Last Thursday, No. 5 Penn State women’s lacrosse (14-2, 4-1 Big Ten) lost to No. 1 Maryland 16-14. The setback was just the Nittany Lions’ second of the season, and the first since March 12, when No. 9 Colorado defeated them at the Penn State Lacrosse Field.
Although the team’s seven-game winning streak was snapped against the Terps, there are several reasons why Penn State has no need to panic heading into its season finale against unranked Michigan.
Allowing 16 goals against Maryland was an anomaly for Penn State. Before the loss on Thursday, the Nittany Lions had allowed 10 or more only five times this season.
Senior goalie Cat Rainone has anchored the defense all year long, recording a 9.78 goals-against average and a save percentage of .481 through her first 15 starts of the season. Rainone has also made 136 saves throughout the spring, averaging just over nine per game.
In front of Rainone, the starting defensive group, which is led by seniors Natalie Schmitt and Erika Spiker, has been extremely solid in limiting the amount of quality chances Rainone has had to face. While they had an off night against Maryland, the solid defense will be fine heading into the regular season finale and the Big Ten tournament.
Maryland’s defense struggled to contain the Penn State attack on Thursday night, allowing the Nittany Lions to score 14 goals on 21 shots.
Senior Steph Lazo found the back of the net twice and added three assists against the Terrapins, and she continued to establish her spot among the nation’s leading scorers. Her 77 points and 36 assists rank 8th and 13th in the nation, respectively, and her total of 41 goals ranks third on the Nittany Lions.
The two players ahead of Lazo, junior Katie O’Donnell and sophomore Madison Carter, both had strong games against the Terps. O’Donnell scored five goals to bring her total for the season to 47, and Carter scored six to bring her total to 58. Outside of her scoring, Carter was extremely active in front of the net all night long, finishing Thursday’s game with 11 of her team’s 29 shot attempts.
Although Maryland exposed some of the Nittany Lions’ weaknesses, the big effort from Penn State’s three leading scorers shows that they can produce against elite competition. This bodes well for the remainder of the regular season and postseason play.
The Big Ten tournament will take place over the weekend of May 5, and the NCAA tournament begins on May 12.