Penn State WLAX vs Michigan, Dirk (11)

Midfielder Olivia Dirks (11) prepares for a draw during Penn State's second women's lacrosse game against Michigan on Sunday, March 21, 2021 at Panzer Stadium in University Park, Pa. The Nittany Lions beat the Wolverines 13-12.

Going into a two-game set with Ohio State, Penn State was primed to break out following a series split with Michigan the weekend prior.

Statistics pointed to the blue and white being the superior team ahead of the weekend. However, it was Ohio State that was the better program on both Friday and Sunday.

While the Nittany Lions had moments of success, they were not enough to keep Penn State on par with the Buckeyes’ consistency.

Even with the series loss, Penn State is still ranked higher than Ohio State in the Big Ten standings. The blue and white sits at No. 4, while Ohio State is last in the conference.

With important games on the horizon for the Nittany Lions against the likes of Johns Hopkins and Maryland, Penn State’s remaining stretch will be against teams with better records than the Buckeyes.

During last Friday’s game, Penn State’s defense held its ground for the first several minutes of the contest, but Ohio State just kept pressuring.

Sufficient offensive pressure can often result in a scoring barrage, and such was the case for the Buckeyes against the Nittany Lions.

The scarlet and gray scored a combined 26 goals in the two-game series.

And while Penn State’s offense has been rocky in the 2021 campaign, there have been a number of key players that have provided significant contributions.

Freshman Kristin O’Neill, sophomores Olivia Dirks and Kara Nealon and fifth-year Maria Auth are just a few of the offensive players that have led the way for the Nittany Lions.

During the Ohio State games, Penn State showcased several instances where it could reclaim possession. However, when it took the ball to the Buckeyes’ goal, the blue and white’s players started to struggle with passes.

MORE LACROSSE COVERAGE

Ohio State also shined on draw controls. After each goal it scored, the Buckeyes would more than likely win the draw control and reclaim possession.

Over the course of the series, the scarlet and gray won the draw-control battle 38-13.

This just led to several of the game minutes being dedicated to Ohio State goals.

Penn State’s defense has been able to keep up the aggression for the most part at the beginning of games. Throughout many contests, though, it has allowed too many easily avoidable goals.

This goes for free positions as well. Free positions are some of the hardest goals for the goalkeeper to stop, but some of the easiest to avoid allowing in the first place.

Instead of playing a clean defense, the Nittany Lions often find themselves fouling as a result of using a horizontal stick or another illegal defensive method.

Ohio State managed to score several goals off of these free shots because these penalties are essentially the same as giving away a free goal.

It is a significant disadvantage for a goalie matched up against a single player, and the Buckeyes made the Nittany Lions pay.

With only four regular season games left in the season, Penn State’s offense and defense will have to both acknowledge and actively change their necessary areas of improvement.

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