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Nittany Lions Look Back on Historic Season

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By Julie Bacanskas, Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Playing its first season in the Big Ten Conference, the Penn State women's lacrosse team knew this year would be filled with challenges and triumphs. The team battled hard, winning 16 games for the first time since 1989 and making the NCAA Quarterfinals for the third time in four years.

Nevertheless, the team's greatest feat came in the form of a first for the program and its conference. Despite the competition, the Nittany Lions were crowned the first-ever Big Ten Champions. With all of these accomplishments, it is clear that this program is destined to excel.

"It was a really fun year," said head coach Missy Doherty. "I think from day one it was a really good energy on the team. When we started, we had to shift a couple players due to injury and asked a lot of some young players. I think they really did their job stepping up, and thankfully we had some really great wins this year. We're Big Ten Champs, and I certainly think we have a lot to be proud of."

The growth and dominance of the team's defense is one aspect Doherty and the rest of the Nittany Lions are especially proud of because at the start of the season, it was not a strong point. Injuries required a lot of shuffling, and when all was said and done the team's core defenders were made up of a number of former attackers.

Sophomore Natalie Schmitt shifted to defense, as did Abby Smucker. The two really bolstered the Lions on the back end and had to make numerous adjustments as they gained a greater understanding for the position throughout the season.

Smucker, who seemed to captain the young defense, really stood out as her performances solidified the team. She was even named the Big Ten Tournament MVP for her play, showing just how hard she and the rest of the defense worked to improve.

This strong play from the D, in addition to the team's balance offense, played a key role in the team's success, especially in the newly formed Big Ten Conference.

"I think that we're really a tough conference, and I think we're continuing to grow with all the exposure that we get through the Big Ten Network," said Doherty. "It just really feels like our sport is taking off across the country, which is awesome. So, we had some great exposure. I thought the tournament was exciting, and our season finale against Maryland was really exciting. I think everyone can see that we're a really competitive conference."

With teams like Northwestern and Maryland as conference rivals, winning the Big Ten Tournament was all the more special for the Nittany Lions. Penn State had to work hard and play its best games possible to come out on top, and that is exactly what it did.

The Nittany Lions will forever be the first Big Ten Champions, and that is an accomplishment that can never be taken away from them.

"I would probably say winning the Big Ten Tournament," said Doherty of the team's biggest accomplishment in the 2015 season. "It was the first year for our conference and we went in with really great teams. We beat Northwestern twice, which was a really amazing feat given their history and how good they are. I think that was a big step for us, and then getting a tough draw for NCAAs and making it through the Virginia weekend was just another really good weekend for us."

These big wins and strong play would not have been possible without the dominant Nittany Lion offense. Captain Maggie McCormick led the way with 67 points, becoming Penn State's all-time leader in assists with 137 in her four-year career. She registered 43 this season alone.

McCormick was not the team's only offensive weapon, as it had nine players reach at least 10 goals. Tatum Coffey, Steph Lazo and Madison Cyr each had 43, 41 and 38 goals respectively. When one player was shut down, Penn State always had another attacker ready.

The Lions were dangerous all season long. They played a number of close games, were ranked nationally on a consistent basis and were the first Big Ten Champions. The team will lose nine seniors next year but returns a majority of its starters. The future of Penn State lacrosse is as bright as ever.

"I think after this year specifically, we've begun to establish ourselves as a top team nationally," said Doherty. "I think sometimes it's hard to keep pushing open doors and keep turning corners, but I think this year, especially with our Big Ten win and our wins over some really great teams, really helped establish our program as a team that's going to compete for those top spots. The girls know the energy we put into this season and how hard we worked. They're ready to do that again."

Nittany Lions Prepare for NCAA Quarterfinal Matchup Against UNC

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By Julie Bacanskas, Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Sometimes the unknown is frightening, but other times it is exhilarating. The unfamiliar in sports can offer new challenges, new levels of competition and new levels of play. As the Penn State women's lacrosse team travels to take on North Carolina for the first time since 2009, it is ready and excited for the opportunity. The Nittany Lions will bring their best.

To get to this position, the Lions have had to take down Johns Hopkins and Virginia. Both games were intense, close matchups. Nevertheless, with Penn State's (16-4) play as of late, winning 11 of its last 12, it is prepared for any challenge, especially a challenge like the Tar Heels (16-3).

"We're really excited," said head coach Missy Doherty. "It's been a great year for us so far, a lot of really exciting games. I think with the Big Ten Tournament Championship and playing Hopkins and Virginia in the first two rounds of NCAAs, we've really been tested here with some really tough games. It makes us more excited for the next game to see what we're going to bring, and certainly playing North Carolina, who we haven't played yet before, is going to be a fresh new test for us this weekend."

Key to the Nittany Lions' success this season has been its deep offense and reliable goalie, Emi Smith. In the team's second round game alone, Smith made 14 saves. Her efforts have continued to keep the team in close games.

Scouting UNC, the Tar Heels have a similar offense to that of the Nittany Lions. Like Penn State, they do not rely on one scorer and have 10 athletes with double-digit goals. While that fact may seem daunting to some, the team's defense will be more than ready. It gets to practice against its own offense, which has nine scorers who have accumulated at least 10 goals this season. 

"I think defensively we really need to focus on the cutters and the one-v-one defense," Smith said. "Watching their film is really a big factor for it, and having such a good attack on our side is a huge contribution because they can help us prepare for a team like UNC. Our attack is just as good as UNC's attack, and that's huge for our defense because we can practice all week long and prepare for their attack. So, I definitely think going into this weekend is just watching film, running through their plays, running through the shots that they take and overall just playing our aggressive defense."

For this game, the team is not relying on just what its coaches say about UNC. Doherty has instructed each of the Lions to prepare their own scouting report of the Tar Heels, forcing them to get a closer look at their opponent prior to the game.

"Our coaches sent us a template, and we're all creating our own scout for the team, which we haven't done before," said junior Madison Cyr. "It's giving all of us the opportunity to learn the style of each player that we're getting ready to play against."

In this Elite Eight matchup, Penn State will rely heavily on its midfielders. The team has seen tremendous effort from them, both offensively and defensively, all season long. They particularly stepped up after the team lost captain Kelly Lechner to injury, and Doherty has been particularly pleased with all of them.

Five of the team's top scorers are midfielders and each has reached the 30-goal mark. Tatum Coffey leads the way with 42, followed by Steph Lazo who has 41, Cyr who has 36 and Katie O'Donnell and Jenna Mosketti who each have scored 30.

"It's a huge advantage because if one player gets shut down, we have so many more to work with," said Cyr of the scoring depth. "We're not just counting on one player to win the game or score the goal. We have so many people and so many different styles of attacking, whether it's a feed or one-v-one."

This group does not only score. Their defensive play has also been huge this season, and they will look to once again bring their best on Saturday. Coffey has the most caused turnovers on the team with 23, while Mosketti and Cyr lead the way in ground balls. These players bring balance to the team, which has been a big asset to the Nittany Lions.

Even with its skill, Penn State enters this Elite Eight game as the underdog. The No. 7 Nittany Lions know this game against No. 2 North Carolina will be a battle, but they are not letting rankings effect their preparation or how they play. This team has each other's backs. They just need to continue communicating and relying on one another.

"I think our team is great," said Doherty. "They get along really well. The camaraderie has been amazing. The team kind of mojo has been just fantastic all season. With these big games, as a coach, you really hope your team takes over and the players take over, and they've made my job so much easier with their drive and their work ethic and their leadership this year."

With the opponent aside, making the Elite Eight for the third time in four years is an accomplishment these Nittany Lions are proud of. This year, they don't want to end at this level. They want to continue playing together, continue winning and continue their season.

"It's kind of surreal," said Smith. "I mean my freshman year we went to the Elite Eight, and last year was kind of an upset because we lost first round NCAAs. But, I think this year we're definitely excited because we're going. That's a huge thing for us because I have a feeling we don't want to stop, and going into UNC that's a huge aspect because we want to make it to the Final Four."


Lions Down Virginia and Hopkins to Stay Alive in NCAA Tournament

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By Julie Bacanskas, Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Nine seniors on the Penn State women's lacrosse team missed their graduation ceremonies this weekend in favor of playing in the NCAA Tournament. After the results of both the first and second-round games, they and the rest of the team could not be happier about that decision.

Instead of walking in caps and gowns the seniors competed with their teammates, helping the Nittany Lions (16-4) defeat both Johns Hopkins (14-4) and Virginia (12-7). With the two victories, this team is officially part of the 2015 Elite Eight.

"I love spending time with my team," said goalie Emi Smith. "I love playing with this team. It's an exhilarating experience to be able to go this far in the NCAAs, and I would not be more excited or happy without these girls. They are pretty much the contributors for us going this far."

Once the Blue and White knocked out the Blue Jays, the team had its sights set on a rematch with the Cavaliers. When the two programs met earlier in the season, Virginia secured the victory with a go-ahead goal four seconds before the conclusion of the game.

With that loss in the back of their minds, the Nittany Lions were determined to have a different outcome in Sunday's match. It was not going to be another heartbreaker.

Defensively, Penn State had one of its best performances of the season. Virginia outshot the Lions, 34-21, won more ground balls, had half the number of turnovers and were far more successful in its clear attempts. Nevertheless, the defense consistently did its job, turning in key plays when it mattered most.

"Our defense was great all game," head coach Missy Doherty said. "We really had a huge clearing problem in this game. We got a lot of balls on the ground. Our D came up with the ball, and then we didn't take care of it as much as we should. So, it's a credit to them for getting the ball back to us time after time."

Really leading the way on the back end, however, was Smith. The junior made 14 saves throughout the entirety of the game, solidifying the win and allowing the Lions a chance to move on in the tournament. The performance was one save shy of her season best, which came in March against Vanderbilt.

"I think Emi stood on her head today making unbelievable saves," Doherty said following the game. "Every game is a little different. Sometimes our offense takes over, our defense takes over, and today, Emi kind of took over. So, it was a great effort by her and a great effort by our team to come up with some huge goals at big times."

In terms of offense, the Nittany Lions once again saw scoring from across the board. Madison Cyr and Katie O'Donnell both collected five points in the game with a hat trick and two assists each. Steph Lazo also notched three goals against the Cavaliers, while Tatum Coffey and Kristin Brent both added two.

With Lazo's three goals and Coffey's six throughout the weekend games, both passed the 40-goal mark on the season. O'Donnell's performance pushed her to 30 goals scored, meaning five Nittany Lions have now reached that accomplishment.

"I thought overall today we really saw each other well," said O'Donnell following the Virginia game. "When everyone is working well together and we're seeing the open goal, it just goes well for everyone. Fortunately, I was on the upper end of that today. But, we were moving the ball, seeing each other, and there was a lot of communication out there today, which is key."

Moving forward, the Nittany Lions will need to defeat North Carolina to stay alive in the tournament. The game will certainly be a challenge, but this team is ready for anything. It wants to keep competing, keep winning and keep playing together. Penn State is not finished yet.

Nittany Lions to Face Familiar Foe in the First Round

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By Julie Bacanskas, Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Fresh off its Big Ten Tournament win, the Penn State women's lacrosse team is already preparing for the next part of its season. With the NCAA Tournament beginning Friday, the Nittany Lions know they have a clean slate. They are ready to show their skill and prove their dominance.

With this year's appearance, the Blue and White have locked up their fourth consecutive NCAA Tournament run. Every year the Lions have made improvements, and this year was no exception. Right now, they have momentum and confidence on their side.

Penn State (14-4) knows it is a national competitor, and the team is looking to go as far into this tournament as possible. In order to do that, the Blue and White will first have to down Johns Hopkins(14-3), a previous conference rival. With such familiarity with their opponent, the Nittany Lions are ready for the challenge.

"They're very physical," said head coach Missy Doherty of Hopkins. "They work very hard. They hustle everywhere. Nothing comes easy against them, so we're going to have to work just as hard and assert ourselves on both ends of the field."

On the offensive side of the game, the Nittany Lions will look to its leaders, including senior captain Maggie McCormick. McCormick leads the team in points with 63 and is also one of the strongest voices for this Penn State squad.

Eyes will also be on senior Tatum Coffey, sophomore Steph Lazo and junior Madison Cyr. All three have over 30 goals this season, adding depth to the team and making Penn State's offense all the more dangerous.

"Hopkins is always a fun team to play because we know that we're going to get one of their best games," McCormick said. "They're definitely going to test us and going to push us. They're a really hard working team, and we know we're going to get a battle out of it. We're going to have to play our best to beat them."

The Nittany Lion offensive will only be a portion of the recipe for success in this first-round game. Doherty and the team know that Hopkins is a squad that shoots the ball, meaning the defense will need to be solid. Saves in this game will be crucial, and senior Emi Smith will need to come up in big ways once again.

Smith, who was named the Big Ten goalie of the year, is no stranger to this pressure. She is more than ready to take on the Blue Jays. In fact, she's looking forward to the matchup and is ready to have fun doing what she loves. The junior just needs to make sure she maintains her focus for all 60 minutes.

"At some points there's times where I don't see a shot for about 10 minutes because our attack and midfielders are doing such a great time with handling the ball," said Smith. "I think my challenge is going to be maintaining my focus throughout the entire game and being a positive factor for my teammates."

As in the Big Ten Tournament, NCAAs are one-game elimination style. Nevertheless, the Nittany Lions are not planning to exit any time soon. With a Big Ten championship and successful season, they have momentum on their side.

This tournament gives Penn State a chance to start new. It knows what has worked well and what has not. Now, the team wants to just go out and show everyone what Penn State lacrosse is all about.

"We're really excited," said McCormick. "When we go finals are going to be over and everyone's going to be able to focus on lacrosse and the team. It's going to be fun. As a senior it's a little bit bitter sweet, but you don't want to think about the fact that the end is kind of nearing. You want to prolong this journey as much as possible, so we're really looking forward to it, especially the seniors."


Nittany Lions Crowned First-Ever B1G Tournament Champions

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By Julie Bacanskas, Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - With a Big Ten Championship on the line, the Penn State women's lacrosse team entered the tournament feeling confident. The Nittany Lions took down Northwestern in the second round, bringing them one step closer to the trophy. While the team was excited, the job was not done yet. Penn State still needed one more win.

When Ohio State (13-7) took down previously undefeated Maryland, the Lions (14-4) prepared for the challenge and trusted in their abilities. After 60 minutes of play, Penn State emerged as the conference's first winner by defeating the Buckeyes, 13-11.

The Nittany Lions are Big Ten champions.

"I don't know if it sunk in yet," said head Coach Missy Doherty. "I think it was a great game. I just love that competing aspect of it, but certainly being the first Big Ten winner is such an honor. We have such a great tradition in our program that goes so far back. Our alums are so proud of our program and have done well in the past. It's nice to really put Penn State on the map with our first Big Ten Championship."

Key to the win was Penn State's offense, which has dominated throughout the entirety of the season. Senior Tatum Coffey led the way with her four goals, but in all the team saw scoring from seven different players in the final. This balance up front made the Blue and White a difficult team to beat. They challenged Ohio State's defense, went to the net and came away from the game shooting at 52 percent.

For Coffey and the rest of the senior class, this game was crucial. With so little time left to play in their careers, every second counts. They wanted to leave it all on the field, which is exactly what they did.

"I honestly had an epiphany," Coffey said. "It was a moment that just hit me, and I realized that I'm a senior. I'm never going to be in this position again. So, I let that take over me and decided to be a leader out there and pump everyone up."

Going into halftime, the Lions had a three-goal lead. Nevertheless, the team knew it would not be an easy task to finish the game, especially against the Buckeyes.

Ohio State controlled play in the opening minutes of the second, tallying three consecutive goals to even the scoring. The Nittany Lions called a timeout to regroup, but they were never concerned. Staying calm proved to be key.

"Right when they quickly scored three goals on us, we stayed confident and composed," said Abby Smucker. "We knew that we had to pick up our defense a little bit more, but I was confident in the way our defense was playing. And, having Emi [Smith] back there in the cage was critical for us."

All season long, Smucker has anchored the Nittany Lion defense. Doherty has labeled her the team organizer, keeping the Lions cohesive in the back. Her play in the semi-final and final helped boost the Lions and did not go unnoticed as Smucker was named the tournament MVP.

Also stepping up for the Lions was Emi Smith in the cage. She made seven stops that kept the Lions ahead. Her biggest save of the game came with just over a minute to play. Had she not made the stop, the Buckeyes would have pulled within one. The dynamic of the game would have shifted.

"She just came up with some really crucial saves," said Doherty of Smith. "I think she's been solid all year, but when the game is on the line I think she gets better. Especially in that last minute coming up with such a huge save, it was really that last step we needed to seal up the game."

As time evaporated, Penn State realized the magnitude of what it had done. This team battled through tough losses, through injuries and through close games to get to that point. The work it had done all season long finally paid off.

"It shows that we can bounce back," Smith said. "It shows that we can improve on the losses that we've had, and we can always learn from the things we don't do right. There's always room for improvement, and I think the team really shows that. We have improved a lot over this season, and I think that's why we came up big here. We just focused on the things that we do well and emphasized that."

From the start of the year, this team knew the season would be special. It worked hard day in and day out for this opportunity. Now, the Nittany Lions could not be more proud of their accomplishment. They will forever be the first Big Ten Champions.

"We really the whole year tried to work on proving who we are, and we made a statement today," said Coffey. "I'm so proud of my team for doing that. We really just knew what we needed to work on, knew what we needed to do, and we went out there and did it."

Nittany Lions Set to Take on Northwestern in the First B1G Tournament

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By Julie Bacanskas, Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - As the Penn State women's lacrosse team arrived in New Jersey yesterday afternoon, it watched the final minutes of the first-round game Northwestern would eventually win. With their opponent now know, the Nittany Lions will aim to do what they did for the first time in twelve years a second time this season. If Penn State wants to win the first-ever Big Ten Tournament, it will need to defeat a strong Northwestern team yet again. This team is more than ready for that challenge.

The last time these two teams met, Penn State (12-4, 4-1 B1G) opened with determination. The team dominated the first half and was able to shut down the Wildcats (12-5, 3-2 B1G) with solid defensive plays. Nevertheless, head coach Missy Doherty has made sure her team knows this game will be different. There is more on the line in a tournament situation. Every team will be bringing its best.

"I'm really emphasizing to the players that it's going to be a different game," Doherty said. "It's not going to be the same game. They're going to be coming at us a lot harder. I think it's always hard to play a team that you just beat because there's a little bit of this hidden drive in the team that just lost. So, you really have to go in and match that drive. We have to be ready to not just play like we played last game and win. We have to be ready to play a different game with different energy and win a different way."

Even with a new mindset, it is clear that this Nittany Lion team is confident. It finished the regular season playing the most competitive teams in the country, especially during its final outing. Although the Blue and White fell to Maryland during the final regular-season game, they showed they have the ability to keep up with the best teams.

Throughout the entirety of the season, Penn State has been working toward that goal of being known as one of the best. It has downed teams like Northwestern, Stanford and Loyola Maryland. Furthermore, the Nittany Lions were just three goals shy of handing the Terrapins their first loss of the season.

"I think it definitely helps us because they're the No. 1 team in the nation," said sophomore Steph Lazo of the Maryland game. "The fact that we only lost by three and we put up a fight against them, it's really nice knowing we can hang with big teams. We're a top-ten team too. I think it definitely boosts our confidence a little bit knowing we can play to that ability and we can hang with the best team."

A major factor this season, which will continue to determine games in the post-season, is the draw. Possession is key, and the Nittany Lions know they will need to find ways to get the ball throughout the entirety of the game against Northwestern.

During its last match with the Wildcats, Penn State was edged out in draw controls, 16-10. The Nittany Lions know that cannot happen again if they want to move on to the tournament final. It is understood by the entire team that it will need to find ways to win possession.

"Just taking the draw I know that it's a really big factor because you can't really do anything if you don't have the ball," said junior Jenna Mosketti. "So, that's something that we've been working on in practice, and I think it'll be good."

Mosketti is the team's draw control leader, with 54 on the season. However, winning the ball will not only be up to her in this second-round game. It will need to be a team effort in order to have success.

"It comes from both ends, the defensive line all the way to the attack line," said Lazo. "It's not just Jenna [Mosketti] trying to get the ball. It's not just Tatum [Coffey] taking it as well. It comes from everyone. You just have to be hungry for it, and you just have to want it and get it."

As the Nittany Lions prepare for their evening matchup with the Wildcats, they know and understand what they need to do to have success. Each member of the team wants to leave its mark. History will be made this weekend, and Penn State wants nothing more that to come out on top.

"We've proved who we are, and I think that was a goal from the beginning of the season, to prove who we are in the Big Ten and in the country," said senior Tatum Coffey. "So, I think coming into this tournament we're not looking back. We're going into these games not thinking about our past games. We're going into it fresh and new. A fresh start."

Northwestern.jpg No. 1 Maryland (5-0 B1G)

Points Leader: Taylor Cummings, 81 points
Leading Goal Scorer: Megan Whittle, 56 goals
Assists Leader: Taylor Cummings, 28 assists

Heading into the tournament, Maryland remains undefeated and the top team in the county. The Terrapins final regular season game came against the Nittany Lions last week, which was a battle to the very end. Junior Taylor Cummings and freshman Megan Whittle lead the team, both of whom also earned All-Big Ten team honors this week. With the No. 1 seed in the tournament, Maryland earned a first-round bye and is schedule to take on Ohio State in the second round.

No. 2 Penn State (4-1 B1G)

Points Leader: Maggie McCormick, 61 points
Leading Goal Scorer: Steph Lazo, 34 goals
Assists Leader: Maggie McCormick, 40 assists

Like Maryland, the second-seed Nittany Lions earned a bye in the first round of the tournament. Although the team is coming off a loss to Maryland, Penn State has the utmost confidence in its abilities. With Northwestern's win over Michigan, the Nittany Lions will take on the Wildcats in a rematch of the game played earlier this season. The Blue and White will rely heavily on senior Maggie McCormick and sophomore Steph Lazo for scoring as they attempt to move on to the tournament final.

No. 3 Northwestern (3-2 B1G)

Points Leader: Selena Lasota, 65 points
Leading Goal Scorer: Selena Lasota, 57 goals
Assists Leader: Corinne Wessels, 17 assists

Fresh off its first-round win over Michigan, the Wildcats will be ready to take on Penn State. Even without a bye this team is bound to come out strong, especially because of the opponent. Northwestern fell to the Nittany Lions for the first time since 2003 and are hungry for the tournament upset. Freshman Selena Lasota and junior Kaleigh Craig, who has 34 goals and 40 points on the season, lead the Wildcats' offense.

No. 4 Ohio State (2-3 B1G)

Points Leader: Jackie Cifarelli, 64 points
Leading Goal Scorer: Katie Chase, 50 goals
Assists Leader: Jackie Cifarelli, 48 assists

Just like Northwestern, the Buckeyes will be coming into the second round fresh off it first win of the tournament. Ohio State downed Rutgers, 17-7, and will now look to go up against the best team in the country. Playing against Maryland, the Buckeyes will need to rely on their offensive producers, Jackie Cifarelli and Katie Chase, for points. When the two teams met earlier this season, Ohio State fell to Maryland, 13-8.

Lions' Comeback Falls Short Against Maryland

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11028181.jpegBy Julie Bacanskas, Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - With the Big Ten title on the line, the Penn State women's lacrosse team prepared to go up against an undefeated Maryland team. The Nittany Lions knew they were in for a challenge, but they would not go down without a fight.

Following a slow start, the Blue and White returned to the field for the final 30 minutes of play trailing the No. 1 Terrapins, 8-3. Unfortunately, after a tough battle and hard-fought second half, Penn State suffered its first conference loss of the season. Despite outscoring the Terrapins in the final minutes, the No. 8 Nittany Lions (12-4, 4-1 B1G) fell to No. 1 Maryland (17-0, 5-0 B1G), 13-10.

"I thought it was a good game," said head coach Missy Doherty. "We came out, and the first half was really tough. We couldn't manage to get the draw. That made it hard to get any goals. So, I think in the second half we did a much better job of getting the draw, and turning the game around."

The Nittany Lions came out as a different, more aggressive and determined squad in the final half. They worked to swing momentum in their favor. The team could not find a way to win the draw in the opening 30 minutes but was determined to make a change. It knew possession would be key to winning the game.

Leading the way for the Nittany Lions in that aspect of the match was junior Jenna Mosketti. She secured six draw controls alone, helping the team win the draw in eight of the second half's 13 attempts.

"I don't know if it was as much words as it was just a better effort there in the second half," said Doherty. "I mean Jenna came up really big, coming up with some huge draw controls in the second half. She really helped us change the momentum around. Then the offense got a little bit more aggressive going to goal and finishing their shots."

In addition to the draw, Mosketti registered a hat trick, assisting her team in as many ways possible. Sophomore Steph Lazo also recorded three goals, and captain Maggie McCormick continued building on her assists record, adding five more to her total.

Throughout the game, the Nittany Lions saw goals from six players, as Madison Cyr, Katie O'Donnell, Tatum Coffey and Ally Heavens all added goals of their own. Nevertheless, the Blue and White were unable to capitalize from the free position, which ultimately hurt them in the end.

Also taking away from the team's momentum was an injury to goalie Emi Smith. The junior played the first 42:34 of the game, allowing nine goals and stopping seven attempts before being helped off the field. Freshman McKenna Coyle stepped into the cage for the final 17:26. She made three saves and allowed four, giving a strong performance as well.

"I think McKenna came in and did a really solid job for us," Doherty said. "I think from a motivational standpoint, it hurts a little when someone like Emi leaves the game. But, thankfully McKenna came in and stepped up and came up with some pretty big saves."

Overall, the Nittany Lions' performance showed that they can play with the best in the country. The loss gives them the opportunity to learn from their mistakes. Had they come out a little stronger, not putting themselves into such a deficit, the outcome could have been different.

Penn State may not have captured the Big Ten title yesterday, but they know they have the ability to beat a team like Maryland. That confidence will be huge in the upcoming Big Ten Tournament, which will be the team's next challenge.

"I think we've seen that we can compete, and we have to do that for 60 minutes," said Doherty. "We had a little bit of a slow start, and against a team like that you need every advantage. But, I think the way we competed for the full game was awesome. I'm really proud of the team."

Nittany Lions Head to Maryland with Big Ten Title on the Line

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By Julie Bacanskas, Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - When the Penn State women's lacrosse team takes on Maryland, it will be playing more than the final regular game of the season. These two teams will be going head-to-head, each looking to hand the other its first conference loss. Following Thursday's game, only one team will capture the first-ever Big Ten regular season title.

While the Blue and White are hoping to emerge with a win, this game is set to be the most difficult of the season. The No. 8 Lions will not just be going up against the No. 1 team in the country, but they will also be going up against the only undefeated team this season in the NCAA.

"I think it makes it more exciting," said head coach Missy Doherty. "It's a great way to end your regular season with a game that's so important. It's also a great way to gain some experience going into the Big Ten Tournament and hopefully NCAAs. So, I think it's a great matchup and great timing. We're pretty excited for Thursday."

In terms of what the Lions need to do to compete, Doherty believes defense will be key. She wants her team to be physical and assertive, ready to go up against the Terrapins from the time the game starts to the time it ends.

With Maryland's scorers and its ability to gain possession on the draw, Penn State has to take advantage of its time with the ball. Nevertheless, the team's leading scorers, Maggie McCormick and Steph Lazo, know that if they sticks to their game, success will come.

"We just need to listen to our coaches and believe in what they have to say," said Lazo. "They put out a really good scouting report. So, we just need to listen to them and play our game, not going into it thinking they're the No. 1 team. We're a top-ten team as well, so just being smart will be important."

The Blue and White will need to find a way to get balls by the Terrapin's goalie, who has one of the best save percentages in the Big Ten conference. Again, Lazo believes confidence will be a major factor. If the team stays calm and focused, it can achieve the results it wants.

"Missy [Doherty] always says when we're shooting we're going to shoot with a purpose," Lazo said. "We're going to shoot with the mindset that we're going to make the shot. I think just going in confident with our shots, just faking and putting it in."

With so many aspects the Lions will have to overcome, it is only fitting that the game will be played away from home. However, this challenge may not be as large of an issue for Penn State.

Fifteen athletes on the roster hail from Maryland, meaning there will be Nittany Lion supporters in the crowd giving the Blue and White an extra boost. In many ways, the team will feel right at home.

"Going back to Maryland, it's definitely a special game for a lot of people," McCormick said. "I know that a lot of girls on the team enjoy going back there, and we're definitely going to have a lot of fan support. Technically it's an away game, but it's not going to feel like that."

Even with all the pressure of going up against Maryland and playing this game on the road, the Nittany Lions have remained calm. No matter the outcome, they are happy to take the field for such a competitive, hard-fought match.

Right now, this team is excited. It is ready to play its best game of the season, and the Lions cannot wait to battle for the Big Ten title.

"I don't think this team really gets nervous, which I think is a good thing," said McCormick. "But, it's definitely exciting that the last game of the season is against two undefeated teams in the conference. We wouldn't want it any other way."

Successful Team Play Leads to Lions' Upset of Northwestern

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By Julie Bacanskas, Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Headed into Sunday's matchup, the No. 12 Penn State women's lacrosse team knew what was on the line. Going up against a team like No. 7 Northwestern would be no easy task, but the Nittany Lions had confidence. They knew they could compete with any team in the country.

With this mindset, the Blue and White came out strong in Illinois and battled hard. The Lions outscored their opponent, 10-4, in the opening half and eventually secured their first victory against the Wildcats since 2003 by a final score of 14-10.

"I think it was just the team aspect on both ends," head coach Missy Doherty said. "We moved the ball really effectively, found the open people. Our defense did a great job sliding together and targeting their top scorers, coming up with some really big plays."

Although Penn State (12-3, 4-0 B1G) came out on top where it counted, the Wildcats (10-5, 2-2 B1G) outshot the Lions, 26-22, overall. Additionally, Northwestern won the draw control battle, 16-10, which resulted in more possession time for the Wildcats.

Nevertheless, the Nittany Lions did not let these numbers effect the outcome of the game. The team's defense was sure to cleanly clear the ball in each of its 12 attempts, and goalie Emi Smith made important saves, 10 in total, to keep the Blue and White ahead.

Following halftime, the Wildcats came out much stronger and pressured Penn State's squad. At one point, the Lions allowed four unanswered goals, but it did not take long for the team to fend off the attack.

"We knew Northwestern would go on a run," Doherty said. "They're a really tough team and have some great scorers. They did a great job on the draw in the second. They really out-drew us and had a lot more possessions than we did. So, it was a great testament to the girls, losing that possession, to come up with some key stops. Emi did a great job in the cage, making key saves. Then we just came up with some good, defensive plays to stop the other team."

On the other side, each time the team's offense controlled the ball, it was sure to make those moments count. In all the team saw six different goal scorers, emphasizing its depth and talent.

Captain Kelly Lechner dominated, scoring four goals throughout the match, and captain Maggie McCormick led in assists with five. Steph Lazo added a hat trick and an assist of her own, and Tatum Coffey had a three-point day with two goals and an assist. Madison Cyr and Katie O'Donnell each tacked on two more goals, and Jess Loizeaux notched a tally and a helper.

Lechner specifically played on a different level, determined to make help her team in any way possible. In addition to her four goals, she secured three draw controls and a ground ball. In the final minutes of play, however, Lechner was helped off the field after sustaining an injury.

"She was awesome," Doherty said of Lechner's play. "She just came out on fire. We challenged our experienced players today to come out and make some big plays. She definitely did that. Unfortunately, she did get injured at the end of the game. We'll have to wait and see what happens with that when we get back to campus."

With this victory, Penn State not only extended its winning streak to seven games, but it also secured a first-round bye in the upcoming Big Ten Tournament. The Nittany Lions' seed in the tournament will be determined following the results of their game against Maryland this week as the two compete for the first place finish in the conference.

"That's awesome," said Doherty of the bye. "It saves our legs a little bit from playing three games in a row. It's always tough to go back-to-back and play. It'll be nice to be rested for the first Big Ten game."

With their biggest test of the season just days away, the Blue and White will continue to work on improving in their week areas. Nevertheless, this win over Northwestern is huge for their confidence and shows that Penn State lacrosse will never back down in big games.

The Nittany Lions will continue to fight and compete to the best of their abilities.

Nittany Lions Look to Continue Winning Ways Against Northwestern

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By Julie Bacanskas, Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Emerging victorious in its last six games, the Penn State women's lacrosse team looks to keep the streak alive Sunday when it takes on No. 7 Northwestern. This matchup will be a challenge, but the Nittany Lions are more than ready for the test.

"It's going to be a really hard game," said head coach Missy Doherty. "I think we're both sort of battling for the Big Ten and to be one of the few teams at the top of the Big Ten. So, they're always very, very good, especially at home. It's going to be quite a battle."

With Northwestern and Penn State both fresh off wins, it is clear the two teams will be prepared. According to Doherty, her team will need to play strong defensively, shutting down the Wildcats and handling the pressure they bring. She also knows it will be important for the Lions to finish each and every shot, putting the ball away as often as possible.

If Penn State does those few key things, the game will be theirs to take. Nevertheless, captain Kelly Lechner believes there is one additional aspect the team must excel in - the draw.

"We're really focusing on the draw because possession is key, especially against a team like Northwestern," said Lechner. "We're just going to need the ball and also staying calm under pressure. Like I just said, possession is key. We don't want to lose it on opportunities that we shouldn't. We just need to stay calm and keep the ball in our hands."

This season, the draw has consistently been one aspect the Nittany Lions feel they can improve upon. Lechner has played a huge role, winning 30 draw controls for the third most on the team. Jenna Mosketti and Ally Heavens are both first and second in that category, respectively.

As the season has progressed, the Lions have steadily improved in that area, which may correlate to their winning ways. With the team's six consecutive victories and polished play as of late, it is not surprising it feels confident. Penn State knows what it can accomplish, and this game against Northwestern will only help the Nittany Lions gauge their level of play.

"I think our confidence is great, especially coming off that win against Cornell," Lechner said. "We were looking at these last three games as kind of our championship plays. You know, they're huge games and we really came together at the right time during Cornell to piece together a whole game. So, we still have some things we need to work on, but the team is definitely confident, gelling together and working really well offensively and defensively."

Even with the Lions' belief in what they can accomplish in the remainder of the season, the team will need to make sure it excels on the road. Including this past week's game against Cornell, Penn State travels for its final three games of the regular season.

While being away from home certainly is a factor, the Blue and White refuse to let it affect their play. The team knows it can be successful each and every time it steps on the field, regardless of whether or not it is in Happy Valley.

"I think it's good and bad being on the road," said Doherty. "It's nice to have the team collectively together before games and preparing, but it's hard not to be at your home turf. We're excited to get on the road, and certainly these last two games are going to be a good measure of where we are."

The Nittany Lions are ready for Northwestern. With the way they are playing right now, Penn State knows it can compete with any team.

"Our expectation is to play our best game of the season," Lechner said. "We work on things every week. We don't think we've played our complete, whole best game. So, we just want to compete for 60 minutes and really execute on the things we've been working on."


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