March 30, 2013

Coffey Helps Penn State Hand No. 2 Florida First Loss

by Steven Petrella | | Live Blog Replay

Tatum Coffey scored four goals on Saturday against the second ranked defense in the nation.
© Craig Houtz

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — It may have been their first time playing on that field, but it was hard to tell.

Faced with the daunting task of welcoming a perennial powerhouse to town, the Penn State women’s lacrosse team responded, thanks in part to the efforts of several freshmen and sophomores.

The No. 10 Nittany Lions used a strong defensive effort and effective offensive possessions in the second half to down No. 2 Florida, 16-11, on Saturday at the Penn State Lacrosse Field. It was their first home outdoor game of the season and the first contest on that field for the freshmen class.

“It was really fun to see our younger players play like veterans,” Penn State head coach Missy Doherty said. “Every player I’ve coached at Penn State has been so hard working, and it’s so much fun to see new people come in and really buy into that too.”

Penn State received strong efforts especially from sophomore Tatum Coffey and freshman Ally Heavens, who scored four and three goals, respectively, against the second ranked defense in the nation.

Gabi Wiegand paced Florida with three goals, while Ashley Bruns, Shannon Gilroy and Brittany Dashiell added two each.

The Nittany Lions handed the Gators their first loss of the season and ended a 24-game regular season winning streak with strong defense in the second half and lengthy streaks of possession. Penn State won five draws in a row in the middle of the second half and held the ball in Florida’s end for close to nine minutes consecutively.

“Penn State certainly dominated the draw control and I give all the credit to them because I think they did a great job of isolating us," Florida head coach Amanda O’Leary told reporters after the loss.

Penn State freshman midfielder Jenna Mosketti finished with four draw controls, while freshman Madison Cyr had three.

Draw controls were fairly even in the first half and the Nittany Lions trailed 9-6 at at the break, but stormed back early in the second. Coffey opened the scoring about two and a half minutes in before Wiegand answered four minutes later for Florida. Heavens responded to that goal 10 seconds later after picking up a loose ball near midfield and flying down the field to bury her second of the day.

Mosketti and Mackenzie Cyr then each beat Florida goalkeeper Mikey Meagher, who finished with eight saves, to tie the game at 10-10. Mosketti scored less than a minute after the tying goal and Penn State never looked back, taking care of the ball in the offensive zone.

“We wanted to be a little more effective on offense, and Jenna stepped up big-time in the second half winning a lot of draw controls,” Doherty, whose team defeated its highest ranked opponent since 2007, said. “That was one of those things in the first half that could have gone either way but we just did an amazing job in the second half.”

Penn State freshman goalkeeper Emi Smith didn’t see the ball much in the second half, but ended the afternoon with four saves.

After taking the lead, the Nittany Lions were able to slow down the pace to limit Florida’s offensive opportunities. Smith said she was grateful for the work her offense did in the second half, and didn’t falter when the Gators pressed with several shots in the final 10 minutes.

“I thought to myself, 'they did it for me, I’m going to do it for them,' ” Smith said of her offensive support. “I can pull it out for them because they’re pulling it out for me.”

Heavens said although the team is young, Doherty has instilled confidence in them to take on anyone, even the second-ranked team in the nation.

The game got physical toward the end as Florida received three yellow cards in the final eight minutes, and Penn State sophomore attack Maggie McCormick praised her teammates’ composure during that time. The Nittany Lions didn’t retaliate, held possession and ran out the clock to cap the victory. Florida finished the game with 33 fouls, while Penn State had just 15.

Penn State is now 7-3 on the year and 2-0 in the American Lacrosse Conference, while Florida fell to 13-1 and 1-1 in league play.  

Doherty said after a win like this, she has to preach consistency to her young team. She added that there a lot of teams that can do to the Nittany Lions what they did to Florida Saturday.

“You have a lot of top 10 teams [in the ALC], so it’s competitive every game and there’s not one team emerging,” Doherty said. “We’re just glad to be in the mix.” 

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