No. 15 Penn State Women’s Lacrosse Falls To No. 19 James Madison 14-13 In NCAA Tournament

No. 15 Penn State women’s lacrosse (11-8, 4-2 Big Ten) fell to No. 19 James Madison (14-5, 5-1 Sun Belt) in the first round of the NCAA tournament on Friday afternoon.

In a very back-and-forth game, Penn State stayed strong in all aspects. Its defense never faltered with Ellie Hollin and Sydney Manning having strong showings. Gretchen Gilmore led Penn State with a career day, scoring seven goals off of 10 shots.

The Dukes were an even opponent for the Nittany Lions and just found the extra edge to squeeze past them in the final minutes.

How It Happened

James Madison won the opening draw and started in possession, but soon turned the ball over to Penn State. Gilmore cut in front of the net and caught a pass, spinning in front of the goal to slip the ball past goalie Caitlin Boden.

James Madison won a slew of free-position shots with Isabella Peterson converting hers to tie the game 1-1.

Gilmore secured an early brace, taking on her defender one-on-one and finding just enough space to whip in a shot.

After a scramble for a loose ball in front of the net, the Dukes managed to grab it and score above netminder Syndey Manning’s head. Coming back from a media timeout, the Dukes quickly went on offense again and ran around the crease, sneaking the ball past Manning’s stick side.

Penn State was on defense for the majority of the end of the first quarter, with Manning making some big saves and coming out aggressive to intercept passes. Peterson grabbed her second goal of the day for James Madison through another free-position shot.

The first quarter ended with Penn State trailing 4-2.

Gilmore got her hat trick only 44 seconds into the second quarter. She received a pass mid-stride cutting across the net, and pushed past her defender to score.

Kara Nealon won a free-position shot for Penn State, opting to pass it out to Kayla Abernathy again and send it around the attack. Kelly MacKinney won another free-position shot, whipping it in with her left hand to tie the game for the Nittany Lions.

James Madison came back on the attack and cut apart Penn State’s defense, going back on top.

Lauren Saltz found herself with all the time and space she wanted in the middle of the arc, running straight to goal and smashing it in for Penn State. Gilmore picked up another goal, finding some space in the corner from her defender and whipping it around into the far corner.

The Dukes had a few threatening moments, scooping up ground balls to retain possession and its attack. They scooped up the ball in front of the net and snuck it in low past Manning’s feet to draw the game 6-6 halfway through the second.

The Dukes’ attack continued with quick back-to-back goals coming back from a media break with Peterson grabbing a hat trick on the day. After a long possession, they grabbed another goal to raise the scoring streak to four.

Hollin won the ball back for the Nittany Lions, taking off downfield and putting them back on attack in the closing minutes of the half. Kristin O’Neill got a shot off, but it went high over the net. James Madison got off a last-second shot but it was smothered by Manning and Penn State went into halftime trailing 9-6.

Saltz came out strong to start the second half for Penn State, capitalizing off a free-position shot to close the deficit to two. Abernathy immediately followed up, with her shot just squeezing past Boden’s stick.

Penn State’s momentum continued, with the whole offense connecting for Gilmore to grab her fifth goal with a quick stick cutting in front of the goal.

The Dukes won a free-position shot, grabbing the rebound and going high-to-low to hit the back of the net and reclaim the lead. Kacey Knobloch snuck in along the crease to increase their lead to two halfway through the third.

O’Neill won another free-position shot for Penn State but was smothered by Boden and the defense, turning the ball over.

The Nittany Lions got the ball back and shot downfield to get on offense with one minute left in the quarter. MacKinney received the ball on the corner of the arc, whipping it around her defender and into the far corner.

The third quarter ended with the Nittany Lions trailing by one, 11-10.

James Madison went a woman-up to start the fourth quarter after O’Neill picked up a green card for one minute. Penn State’s defense stepped up to force a turnover and switch fields.

With the shot clock running out, Meghan Murray took a risky shot, going high-to-low into the near corner and tying the game 11-11 with 10 minutes to play. Penn State won the next draw and Gilmore immediately drew a free-position shot. She went low and hit the back of the net to give Penn State the lead.

One minute later, the Dukes came back downfield to sneak the ball past Manning and hit the back of the net. They were no match for Gilmore though, who came down for her seventh goal of the game.

James Madison went on the attack, passing the ball around and waiting for its chance until it found its breakthrough and knotted the game 13-13 with 3:26 to play. The Dukes cut through the arc and slipped the ball above Manning’s head to go back on front.

Both teams called timeouts and James Madison won the draw coming back, quickly winning a free-position shot. It got off a shot but Manning posted a huge save with her feet to keep Penn State in the game with just a minute left.

The Nittany Lions called a timeout with 37 seconds to play, finding Gilmore but her spin shot was saved by the Dukes. James Madison retained possession to secure its narrow win, 14-13.


  • Manning had a strong game, saving 14 shots on the day, a career-high. Despite the loss, Manning kept Penn State in the game throughout the 60 minutes of play and showed why she was named Big Ten Freshman of the Year.
  • James Madison took the edge in the fourth quarter because it dominated the draw controls. It went 5-2 in the fourth, giving it the extra momentum it needed to maintain its long offensive possessions. Penn State took a more passive approach when losing draws, which the Dukes took advantage of.
  • Have a day, Gilmore! Gilmore reached a hat trick for her sixth consecutive game but went even further tallying seven goals on the day. She led Penn State’s attack but fell just short in the end.

What’s Next?

With today’s loss, Penn State is now out of the NCAA tournament and its season is over.

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About the Author

Ashley Connington

Ashley is a sophomore studying journalism from New Jersey. She is not okay about Saquon leaving the Giants and was crying on her couch all day. She can't look at all of her Saquon merch and doesn't know when she will recover. You can email [email protected] to send her ways to meet Saquon or watch her obsess over Chelsea FC on twitter @ashconnington.

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