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May 11, 2012
Penn State's opponent is a familiar one for second-year head coach Missy Doherty, as she came to Happy Valley after serving as the head coach at Towson for seven years, where she led the Tigers to a 79-46 record, three Colonial Athletic Association titles, and four NCAA Championship appearances, including the program's first ever at-large berth in 2010.
Other storylines also pervade Saturday's game. The contest will pit against one another the only two goalkeepers to be nominated for the 2012 Tewaaraton Award - Penn State's Dana Cahill and Towson's Mary Teeters. Strength versus strength will be on display on the national stage, as Penn State was stellar on the road in 2012, posting a 7-1 record, while Towson went unbeaten at home, going 11-0, including a 9-0 mark at Johnny Unitas Stadium. Penn State will not have the only coaching staff member familiar with its opponent, as current Towson assistant Hannah Nielsen served in the same capacity for the Nittany Lions during the 2010 season.
In 2012, Penn State (11-6) had a breakout season, recording the program's most wins, including three over top 10 opponents, since 2005. The Nittany Lions finished third in American Lacrosse Conference, a league which regularly placed all six of its members in the national rankings, with a 3-2 mark. On offense, Penn State features three 30-goal scorers in sophomore Mackenzie Cyr (Westminster, Md.) (33), freshman Tatum Coffey (Toms River, N.J.) (33), and junior Molly Fernandez (Baltimore, Md.) (31). Freshman Maggie McCormick (Eldersburg, Md.) tops the Lions with 27 assists and is tied with Cyr for the team lead in points with 55. Coffey, McCormick, and senior Theresa Zichelli (Severna Park, Md.), who has 24 points in 2012, were named Second Team All-ALC. The Penn State defense is headlined by First Team All-ALC selection sophomore Lizzy Carney (West Chester, Pa.) and two-time ALC Goalkeeper of the Year Dana Cahill (Towson, Md.).
Towson, which will be hosting an NCAA postseason contest for the first time in program history, earned its bid by defeating Northeast Conference winner Monmouth, 15-5, on May 5 in a play-in game. The Tigers ended the regular season with a perfect 7-0 record in Colonial Athletic Association play and then defeated Drexel and James Madison to claim the 2012 CAA title. Sophomore Andi Raymond leads Towson with 66 points (33 goals, 33 assists) but Ashleigh Rohrback (26 goals, 22 assists), Kelly Custer (33 goals, 9 assists), and Sarah Appelt (19 goals, 15 assists) also help fuel the Tigers attack. Anchoring the defense is senior goalkeeper Mary Teeters, who ranks third nationally with a .513 save percentage and seventh with a 8.13 goals against average.
Penn State's NCAA postseason berth is its first since the 2005 season and the 18th in program history. In 2005, the Nittany Lions fell in heartbreaking fashion in the first round, dropping a 7-6 triple overtime decision at home to North Carolina. Penn State has not won an NCAA Championship contest since 1999, when it downed Princeton, 9-7, in overtime on the road in the quarterfinals. Overall, the Nittany Lions possess a 29-17 record in postseason play, which includes USWLA, AIAW, and NCAA games.
Penn State owns a 6-0 record in its all-time series versus Towson, but the teams have not played since 1983. Meeting each year during the regular season between 1978 and 1983, the Nittany Lions outscored the Tigers by a 90-15 margin during the unbeaten stretch. Penn State and Towson have never met in the postseason.
Penn State and Towson shared six opponents during the 2012 season - Loyola, Johns Hopkins, Maryland, Delaware, William & Mary, and Hofstra. Penn State posted a 4-3 record versus those foes, having played Johns Hopkins twice, while Towson earned a 4-2 mark.
The likelihood of a close game between Penn State and Towson is high, as both teams were involved in numerous in 2012. Penn State participated in three overtime contests and dropped its last two by a single goal. Towson was a part of nine games decided by one goal, posting an 8-1 record.
Fans can follow all of the action of the Penn State-Towson contest with live stats from GameTracker or receive game updates through the official Twitter account of the Penn State women's lacrosse team, @GoPSUWLax. The NCAA Championship first round battle will also be streamed live online for free. Find links on the front page (click on Schedule/Results) of the official website of Nittany Lion athletics, www.GoPSUsports.com, and on the women's lacrosse schedule page.
Should Penn State advance, it will face the winner of the Florida-Albany game on Saturday, May 19 in the NCAA Championship quarterfinal round. The Nittany Lions are 0-3 all-time versus the Gators, including this year's 20-11 setback in Gainesville on April 1. Penn State has met Albany just once in program history, a narrow 8-7 home loss early in the 2011 season.