The 2012 season was a rise to prominence for the Penn State women as they reached the quarterfinals in the NCAA tournament for the first time in more than a decade.
This did not go unnoticed as the Nittany Lions are starting their 2013 campaign ranked No. 10 in the country, putting them in great position to build on the accomplishments of last year.
“I don’t think any of us were surprised by our ranking especially how successful we were last year,” sophomore Maggie McCormick said. “We’re in the top 10 now so now our goal is to get in the top five.”
The team will begin its season at home with an exhibition game this Saturday at 1 p.m. against Penn, followed by its season opener with Bucknell on Wednesday night.
Coach Missy Doherty said that the scrimmage this weekend will mostly be focused toward player development and adjustments before the regular season starts.
“We’ve had six long weeks of preseason,” Doherty said. “A lot of practice, so we’re excited to see this weekend what we’re looking like against Penn, who’s been perennially one of the top teams in the country.”
Penn is right behind the Lions in the preseason poll, sitting at the No. 11 spot in the nation.
With only four seniors on the team the Lions will be relying on their highly touted underclassmen and recruiting class to step up.
Freshman Emi Smith will be the starting goalkeeper this season as she is charged with the task of replacing two-time American Lacrosse Conference Goalkeeper of Year, Dana Cahill, who graduated last year.
Doherty is confident in her decision of starting a freshman in one of the most valuable positions on the field.
“[Emi] just keeps getting better and better and better,” Doherty said. “It’s a hard position to come into as a freshman but she’s really matured a lot in a short amount of time.”
With all this inexperience on the roster, the team will look toward veteran players like seniors and team captains, Molly Fernandez and Katie Guy, for leadership in the beginning of this season.
“There’s always the jitters for the first game, so when we get to that scrimmage that will be a testament to see how they do,” Fernandez said. “These younger kids are so good and any little bit I can do to give them the confidence they need is going to help them.”
The Lions will face many tests this year playing in the tough ALC, which is tied with the ACC for the most preseason ranked teams.
Including the Lions, the conference is home to five teams ranked in the top 20, including No. 1 Northwestern.
Guy welcomes the tough competition and said it helps the team be ready for when it competes against top teams in the NCAA tournament.
After experiencing a breakthrough season last year, the team’s returning players are ready to put their past accomplishments behind them as the new season approaches.
“We were happy with our success last year, but we’re going to focus on this year as a whole new year,” Guy said. “Obviously we would love to make it to the final four…but this year we’re just focusing on this team and trying to make it as far as we can.”