April 23, 2011

Persistent PSU Comes Back on Hopkins

by Clare Lochary | LaxMagazine.com | Live Blog Replay

Penn State's Laura Lesnick fires a shot at Johns Hopkins goalie Cosette Larash.

© John Strohsacker/LaxPhotos.com

BALTIMORE - Penn State was down. But it has been here before.

Trailing No. 18 Johns Hopkins, 5-2, at halftime of a crucial American Lacrosse conference game, things did not look good for the No. 13 Nittany Lions. They got smoked on draw controls and at one point, the Blue Jays had a 4-0 lead.

So at the break, head coach Missy Doherty told her players they needed to play harder. They’d done it in their last game, an 11-10 double-overtime win over Ohio State. They’d done it in the game before that, when they won a key draw to hold off a resurgent Lehigh team, 12-11.

On a grander scale, they’d done it when they began their 2011 season 1-4 and then won seven out of the next nine games. Doherty knew they could do it again versus Johns Hopkins.

“I told them to make sure they’re stopping you, and you’re not just stopping,” said Doherty, a first-year coach for the Nittany Lions.

Penn State responded to the call and rallied to a 10-7 victory over the Blue Jays, led by senior Jackie Eastman (3g, 1a) and a standout performance from goalie Dana Cahill. Cahill made 11 saves overall, including seven in the second half, and a few showstoppers in the final minutes to hold off a determined Hopkins squad battling for a win at Homewood on Senior Day and a potential No. 2 seed in the ALC tournament. The junior was swarmed by her teammates as time ran out, and the Nittany Lions rose to 9-6 overall and 3-2 in the ALC. The Blue Jays fall to 9-6 overall and 1-3 in conference play.

“It’s definitely a huge emotional win,” Cahill said. “We definitely have always had the physical talent, and now I think we have the mental aspect as well.”

Defensively, Doherty shifted attention to Hopkins' leading scorer, junior attacker Candace Rossi (3g, 1a). The result was two long droughts for the Blue Jays, including a 20:29 period that stretched between the first and second halves, and the final 15:25 of the game. Meanwhile, the offense relied on careful shooting (eight goals on 12 shots in the second half), nice feeding from behind the goal by Eastman and freshman Mackenzie Cyr (1g, 3a) and 3-for-3 free position conversions. The Nittany Lions got an assist from a flustered Hopkins team that committed 30 fouls overall, 22 in the second period. Blue Jays goalie Cosette LaRash finished with seven saves.

“Being down, we’ve been in that situation before, so we don’t stress,” Cyr said.

Penn State steadily gained ground on Hopkins, tying the game at 5-5 at 21:37. The Blue Jays responded with two straight goals, but the Nittany Lions roared back, tying the game 7-7 at 13:12 on a rare goal from junior midfielder Theresa Zichelli on a free position bounce shot. They took the lead for good at 9:33 on another free position bounce shot from Cyr.

The Nittany Lions will travel to No. 15 Princeton next Saturday before the ALC tournament begins May 5 at Vanderbilt, where they will be the No. 3 seed. After years of dominance by Northwestern, this year’s ALC play has been tumultuous, and the conference crown seems up for grabs. Penn State would like to try to grab it.

“The seniors want to go out on a good note,” said Eastman, whose class has never received an NCAA tournament bid. “We think we’re a top-10 team, and we just needed to play like it, and that’s what we did today.”

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