UNIVERSITY PARK — The Penn State women’s lacrosse team is on a roll.
Withstanding the chilly breeze of Sunday afternoon at the Penn State Lacrosse Field, the Nittany Lions have locked up a spot in the NCAA quarterfinals.
Behind big scoring days from Mackenzie Cyr and Maggie McCormick, Penn State dropped Massachusetts 12-9 in their NCAA second-round contest.
The seventh-seeded Nittany Lions (14-6) are in the quarterfinals for a second consecutive season and will face defending national champion Northwestern on Saturday. The No. 2 Wildcats, who have won seven of the last eight NCAA titles, beat Stanford 15-8 to advance. Northwestern beat Penn State 11-3 on April 5, and again 9-8 in overtime in the American Lacrosse Conference semifinals May 3.
Maggie McCormick’s four goals and two assists, and Mackenzie Cyr’s two goals and four assists, led the Nittany Lions, who are seeking their third national title and first since 1989.
“Fortunately, with the way our offense was running, I was in the right place at the right time,” said McCormick, who notched her fifth four-goal game of the season. “Mackenzie was really setting me up with some great feeds and my job’s just to finish it, put the ball in the back of the net, and fortunately I did that.”
Cyr, a junior moved into fifth place on Penn State’s career assists list.
Kelly Lechner added three goals and an assist, giving her seven hat tricks in the last eight games, while Molly Fernandez netted a pair of goals and Tatum Coffey scored one goal, extending her streak of scoring at least one goal in every game this season. Madison Cyr and Ally Heavens each assisted on a goal.
“We want to go realy far in this tournament and make a name for Penn State,” Fernandez said. “It’s a whole team win.”
Cori Murray’s three goals and two each for Tanner Guarino and Lauren Terracciano paced the Minutewomen (18-3), who saw their 15-game win streak snapped. Katie Ferris and Amy Tiernan each added a goal, with Guarino, Courtney McGrath and Kelsey Sheridan each helping out with an assist.
UMass outshot Penn State 25-21, won the battle for ground balls (19-15) and had fewer turnovers (15-11), but could not get past Nittany Lion goalie Emi Smith, who made seven saves.
“The biggest part of that, and the reason why we were so successful, was Emi was in a postion and how she played and how our defense played to make some good clears in critical situations,” head coach Missy Doherty said. “That was the key to the game, that the ‘D’ came up with some awesome stops. If we had an error or two, we got the ball back again.”
Penn State also was buoyed by a dominance at midfield, holding a 14-9 advantage in draws.
Penn State never trailed and led nearly the entire game.
Following a McCormick quick strike 49 seconds into the game, UMass answered with a Terracciano goal 3:01 into the contest. Then the Nittany Lions rolled off three straight goals, with one from Mackenzie Cyr and two more from McCormick for a 4-1 lead less than nine minutes into play.
Murray then scored twice for the Minutewomen, but Lechner and McCormick answered and the margin would never again be less than two goals.
Cyr’s final tally opened the second half to give Penn State its largest lead at 9-5 before UMass ran off three straight goals, but Fernandez had back-to-back scores 88 seconds apart to squelch the momentum.
Fernandez’s scores made sure there was no repeat of what happened to the Nittany Lion men on Saturday, when a 5-1 halftime lead turned into a 10-7 loss to Yale.
“You use any type of game as a learning lesson,” Doherty said. “To be in NCAAs and to hopefully compete for championships you need to be consistent across the board.”
Jamie Schiloski made four saves for the loss and Rachel Vallarelli stopped two shots in the Minutewoman net.