come out tougher and at least contest their shooting a little bit more, and I think we did that. I think because they were a little bit tougher on the shooters, Emi [Smith] was able to come up with some really big saves."

Emi Smith was a standout in the match, accumulating 15 saves throughout its entirety. The chilly temperature did not bother her one bit. In fact, the junior believes she plays her best in that weather, and she certainly showed her evidence behind that theory.

The performance was one stop shy of her career best. When the Lions needed her most, Smith stood tall.

In the first half, Penn State was tight on defense, allowing the goalie to see the ball. She stopped six of the Commodores' shots. Nevertheless, the junior would face a bigger test in the second, as Vanderbilt was able to dramatically increase its shots from just nine in the first to 21 in the second.

Smith stayed focused and calm. With her positive mentality, she nabbed another 9 saves in the final 30 minutes of play.

"In the second half, I just told myself after they scored the first couple that it was like the start of the game," Smith said. "In my head, it was 0-0. I just needed to play instead of get down on myself. I just told myself it was the start of a new half; let's act like it. I look at the scoreboard and see 0-0, just like Missy Doherty always tells me. Just look at the time. Time to work."

While the goalkeeper was able to help the Nittany Lions dramatically on the defensive side, the team's offense also came ready to attack.

The Blue and White saw scoring from Haley Ford, Madison Cyr, Tatum Coffey, Kelly Lechner, Jess Loizeaux, Maggie McCormick, Jenna Mosketti, Katie O'Donnell and Kristin Brent. McCormick also had a game-high four assists, bringing her total to 18 on the season.

"She's our leader," Doherty said of McCormick. "She's our quarterback. She just does such a good job of keeping tempo and making good decisions. It really paid off for her and for us today."

McCormick was proud of the team's effort and fight. Having worked on a number of fixes from the previous game, she saw noticeable improvement.

In her eyes, and in the eyes of the team, the Nittany Lions are only getting stronger.

"Today we were pushing our fast break, which is something we've gotten away from," McCormick said. "We have a team with a lot of really, really great athletes. We're really fast on offense, especially in the midfield. So, when we're able to push the fast break and get the defense off their heels, we're really able to create chances."

Despite the victory, Doherty knows her team needs to remain focused. The win was exactly what the Nittany Lions needed to get back on track, but they will be tested throughout the remainder of the month and the season.

"It was important, but we still have some really tough games in the next two weeks, like Princeton, Drexel and Stanford," said Doherty. "They're going to be really good games, so we want to finish out March as strong as we can."

The Sisters of Penn State Lacrosse - Dani and Steph Lazo

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By Julie Bacanskas, Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Most of the student-athletes on the Penn State women's lacrosse team consider their teammates family. However, for Dani Lazo and Steph Lazo, that family bond is real. They are teammates, roommates, friends and sisters taking on college and Division I lacrosse together, one step at a time.

Originally playing for Louisville, Dani, the older of the two sisters, decided to transfer following her sophomore season. It just so happened that Steph was getting ready to begin her collegiate experience at the same time. Knowing her sister would play for Penn State made it that much easier for Dani to determine which school would be the best fit for her.

"It's not like I had it planned in my mind when she was coming to college I was going to transfer, but when I decided to transfer, it just made it that much easier to figure out where I wanted to go," Dani said. "It was just a coincidence that it was when she was coming here."

Prior to Penn State, the two Lazo sisters played on the same team in high school. With that previous playing knowledge and having a sisterly bond, they knew reuniting in Happy Valley would only be a positive experience.

So far, they've loved every minute spent together on the field in Blue and White.

"We were high school teammates, which was awesome," said Steph. "We loved it. At the time, she was playing defense, which was cool because she would get the ball on defense and pass it up to me on offense. Then she obviously went to a different university before, and my freshman year she came in with me. Penn State already has a good sense of family, and having my sister here kind of gives it that extra edge. I love that feeling."

Having the Lazo sisters on the team has been a very positive experience for the Nittany Lions as well. Head coach Missy Doherty recognizes Dani's leadership skills. The older of the sisters is not afraid to speak up when something needs to be said, and when she does talk, the team listens.

Doherty believes Steph, on the other hand, is one of the fastest attackers on the team. She has a powerful shot and has really come into her own this season, stepping up into a starting role for the Nittany Lions.

Both Lazo sisters have quickly become assets to the team.

"They're just great," Doherty said. "They're really supportive teammates. Dani transferred in from Louisville, which was great for us. She's been a great leader, a great teammate. Steph is our spark on offense, but it's great to see the close relationship they have. I think Penn State in general is a place where it's a tightknit, close community with a family-like atmosphere. So, it's not a surprise to me that we have sisters on the team that are there for one another and supportive of each other. It's great having them together."

Another benefit to these sisters playing on the same team is they always have a sense of what the other is thinking, what the other will do in practice and in games.

"People think we're twins," said Steph. "I feel like we think like twins. It's weird. So, I know what she's going to do already, and she knows what I'm going to do. We work off of that."

"Offensively, if I feed or if she feeds, we know where the other is going to cut or if she's going to cut," Dani added. "We know where the other is going to come from. If we make eye contact with each other, without even saying a word, I know where she's going to go, and I'll just feed it to her."

Neither Lazo would do these two years differently if given the chance. They've loved every minute of taking on college together. They are always with each other, whether it be in their shared apartment or on the field.

The only downside to this experience is that eventually it will have to end, which is something neither Dani nor Steph are looking forward to.

"My least favorite part about playing with her this year is knowing she's not going to be here next year," Steph said. "It's sad. We've been talking about that lately. As cliché as it sounds, I just hate knowing that she's leaving. We came in together, and I still have two more year."

With this being their last full year together, the Lazo sisters are ready to finish strong. This season is something they want to hang onto for as long as possible.

The Lazos and the Nittany Lions are only just getting started.

Nittany Lions Continue Success in Maryland

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By Julie Bacanskas, Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - As the Penn State women's lacrosse team took the field in Baltimore, it looked to rebound from its last performance. Against No. 8 Virginia the Nittany Lions lacked a defensive edge, which is something they worked on throughout the entirety of the week leading up to the Loyola match.

While going down 2-0 to open the game was not the start the Blue and White wanted, the team rallied. In the final, critical moments, No. 9 Penn State (4-1) held No. 17 Loyola scoreless (1-4), coming away with a 12-8 win.

"I think that was really important going into that game," said head coach Missy Doherty of tightening up on defense. "I was glad the team looked comfortable and took the chance to be a little bit more aggressive to come up with some really big plays at the end, especially in that last 20 minutes."

The Nittany Lions continued their streak of dominant offense, putting up 29 shots on goal to the Greyhounds' 20. Senior Tatum Coffey had a team-high seven shots, with one resulting in a point for the Lions.

Sophomore Steph Lazo trailed just behind Coffey with six total shots. She netted three of those attempts and now has 14 goals on the season. Lazo has provided a spark to the team's offense, stepping up into a much larger role than she filled during her freshman year.

"She's done a great job for us," Doherty said of Lazo. "She's scored some critical goals for us already early in the season, and she kind of takes the heat off of some of our other attackers. But, I think that's a strength of our team in general. When someone's a little off, there are more people to step up. It's really been a good balance of offense across the board."

In addition to Lazo and Coffey, Maggie McCormick and Jenna Mosketti each notched two goals, while Madison Cyr, Kelly Lechner, Abby Smucker and Ally Heavens scored once each. McCormick also picked up two assists in the game, her 12th and 13th on the year.

The Nittany Lions offense is not coming from one player. It's across the board, which pleases the head coach and gives the team depth.

"Every game we've been getting a lot of shots off," Doherty said. "A part of it is that Loyola's goalkeeper was very good, and we just want to make sure we get the most out of each shot opportunity. Again, they played balanced, they played well and they played aggressively when they needed to."

With the win over the Greyhounds, Penn State improved to 4-1 on the season. The team is off to an explosive, dominant start, which is in large part due to the hard work and effort put in day in and day out.

The Blue and White don't just want to win. This team wants to show it is skilled, determined and ready to battle.

"I just like our attitude and overall confidence on the field," said Doherty. "I think from the turnover side, we haven't had a ton of bad turnovers. I think we've taken care of the ball well. We've dictated a good amount of the pace of play. So, we're looking forward because we have a really tough stretch to finish out March. Pretty much every game we're going to need to be on. It's going to be a really good test, but the team is working hard, and it's paying off."

The Lions' next test of the season will come on Wednesday when they take on James Madison. JMU is 5-1, falling only to No. 2 North Carolina.

Penn State, however, is more than ready for another battle.

"James Madison is having a really good year," Doherty said. "They beat Loyola, and they've had some really good wins. They always come, and they play really hard. So, it's going to be really competitive."

McCormick a Strong Offensive Presence for the Blue and White

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By Julie Bacanskas, Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - With a stinging loss to Virginia still fresh in its mind, the Penn State women's lacrosse team took the week to refocus, to practice and to improve. In a way, the defeat allowed for growth as the team singled out weaknesses and worked to become a stronger unit.

Now, the No. 9 Nittany Lions (3-1) are ready to take on No.17 Loyola (1-3), and although they won't be taking the field in Happy Valley, they know Penn State support is inevitable. With 15 student-athlete from Maryland, much of the team is returning home this Saturday.

"I love going back home to Maryland, and I think a lot of girls on the team do," senior Maggie McCormick said. "It's just a familiar area. It's heavy on Penn State fans there too, so you get a lot of friend support, a lot of family support. It's definitely a fun place to play."

McCormick, who has been a dominant attacker for the Blue and White throughout her career, is having a stellar start to the season. She already racked up 16 points through the team's first four games, emerging as a leader among the offense.

Even more impressive, of the senior's 16 points, 11 have come from assists as she is constantly behind the net, looking for passes and open teammates. McCormick prides herself on this role and loves watching plays unfold before her eyes.

"It's just what I do best," the attacker said. "That's definitely one of the main parts of my game. I love seeing open cutters, and fortunately, I'm on a team that has very good cutters. It makes my life a lot easier."

The senior's skill has not gone unnoticed. She was name the Big Ten Offensive Player of the Week, an honor McCormick was a bit surprised she earned. In the week's two matches, she notched 12 points with four goals and eight assists.

Although McCormick may not have expected the weekly honor, head coach Missy Doherty believes the senior deserves it with the work she has put into playing at the highest level possible for the Nittany Lions.

"She's a great leader for us," said Doherty. "I think she's come through this year and worked as hard as she's ever worked in her four years. It's really paying off for us, not just in the scoring but also in re-defending and getting the ball back. She's just reinserted herself as an impact player, and the players around her really respond to her leadership."

McCormick and the rest of the Nittany Lions will take the field Saturday hungry for a battle. The team knows it can and will play for a complete 60 minutes.

There may be some back and forth, which is only natural when playing such a tough opponent, but that is the type of game the Blue and White love. The Lions thrive in competitive atmospheres.

"We're just excited to play," said Doherty. "Loyola is always a really good game for us. Our schedule in March, every game we have to be ready to play our best. We want to keep getting better, and I think that's our goal for Loyola. We want to tighten up and be a little bit better defensively. Offensively, we want to keep a good rhythm and tempo like we did against Virginia."

The task at hand will not be easy, but the Nittany Lions know what they need from this weekend against Loyola Maryland.

"A win," said McCormick. "Definitely a win."

No. 9 Lions Defeated by No. 8 Virginia in Final Seconds

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By Julie Bacanskas, Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Headed into this weekend, the Penn State women's lacrosse team knew it would have a challenge on its hand. With No. 8 Virginia coming to town, the No. 9 Nittany Lions were ready for their first big test of the season, taking on another top-ten team.

Throughout the entirety of Saturday's game, it was clear the two were evenly matched. Any time the Cavaliers took the lead, Penn State would fire back and vice versa. There was never more than a two-goal lead on either side.

Unfortunately for the Blue and White, a Virginia (2-2, 0-1 ACC) goal with four seconds left in second half proved to be the difference maker. The Nittany Lions (3-1, 0-0 B1G) suffered their first loss of the season, falling 16-15.

"Playing Virginia is always just like this," head coach Missy Doherty said. "I mean, I don't know how many games since I've been here it's been a one-point game, but I think it's been a lot. We always know it's going to be super competitive, and I think it really was two teams playing well. It was unfortunate to come out with the loss, but we had a chance to win it there in the last couple seconds. All you can ask for is those chances."

Despite the competitive nature, Doherty was not expecting such a high-scoring game. Both teams were in the double digits after the first thirty minutes.

The Lions and Cavaliers were tied at 10 after Penn State scored in the final seconds of the first half. The determination to score showed the Lions would not easily give up. They would fight until the end.

"I think it was really important," said Doherty of heading into halftime tied. "Our team fights for 60 minutes, and that's a good example of you know, it doesn't matter if there's still time on the clock. We're going to go hard. That was just a good example of going hard and finishing strong."

Throughout the game, the Lions saw goals from seven different student-athletes, continuing their strong offensive trend. Madison Cyr, Tatum Coffey, Kelly Lechner, Abby Smucker, Steph Lazo, Katie O'Donnell and Maggie Gallagher all found the back of the cage.

Cyr led the way with a game-high five goals. The junior now has eight on the season, which is not at all surprising to her coach.

"She's a clutch player," Doherty said of Cyr. "She always comes up big in big games. It's no different than any other game that we've been in that she comes in with a really good game."

With mere minutes left, it looked as though the Lions may edge out Virginia. Penn State evened the scoring once again with 2:26 remaining. The team got the ball back shortly thereafter and was able to work its offense.

However, a foul with 13 seconds left gave Virginia possession. The Cavaliers' final shot resulted in the go-ahead goal. With such little time, the Nittany Lions were unable to force yet another tie.

"It was a tough game defensively," Doherty said. "I take full responsibility for that. We had a game plan, and it didn't work. That's my fault. We want to come back for the next game and make sure that we give the players the best opportunity to win."

Although the outcome was not what Penn State was hoping for, the Blue and White battled and played for a full sixty minutes. The team was competitive and strong.

The Nittany Lions will take the field again next Saturday as look to return to their winning ways against Loyal Maryland.

Smith Emerges as Lions' Starter in the Cage

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By Julie Bacanskas, Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Through the first three games of the season, junior Emi Smith has shown her importance to the Penn State women's lacrosse team. The goaltender is consistent. She makes the saves she needs to, while also having a constant presence to support her team.

Head coach Missy Doherty wanted one of the team's three goalies to step up and take the starting job this season, and that is exactly what Smith has done.

Coming into this year, the junior knew she could secure the position with hard work and dedication. Smith spent the entire summer and all of fall ball training, going the extra mile to ensure she would be prepared when spring began.

That effort molded her into a more consistent goalkeeper, which Doherty believes is the difference maker. That reliability is what sets Smith apart.

"I think it's just her consistency in practice and in games," Doherty said. "It hasn't been something where we get to a game and we decide for a goalkeeper and we're wondering how they're going to perform. She's been really consistent in practice, making the saves that she should and coming up with some that are even harder to make. So, I think consistency wise, it's been nice to have that in the cage this year. It's been a huge difference in our games."

While Doherty praises that aspect of Smith's game, the goalie prides herself on a different quality, her presence in the cage. During games, Smith is loud. She is clear. Her communication skills connect her with the defense, making the entire team a stronger unit.

The Nittany Lions' defense has already shown its dominance. The team has only been scored against nine times in the opening three games, and the Blue and White are looking to continue that trend.

"I say to my midfielders and my defense, 'Get hungry,' because we want the ball," Smith said. "We want a goal. The defense wants the ball back, so that's kind of our mentality. Get hungry. Presence is just a huge part of being in the goal. If you don't have a presence, it reflects on the defense. Then the defense doesn't respond to you."

Although Smith, and Penn State, is off to a successful start, the goalkeeper position is not always so positive. It is not only physically challenging but also mentally straining.

As a goalie, it is important to keep emotions in check. Smith knows that all too well and does her best to stay in the present, forgetting allowed goals or mistakes.

"Normally before a game, I'll just act really silly and that will kind of put me in the mood of being positive with my teammates," said Smith. "Sometimes I see my teammates getting down on themselves, and they always say to me, 'Emi, when you're funny and you are getting us all riled up with what you say and what you do in the cage, that reflects on the entire field.' So, each and every game, I just try and do the exact same thing."

This silly attitude plays into the goalie's overall confidence on the field. Smith and her teammates believe in her abilities.

The junior will make her fourth start of the season Saturday when the No. 9 Lions (3-0) take on No. 8 Virginia (1-2). With such a competitive team making its way to Happy Valley, Penn State knows it can expect a hard-fought game.

In its two losses, Virginia fell by just one point. The Cavaliers have a lot of skill, and the Nittany Lions know this will be their first real test of the season.

"It's always a competitive game," said Doherty. "I think we're really antsy for, you know, a game against a nationally-ranked opponent. I mean, it's been three really good games for us and excited to play, but to play Virginia has always been somewhat of a rival, and we're excited for the game."

Anything can happen in Division I lacrosse, but with Smith in the cage, the Lions know they
have their best shot at victory.

"Virginia coming up is going to be a challenge," said the goalie. "They're definitely one of the top-ranked teams. We've always been up by one or down by one the entire game whenever we've played them in my past two years here. I think it will be a definite challenge and a really fun game to watch."
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - continues the video series "A Day in the Life" with a behind-the-scenes interview with Penn State women's lacrosse senior Tatum Coffey and strength and conditioning coach Kristina Jeffries. 

VIDEO: THON 2015 Pep Rally Dance - Women's Lacrosse

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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Check out the Nittany Lions dancing on stage during the THON 2015 Pep Rally on Saturday night.

Follow's Tony Mancuso on Twitter @GoPSUTony

Explosive Offense Key to Nittany Lions' Success

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By Julie Bacanskas, Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - With 32 goals scored by 12 different student-athletes in the first two games of the season, the No. 10 Penn State women's lacrosse team is clearly an impressive, offense-oriented squad. The Nittany Lions know this dominance up front is something they have to use to their advantage in order to succeed this season.

"I think most of our experienced players are either midfielders or attackers," said head coach Missy Doherty following the team's 17-2 victory over Bucknell Wednesday evening. "We have a lot of people that like to score, and they're aggressive scorers. So, I think that's a strength of our team right now is we can score from a bunch of different spots."

Against the Bison, Penn State opened up the scoring with a six-goal run. The team netted another six following the first Bucknell tally, securing a commanding 12-1 lead at the end of the first half.

Over the course of the game, Kelly Lechner scored three times, bringing her total to five goals on the season. Nevertheless, she credits her teammates and the positive team atmosphere for this early, personal success.

"I think we just really have a great offensive camaraderie, and we're really working on our communication to work better together," said Lechner. "We have really strong players individually, and putting us together as a unit is really awesome. We just work really well together, and we get along on and off the field. So, it's just really fun to make those connections."

Another positive for the Blue and White is the fact that freshmen are already contributing. Katie O'Donnell not only notched her first collegiate point with an assist, but she also scored her first goal as a Nittany Lion to continue the scoring for Penn State in the second half of Wednesday's game.

The freshman's tally brought the score to 13-2 in Penn State's favor.

"Katie is coming off of an injured ankle, so she probably didn't get in as much in our scrimmage or the Lehigh game," Doherty said. "She played a little bit more, actually, than we thought. So, it was good to see her back at the midfield, starting to get her stride back. It was good to get her first goal under her belt for sure."

Adjusting from high school lacrosse to DI has been a process for O'Donnell, but she is excited to be here at Penn State, experiencing this time in her career with her teammates.

"It's so fast, but honestly the girls and the upper classmen have been so great at bringing not only me but every other freshman in and really helping us along the way," O'Donnell said. "That's been really helpful for me especially. I always look to them with anything, whether it's on the field or off the field.

"As a sense in the game, just having them there and we all have each other's back, that just helps knowing that we're really supportive of each other. It just makes the transition so much smoother."

The team notched four more goals in the half, nabbing the victory against the Bison. If this start is any indication of what the season will be like, the Nittany Lions have a bright year ahead of the them.

"I really think we're starting to find a rhythm with each other and really see everyone better," said O'Donnell. "We worked really hard in fall ball and then in preseason, and I think now it's really just coming together as it normally does when the season starts. So, it's nice to see. It's fun out there. You can feel the energy."

Lazo Leads the Way Against Lehigh

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By Julie Bacanskas, Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - As the snow fell in Happy Valley, the No. 10 Penn State women's lacrosse team prepared for its season opener against Lehigh. Luckily for the Nittany Lions, they didn't have to compete in the winter weather, instead taking on the Mountain Hawks inside the warm confines of Holuba Hall.

Following 60 minutes of play, the Blue and White downed Lehigh, 15-7, and saw goals from six different student-athletes. Penn State came out ready, and the team did not disappoint.

"I think overall it was good," head coach Missy Doherty said. "It was a good game for us. You know, Lehigh is really good. We hadn't seen them play before, so it was hard from a scouting sense to be ready for their particular plays. I think we adjusted well, and Emi [Smith] made some awesome saves today."

Senior Tatum Coffey opened the scoring with a goal just under six minutes into the game. The Mountain Hawks answered back with two, but the Lions were not going to back down.

At the 19:48 mark of the first, sophomore Steph Lazo pounced, tying the game at two. Just over a minute later, Lazo struck again, scoring her second of what would be five goals.

Last season as a freshman, Lazo only appeared in six games and tallied one goal. Her outstanding efforts against Lehigh showed what she is capable of, and Doherty is excited to see the sophomore coming into her own.

"She did a great job," Doherty said of Lazo. "She really worked the crease well, put her shots away. She was aggressive too, which was awesome. So, it was good to see her emerge as one of our offensive leaders."

Lazo, however, felt her success was a team effort. She knows the opportunities she had would not have come about if the entire squad wasn't playing with such determination and skill.

"I felt pretty confident with the ball," said Lazo. "Our coach, Missy [Doherty] is always like, 'Steph, catch and go. Catch and go.' So, I was just doing what she was telling me, and my teammates were setting me up. I just took the opportunity and made the most of it."

Lazo was not the only offensive leader, as Abby Smucker recorded a three-goal game and Coffey, Jenna Mosketti and Kelly Lechner all scored twice. The Lions outshot the Mountain Hawks, 25-19.

Smith also made her presence known in goal for the Blue and White as she made 10 saves in the matchup. Doherty was very pleased with the goalie's play and gave her a ton of credit for the Lions' victory.

"Every team we're going to play is going to be really difficult, and we need people to make plays," Doherty said. "Thankfully, today Emi [Smith] stepped up and made a lot of plays for us, but some days it's going to be our attack stepping up and vice versa. Overall, I think it was a good, competitive game, and it was awesome to have as our first game."

With the nerves and stress of playing the season opener out of the way, the Lions can now look ahead to what the rest of the season may bring. This team is strong, and it is determined to compete day in and day out.

"It's great to start off our season with a win," said Lazo. "It gets the ball moving, or gets the ball bouncing actually. That's what we've been saying. It's just great to come out on the winning end. It's a good way to start our season. I'm really excited for it. It should be a good one."

The Nittany Lions will take the field in Holuba Hall again Wednesday night for a 7 p.m. game against Bucknell.


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