Missy Doherty’s Nittany Lions kicked off Memorial Day Weekend under the Commodore Barry Bridge on a sweltering Friday evening in Chester, Pa., as they went toe-to-Tar Heel in the Final Four of the 2016 NCAA Women’s Lacrosse Tournament with No. 3 seed North Carolina.
After an incredibly hard-fought 60 minutes at Talen Energy Stadium (home of the Philadelphia Union), the Tar Heels emerged victorious 12-11 to advance to the National Championship this Sunday at noon on ESPNU. North Carolina bounced the Nittany Lions from last year’s tournament 11-8 in the Elite Eight.
How It Happened
North Carolina (19-2, 7-0 ACC) jumped out to an 3-0 lead thanks to a trio of goals from Carly Reed, Molly Hendrick, and Aly Messinger, but Penn State (14-7, 3-2 Big Ten) was unfazed by the early deficit, rattling off five unanswered scores to make it 5-3 Nittany Lions 10 minutes into the first half. Junior midfielder Jenna Mosketti found the back of the net first, leading the way for standout senior Madison Cyr to tally her 200th-career point just over :30 seconds later. Cyr’s 58th goal of the season allowed her to join her older sister Mackenzie, who graduated in 2014, as the program’s 12th member of this prestigious club.
— Penn State Lacrosse (@PennStateWLAX) May 27, 2016
Junior midfielder Steph Lazo dropped a dime over the North Carolina keeper’s right shoulder to tie things up at 3-3 for the Nittany Lions before Mosketti netted her second goal of the evening moments later. Freshman Kelly Daggett gave Penn State some added breathing room by making it 5-3, but the Tar Heels would go on a nice run of their own as time in the first half began to dwindle.
ACC Coach of the Year Jenny Levy turned to junior goalkeeper Caylee Waters after starting senior Megan Ward in hopes of thwarting Penn State’s momentum; and the move largely accomplished just that, slowing the Nittany Lions’ electric rally to a crawl for the next few of minutes. Messinger cut Penn State’s lead to 5-4 with 19:20 to play before the break, then Reed notched her second and third goals of the game to make it 6-5 after a nearly 10-minute scoring drought from both teams.
Mosketti picked up her hat trick with 2:10 left to go before the break, drawing the Nittany Lions even with North Carolina at 6-all, but Reed continued her smoldering play with yet another goal with :47 seconds left on the clock to make it 7-6 through 30 minutes of game time.
Midfielder Kelly Devlin, a nearby Downington, Pa., native, gave the Tar Heels an 8-6 advantage three minutes and change into the second frame, but Penn State sophomore Katie O’Donnell, who hails from West Chester, Pa., cut the deficit to one with 24:41 to play. Reed tied her career-high with five goals in a single contest :13 seconds later, though, to keep North Carolina out in front 9-7. Marie McCool gave the Tar Heels their second three-score lead of the evening on a slick one-timer to make it 10-7 with just over 20 minutes to go. North Carolina extended its lead on a Sammy Jo Tracy goal merely :37 seconds later.
The Tar Heels started to pull away with 14:47 left on the clock, as Tracy’s bested Penn State goalie Emi Smith for her 40th goal of the season and a comfortable 12-7 lead. Junior Abby Smucker’s first goal came off a free-position attempt in front of the North Carolina net, ending its 6-1 run and bringing the Nittany Lions within four of the lead, 12-8. Cyr’s second goal of the evening was a big one, as it further fueled Penn State’s hopes of a comeback. Smucker netted another enormous free-position to make it 12-10 moments after Hendrick’s goal was called off for an illegal stick.
Freshman attacker Madison Carter delivered an enormous goal — the Nittany Lions’ fourth unanswered — to close the gap to 12-11 with 7:13 remaining. North Carolina held onto possession for roughly six minutes, running out the clock before Cyr turnover gave Penn State life. It wasn’t enough, though, as the Tar Heels held on to win 12-11 and advance to their second straight (fourth all-time) national title on Sunday against either Maryland or Syracuse. They fell to Maryland 9-8 last May in the championship.
Player Of The Game
Carly Reed | Junior | Attacker
Reed put together a tremendous performance Friday, as the Alexandria, Va., native tied a career-high with five goals in the semifinal.
The Nittany Lions will head home to Happy Valley and regroup during the off-season for what they hope will be another deep run next spring.