Going to college is all about learning. So, what did the Penn State women’s lacrosse team learn from its loss against Maryland five weeks ago?
The answer to that could make all the difference Friday night.
The No. 4-seeded Nittany Lions get the rematch with the No. 1 Terrapins — but on a much bigger stage. They tangle at 5 p.m. at Gillette Stadium in Foxborough, Mass., in the NCAA semifinals.
“We’re definitely really pumped and really excited,” Nittany Lions sophomore attack Madison Carter said. “That was definitely a goal for us all season. Now we just want to get one step further and get to the national championship and maybe come away with a win.”
Boston College and Navy meet in the second game at 7:30 p.m., and the winners battle for the national championship at 11 a.m. Sunday.
As far as head-to-head history, Penn State could not ask for a worse opponent. The Terrapins have won the last 12 meetings and 28 of the last 29 since 1992.
But if the Nittany Lions were ever in need of a statement win to show they belong among the nation’s elite, it would have to be against the Terps.
The Lions nearly got that statement win April 20, with the teams tied at halftime and the Lions holding a brief lead in the second half. It was the first time all season either had happened to Maryland. However, the inability to win draws gave Maryland extra possessions, and that led to goals and a 16-14 Terps win.
“We had a great game against them,” senior defender Erika Spilker said. “It’s kind of picking up the little pieces that we need to move on.”
Another major difficulty in facing Maryland — which leads the nation with 16.86 goals per game — is the team’s balanced scoring, necessitating the defense to move and work in concert.
“It definitely tested us,” Spilker said. “They have a lot of threats, a lot of great players, so defensively I think as long as we play more as a unit, not really falling into getting stretched out. ... As long as we’re together, I think that’s when we play our best.”
Having made the march to the semifinals last season, before falling to North Carolina, Penn State will be over the novelty of making it to the big stage. No longer are the Lions satisfied with just being there.
For the first national title since 1989, they know what they have to do. The question is, can they do it?
“If everybody’s on it with each other,” Spilker said, “we have a really great chance and we hope it works out.”