Penn State women's lacrosse, O'Neill (2)

Penn State's Kristin O'Neill (19) against Rutgers on Feb. 14, 2021. O'Neill had 4 goals, 2 assists in her Penn State debut as the No. 21 Nittany Lions defeated Rutgers, 20-11. Photo/Craig Houtz

In a schedule that contained many ranked opponents last season, Penn State finished with a losing record of 6-9. This year it will look to bounce back and start off strong with its first five games played at Panzer Stadium. 

With a roster that has tremendous versatility in its attacker and midfield positions, the blue and white has a chance to have a strong year. Playing in Happy Valley nine times this spring could also provide a home-field advantage. 

However, this season will give the Nittany Lions some tough tests, as six of their opponents this season made it to the NCAA Tournament in 2022. 

Junior midfielder Kristin O’Neill is Penn State’s strongest scorer. Last season, she led her team with 39 goals, which helped her earn first-team All-Big Ten. 

As a freshman, she started 12 games and scored nearly 30 goals. O’Neill’s speed allows her to cause havoc in all areas of the field, but her knack for goalscoring makes her dangerous when she gets close to the cage. 

This season, the blue and white will be without Taylor Regan, who joined the squad last year as a graduate student. The attacker scored 24 times in the 12 games she played. 

Senior sisters Regan Nealon and Kara Nealon are two players who could also have big impacts in 2023. Last season they both appeared in all 15 games. 

Kara has proven to be a wise decision-maker with the ball, as she led the team with 21 assists. 

Overall, Penn State looks the strongest at the midfield positions — of its 175 goals last season, a large majority were scored by midfielders. 

This roster contains talent in players who aren’t necessarily juniors and seniors, which is a credit to its bench versatility. 

MORE LACROSSE COVERAGE

As a freshman, Brooke Hoss appeared in 14 games, coming off of the bench nine times. She ranked third in goals scored last season with 23. 

When the blue and white outscored Duquesne, 18-4, the midfielder scored four times. Hoss also had hat tricks on the road against both Towson and Rutgers. 

Opponents should definitely keep watch of her when she enters games, as her offensive production makes her a dangerous asset to the Nittany Lions. 

Along with O’Neill, junior Kayla Abernathy and sophomore Lauren Saltz were the only other returning players who started in each of the unit’s 15 games. 

Abernathy and Saltz combined for 12 goals and four assists and both are expected to remain as key components to Penn State’s starting lineup. 

Last season, Penn State lost all six of its conference games and only scored 48 goals against those opponents. 

It lost to Northwestern 17-6 on the road last season. That was its largest deficit compared to all other conference games. This season, the blue and white will travel back to Evanston, Illinois, at the end of March, looking for a different result. 

Considering the Nittany Lions face all nonconference opponents to kick off their 2023 campaign, they have the potential to regain confidence before entering the tougher stretches of the year. 

In the beginning of March, the team will travel to Tennessee to play Vanderbilt and Rutgers in a three-team tournament. 

The game against Rutgers will be the team’s first conference test of the season as a part of that tournament, and Penn State won’t have another Big Ten test until Ohio State comes to Happy Valley. 

Overall, Penn State will enter 2023 with a roster full of potential to succeed. 

The team was on the younger side last year, but now this roster is more experienced. 

For a team that averaged 11.7 goals per game in 2022, it’s anticipated that these attackers and midfielders could do the same this season. That might be a lofty expectation, but opponents shouldn’t doubt that as a possibility. 

MORE LACROSSE COVERAGE

If you're interested in submitting a Letter to the Editor, click here.