By Julie Bacanskas, GoPSUsports.com 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."