Experienced Penn State Solid at Radnor (Pa.) Event
|Penn State coach Missy Doherty
watches her team take on Georgetown on Sunday.
© Phil Shore
In fall ball, teams either have experience or they're trying to get it.
With eight starters returning – including two returning All-Americans, last year's starting goalie, and six of the top seven scorers on the team – from last year's NCAA quarterfinalist team, count Penn State as one of those teams with experience.
At Sunday afternoon's fall ball tournament at Radnor High School in Radnor, PA, against the likes of Georgetown, Duquesne and Temple, it looked like the Penn State offense was clicking on all cylinders.
"We have two great, sort of quarterbacks, on the team with Maggie McCormack and Mackenzie Cyr," said Penn State head coach Missy Doherty. "They really did a good job today of getting this offense organized and being a little more efficient then they have been."
McCormick is a returning All-American who was tied for eighth in the NCAA in points last season. She is joined by returning All-American Kelly Lechner, as well as Cyr, and midfielders Tatum Coffey and Jenna Mosketti. All five of those players scored 28 or more goals last season, accounting for approximately 67.8 percent of the team's goals.
The Nittany Lions have also brought in several offensively talented freshmen to add to the fray, including Stephanie Lazo, Natalie Schmitt and Abby Smucker, the latter two who were High School All-Americans last season.
For Doherty, the fall has been about getting those three and the rest of the new players, integrated into the team.
"I think the success to any of the new players is how much they come in and assert themselves," Doherty said. "I think the players around them are really helping them and supporting them to get better. It's just nice to see the chemistry grow pretty quickly."
It seemed like the offense got better as the game progressed as well, instead of fatiguing.
Unofficially – since the scoreboard read 0-0 at today's scrimmages like it does at most fall ball events – the team scored eight goals in the second half of their contest against Duquesne and five in the second half against Georgetown.
"We want to be a program that competes nationally every year," Doherty said. "We challenged them to do that early on and they got better and better throughout the day."
The Georgetown women's lacrosse team graduated nine seniors from last year's team that lost in the NCAA tournament's second round to Virginia.
They do, however, return three listed defenders that started all 19 games last season as well as starting goalie Barb Black, who ranked in the 34th in the NCAA with a 9.99 goals against average.
One thing that stood out about the Hoyas on Sunday afternoon was that they displayed a very tough, physical and aggressive defense.
"One of our big focuses is to make sure we dictate where people are going and what they're doing, or try to force the issue," Georgetown head coach Ricky Fried said. "While that hurts you at times, I think it's hard for other teams to maintain that level of play under that pressure. I thought we played well defensively. We were happy with the effort that we expended."
Unofficially, Georgetown held both Temple and the high octane offense of Penn State to just a single goal in the first half of play in both games.
The Hoyas put a lot of pressure on the opposing offenses, which caused for turnovers and was the catalyst for their offense.
"We have been having problems pressuring out behind the goal and I thought today we emphasized that," Fried said. "They actually did a good job. We got some fouls called on us but I'd rather try to rein us back then make us go out."
The team has one more fall ball event as they travel to Delaware next weekend to go up against Penn State again, as well as Delaware, Johns Hopkins, and Penn.
Fried would like his entire team, not just the defense, to continue to play with a lot of energy and begin to cut down on mistakes.
"I feel like we've improved in a lot of things," he said. "I think the biggest hurdle for us right now is to show up day in and day out and playing the way we're capable of playing. Not to be perfect, but making the plays and the decisions that we can and getting over our mistakes and not being flat at times."
Unlike Penn State, with a strong returning cast, Temple graduated seven seniors, including the team's top two scorers and their starting goalie.
The team has seven freshmen and one red-shirt freshman that will have to step up quickly on a team with only four seniors. Temple head coach Bonnie Rosen said that to get her players ready for the collegiate level, fall ball has been more about individual skill rather than team plays.
"We haven't spent much time working on any of our systems, putting in our defenses or offenses or transition defense, rides, all of it," she said. "We've been spending a lot of time on individual skill work and the one-v-one aspect of the game. It seems to be paying off. We're hoping that in the long run, the foundation of our skills is going to carry us much farther this year than in the past."
The scrimmages at Radnor provided a tough lineup of opponents and Rosen was especially excited to see her team match-up against Georgetown, who Temple will play in their first season in the Big East this year.
"I'm really excited in our toughness. We showed a lot of tenacity to play and not let any fouls bother us," she said. "I thought the game was fast-paced and physical. I think it's one of the many styles the game can be played and it looked like both teams were having a lot of fun playing."
The Dukes had eleven wins in 2013, the most since they had 11 wins in 2006, head coach Michael Scerbo's first year on the job. They also reached the A-10 championship game, before falling to UMass.
Not only did the team have a nice season last year but they return a large number of key contributors. Six of their top seven scorers are back, as is starting goalie Kristen Gregory.
Scerbo says having experienced players in fall ball this year has been a major help, especially since the team also has 10 freshmen to add to the squad.
"Having kids like Amanda Kidder coming back and leading us on the field and Kristen Gregory in the cage, after having the seasons those two had it's really important for them to be able to set the tone for our young kids," he said. "It's vital on the kids like Kidder and Gregory to step up and lead and teach the younger kids what they need to do to be successful on this level."
Against Penn State, the Dukes held tight in the first half, playing to an unofficial score of 5-3. Then in the second half, however, they were outscored 8-2.
Scerbo said that consistency will be key to his team's success this year and something he hopes to see more of before the fall season ends.
"There's definitely been a lot of growth from day one to where we are now, our freshmen getting indoctrinated into what Division 1 lacrosse is all about," he said. "We still lack a lot of consistency. That's going to be the one thing we have to focus on in the next few weeks. There's some days we play great and we can see ourselves competing against Top 20 teams. Then there's other days where we're struggling to tie our shoelaces. That consistency factor has to come into play and that's what we'll focus on."