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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. – Head Coach Missy Doherty and the No. 4 ranked Penn State women’s lacrosse team look to continue their string of recent success when they open the 2018 season this weekend.
The Nittany Lions are one of just two teams to advance to the last two NCAA National Semifinals and are coming off their best season since 1989 after finishing 2018 with a 17-4 record while setting program records for goals scored (303) and points (427).
“It’s been one of the most competitive preseason’s we’ve had, we’re young, but have really good depth,” mentioned Doherty. “We’re still battling with who fits in the best positions and what our strongest lineup will be.”
Penn State graduated six starters and significant contributors from last year’s Final Four team, but return the other six starters as well as multiple players who had spot starts and saw significant time off the bench in 2017.
PSU graduated two-time All-American Steph Lazo who led the team with 89 points last season, the most for a Nittany Lion in a single-season since 1989. Lazo was the quarterback of the offense registering the second most assists in a single-season in program history with 43 while contributing 46 goals. Lazo finished her career seventh on the Penn State all-time points list with 211.
Penn State also graduated three-time IWLCA All-Region member Abby Smucker who finished fifth on the team last year in scoring with 22 goals and 10 assists for 32 points while leading the team with 46 groundballs and 32 caused turnovers.
Midfielder Taylor Bleistein, goaltender Cat Rainone and defenders Natalie Schmitt and Erika Spilker were also members of the graduating class of 2017. Bleistein had a career year offensively last season scoring 15 goals while adding four assists for 19 points. Schmitt earned All-Big Ten and IWLCA All-Region honors in 2017 for her lockdown defense, which usually came at the expense of the opposing team’s top scorer.
Spilker served as the vocal leader of the defense and her three-year captainship will be missed with a young group of defenders set to take the field in 2018. Rainone strung together her best season as a senior in net as she started all but one game going 16-4 with a .465 save percentage and a 10.73 goals against average.
Junior Madison Carter (Davidsonville, Md.) returns to Happy Valley in 2018 as a legitimate candidate for the 2018 Tewaaraton Award after being a nominee last season. Carter finished 2017 with 70 goals, good for second in the Big Ten and tenth in the nation. That mark was also the most by a Nittany Lion sophomore in program history, as she became just the fourth player ever to hit 70 goals while wearing the Blue and White and the first since Maggy Dunphy in 1986. Carter was also second in the Big Ten and eighth in the nation with 130 draw controls on the year. Carter was the 2016 Big Ten Freshman of the Year and was named a 2017 IWLCA Second-Team All-American.
Senior captain Katie O’Donnell (West Chester, Pa.) enters 2018 tied for ninth on the Penn State all-time goals list with 142 for her career as she has an outside chance to become just the fourth player in program history to tally 200 career goals. O’Donnell is a two-time All-Big Ten selection as well as a 2017 IWLCA Second-Team All-American. The senior has improved her goal total each year after having 31 as a freshman and 46 as a sophomore, O’Donnell exploded for 65 goals last season, a mark good for third in the Big Ten and tied for 13th nationally.
Senior Maggie Gallagher (Bel Air, Md.) and junior Kayla Brisolari (Crofton, Md.) were each named captains at the conclusion of the 2017 season and join O’Donnell in a leadership capacity entering 2018. Gallagher finished last season fourth on the team in scoring with 23 goals and 16 assists for 39 points while Brisolari added 15 goals and nine assists for 24 points. Brisolari was also second on the team with 41 draw controls and third with 39 groundballs while causing 19 turnovers. Gallagher added 33 draws, 17 groundballs and 13 caused turnovers.
Carter will once again lead the attack as she has started all 42 games since arriving in Happy Valley. The junior will be joined up top by Gallagher and sophomore Maria Auth (Street, Md.). Auth worked her way into a starting role at the end of her freshman campaign and finished the season with 18 goals and 12 assists for 30 points. Eight of those goals came in the NCAA Tournament including a career-high four during a 14-12 victory over Princeton in the NCAA Quarterfinals last May.
Junior classmates Kelly Daggett (Bainbridge, Pa.) and Delaney Muldoon (Silver Spring, Md.) along with sophomore Katie Schluederberg (Elkridge, Md.) are each solid options to possibly see some starts and get significant time off the bench. Muldoon redshirted last season while Daggett started 19 games scoring 15 goals and adding eight assists for 23 points. Senior Bridget Chakey (Havertown, Pa.) and freshman Rachel Rosen (Port Washington, N.Y.) will also be competing for playing time up front in an offensively loaded group.
O’Donnell will lead the group in the midfield, which will also consist of Brisolari sophomore Kristin Roberto (Miller Place, N.Y.) and freshman classmates Quinn Nicolai (Moorestown, N.J.) and Sophia Triandafils (Wading River, N.Y.) who will all see starting time. Roberto was one of just two freshman last season to see action in all 21 games tallying six goals.
Senior Shelby Wells (Timonium, Md.), junior Reilly Masterson (Radnor, Pa.) and sophomore classmates Shannon Moore (West Chester, Pa.) and Yasmain Hamood (Hinsdale, Ill.) could each see significant time off the bench while junior Katie Garvey (West Chester, Pa.) and freshmen Kate Love (Dallas, Tx.) and Sammy Helgeson (Landisville, Pa.) will also be competing for playing time in the midfield.
Junior Lucy Haubold (Malvern, Pa.) is the most experienced defensive player returning this season as she will help anchor the backline for Penn State. Haubold started 17 games last season on defense and she will be joined by sophomore Hayley DeAgostine (West Chester, Pa.) who appeared in all 21 games as a freshman with four starts in 2017. Senior Madison Day (Bushwood, Md.) will add leadership and experience to the defense while freshman Alyssa Sloane (Millstone Township, N.J.) rounds out the group of potential starters.
Louisville transfer Alex Rich (Lebanon, Pa.), senior Allie Dolder (Bay Shore, N.Y.), sophomore Brittany Dolan (Ashburn, Va.) and freshman Kenzie Carroll (Naples, Fla.) will each add depth and could see extended game action while freshmen classmates Samantha Del Viscio (Langhorne, Pa.), Emily Vengilio (Mount Sinai, N.Y.) and Kait Wallace (Horsham, Pa.) round out the defensive corps for the Nittany Lions.
Sophomore Madison Cunningham (Davie, Fla.) started one game last season and appeared in three securing her first career victory against Lehigh. She will be joined by freshman Lucy Lowe (Cockeysville, Md.) between the pipes this season as both players will compete for the starting job.
Penn State opens the season on the road at No. 19 Towson on February 10. The Nittany Lions then have a stretch of three consecutive games against teams ranked in the IWLCA Preseason poll to open March when they play No. 25 Loyola Maryland (Mar. 3), No. 16 James Madison (Mar. 7) and No. 24 Albany (Mar. 11), with the final two being on the road.
The Nittany Lions have a rematch of their NCAA Quarterfinal game from a season ago on March 19 when the ninth-ranked Princeton Tigers come to town. Just three days later PSU hosts Johns Hopkins in a primetime affair on BTN.
April 14 and April 19 represent games at home vs. Northwestern and on the road at Maryland and a match against Michigan at home on April 28 will serve as senior day.