Katie O’Donnell jogged over to the sideline after Sunday’s win — right past the blue coolers of Powerade — and stretched with her teammates after a brief, subdued celebration.
Even after the scoreboard showed the Penn State women’s lacrosse team triumphed over James Madison, 19-14, and even after the final whistle meant the Nittany Lions were moving on to the NCAA quarterfinals, players didn’t plot to pour the energy drink on their coach. They didn’t scream or shout or behave as if they were just two wins from the national championship.
They know they still have a long way to go — so they’re putting a hold on that Gatorade bath, or in this case Powerade. At least for now.
“We’re obviously happy and everybody’s excited about the win, but I think part of our mentality is we’re never content with where we are,” O’Donnell said. “I don’t think that was in anybody’s mind to pour Gatorade on (our coach).”
Added Madison Carter, who had a career-high eight points: “Maybe next time.”
These Nittany Lions haven’t surpassed their own expectations yet. This is their third straight NCAA quarterfinal berth — and eighth in program history —and that’s what they acted like. This is what they expect.
So, 15 minutes after the game, everybody’s mind was already pointed to taking on No. 5-seed Princeton on Sunday afternoon.
“Hopefully, next weekend, we’ll have the same kind of turnout and we’ll keep moving forward,” Carter added.
But that doesn’t mean Sunday’s second-round NCAA contest was a game to forget. It had more ups-and-downs than the rolling hills of Happy Valley.
The Nittany Lions cruised to an 8-1 lead just midway through the first half, averaging a goal once every 110 seconds. At that point, the 200-or-so fans picnicking on the grassy hill across the stands couldn’t have been blamed for packing up or breaking out a book. But James Madison clawed right back: The Dukes made it 9-6 at halftime and, within four minutes of the second half, tied it up at 9 and started dabbing on the sideline.
Luckily for Penn State, that tie lasted just 41 seconds.
O’Donnell scored on a free-position shot shortly after the tie. And seven minutes later — while the crowd started yelling, “Let’s go, State!” — she fired an unassisted goal to hand Penn State a two-goal cushion that held the rest of the game. JMU made it close again at 14-12 and 16-14, but Penn State was always there to respond.
“That’s what you’re going to get when you get to NCAAs,” Penn State coach Missy Doherty said, adding that her team didn’t lose focus and JMU simply stopped making mistakes. “There are no easy games.”
Carter and O’Donnell — whom the opposing coach said put the team “on their shoulders” — combined for 10 goals Sunday. But neither player focused on their performance after the game.
They embraced their teammates and high-fived others. They even smiled politely during the postgame media conference. But both players reached this point last year, and they said they weren’t satisfied.
It’s great to move on, they intimated, but it’ll be even better to make it further than last season.
“We can’t expect anything,” Carter said. “Just keep working hard.”
Top PSU performers
Madison Carter: 6 goals, 2 assists, 12 draw controls
Katie O’Donnell: 4 goals
Maria Auth: 3 goals on 3 shots, 1 assist
Steph Lazo: 2 goals, 3 assists
Kayla Brisolari: 2 goals on 2 shots, 2 assists
Abby Smucker: 1 goal, 2 assists, 3 ground balls