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By Ryan Berti, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Behind the lead of some quality individual play, Penn State was able to capture a solid team win over Lehigh, 18-9.
The Nittany Lions were able to hold the Mountain Hawks to under double-digit goals, but it was a strong offensive outburst to start the game that got the ball rolling for the Blue and White.
Both teams traded goals in the first two minutes, with Lehigh scoring the latter of the two, but it would be the visitors' last goal for over 20 minutes as the Penn State offense took over by dominating possession. The team went two big runs; one that saw three more goals in the first ten minutes of action, and another that had the Nittany Lions four goals in a three-minute span that started with 10:44 left in the half. The seven unanswered goals would give them an 8-1 lead heading into the final 7:30 of the first half.
Sophomore attacker Madison Carter was the main cog in the Nittany Lion offense, as she scored a team-high five goals and added an assist on the day. Along with the likes of Katie O'Donnell, who found the back of the net four times, and Steph Lazo, who played more of a facilitator role with two goals and two assists, the offense found a lot of chemistry out of the gate and was able to find a lot of open lanes.
"We're really working well as a team. We're really working all of our options hard, so it opens a lot of things up," Carter said. "We're really understanding each other, reading each other, so it looked really good today."
After a late run in the half by Lehigh, the teams would enter the break with a 9-5 Penn State lead.
Senior Steph Lazo opened up the scoring in the second half with her first goal of the game to get Penn State into double digits. This started the chain of events that saw the Nittany Lions add three more to the scoreboard in under a minute, making it 12-5.
Following another Carter goal, the Mountain Hawks answered back with four goals of their own to tighten things up. First-time starter at goalie Madison Cunningham showed promise early on, but coach Doherty felt like it was the right time to make a move to give her team back some momentum and brought in senior Cat Rainone with just over 15 minutes remaining in the contest.
"We needed a momentum changer there and I was happy to be that person," Rainone said.
She came in and did just that, becoming a stalwart for her team as she denied every opportunity by the opposing team. In her brief time in between the pipes, she recorded five saves and did not allow a single goal the rest of the game.
With a reliable defense and more chances with possession, Penn State's offense was able to close the game out strong, scoring the game's final five goals in order to double Lehigh, 18-9.
Rainone said postgame her strong performance gave her a lot of confidence for herself and her team, and believes this game can give the unit some fuel moving forward.
"I feel really good with my team, feel good how everyone's playing and things like that," Rainone said. "I'm excited to see the rest of the season,".
The Nittany Lions now move to 3-0 on the year and coach Doherty said she has been very proud with what her team has been able to accomplish so far after all their hard work.
"They've worked super hard this whole year," Doherty said. "They've consistently worked hard in practice and I think it showed in the first three games. Regardless of their runs the other team went on, we still competed hard and finished the game pretty well."
Penn State's next test will be on the road as they travel to Pittsburgh to take on Duquesne on Wednesday, Feb. 22 at 4 p.m.