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Penn State Women’s Lacrosse Upended By Vanderbilt 10-9

Penn State women’s lacrosse (4-2) couldn’t close out Vanderbilt (2-4), falling 10-9 on the road in Nashville, Tennessee.

Less than a minute into the matchup, Kristin O’Neill put the Nittany Lions on the board first, helping Missy Doherty’s unit maintain an immediate edge on the road. However, four unanswered scores by the Commodores between the first and second quarters helped the SEC foe narrowly escape its home turf with a one-goal victory.

How It Happened

Directly after Ashley Bowan and Paige Gunning took their positions in net as the goaltenders for Penn State and Vanderbilt, respectively, the action immediately began following the opening face-off.

Just 41 seconds into the bout, Kristin O’Neill gave Penn State an instant 1-0 lead to stave off the home squad’s momentum. However, nearly a minute later, Vanderbilt’s Bri Gross nabbed a score of her own, tying the contest up at 1-1 for her ninth goal in less than six full games.

Turnovers hindered early, sustained offensive pushes for both attacks, but Vanderbilt ultimately ended the stalemate with another strike from Gross. The fifth-year veteran beat Bowan on a free-position shot, helping the California native reach double-digits in goals scored before reaching the in-conference slate.

Just over seven minutes into the opening quarter, Meghan Murray answered with a free-position strike of her own, allowing Penn State to tie the bout up at 2-2. After the score, the Nittany Lions rattled off three quality looks on net, but Vanderbilt’s Josie Ward found the back of the goal at the 3:10 mark, giving the Commodores a 3-2 advantage.

With 58 seconds remaining in the opening frame, Ward buried another goal for Vanderbilt, extending the home crew’s lead to a 4-2 margin, which maintained its validity heading into the second quarter.

The combination of Gross and Ward continued to give the Nittany Lions backline fits, as Gross finished off her third score with 13:56 to go in the opening half, equating to an early hat trick for the fifth-year product.

Through over 10 minutes of stalled, back-and-forth action resulting in limited offense, Murray answered the bell once again for Penn State, returning the Nittany Lions’ deficit back to two goals at a 5-3 mark.

Exactly 50 seconds later, Murray gave the battle its second hat-trick performance of the outing, as the senior lifted the Nittany Lions to a comeback push before entering the locker room. Vanderbilt picked up its sixth score of the opening half with 56 seconds left, but Murray’s late spark allowed Penn State to enter the half down 6-4.

Early second-half woes plagued the Nittany Lions’ shot at making a comeback push. Vanderbilt’s attacking line of Ellie Hilsabeck and Paige Finneran extended the home unit’s lead to an 8-4 clip with 11:09 to go in the third quarter. Seconds later, Kemper Robinson helped the Commodores keep their feet on the gas, extending the edge to 9-4.

While Penn State would go on to outscore Vanderbilt 5-1 in the matchup’s closing 20 minutes, late pushes from O’Neill and Co. wouldn’t be enough to close out the road bid.

The combination of O’Neill, Cam Evitts, and Gretchen Gilmore helped the Nittany Lions post three unanswered scores to end the third quarter, bringing the score to 9-7 entering the final 15 minutes of action.

Just four minutes into the fourth quarter’s crunch-time stretch, O’Neill stifled opposing netminder Gunning for a clutch strike, which returned the margin to a one-score stamp for the first time since the 3:10 mark in the first.

Evitts then earned her stripes as the game-tying spark for Penn State with a goal of her with 7:18 left in regulation. Her fifth goal of the season came in massive proportion, which knotted the game up at 9-9 with limited time remaining.

With 5:35 to go, Vanderbilt officially silenced Penn State’s comeback push, cemented by a Robinson goal for her eighth conversion of the campaign. From there, the Commodores controlled the offensive zone and closed out a 10-9 victory at home.

Takeaways:

  • The combination of Kristin O’Neill and Meghan Murray once again showed their ability to will Penn State back into contention after a slew of early-game setbacks. O’Neill and Murray both concluded the showing with three goals each, showing why the pair of upperclassmen should prove to be one of the Big Ten’s fiercest offensive duos in conference play.
  • Similarly to O’Neill and Murray’s play, the Nittany Lions couldn’t close out the talented Commodores bunch due to their inability to shut down Bri Gross and Kemper Robinson on the home unit’s side. If Penn State proves to make a push throughout Big Ten play, it will have to contain opposing stars much better than it did in Nashville.

What’s Next?

Penn State will remain in Nashville for the second leg of a two-game tournament series on Vanderbilt’s campus. The Nittany Lions will take on Rutgers at 1 p.m. on Saturday, May 11 at the Vanderbilt Lacrosse/Soccer Complex.

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About the Author

Connor Krause

Connor Krause is a senior from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania double majoring in journalism and business. He is a lifelong Penn State football and basketball fan and enjoys rooting for Pittsburgh sports teams. In his free time, Connor can be found playing golf or pick-up basketball. You can follow his Twitter and Instagram @ckrause_31.

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