Game Preview: Women’s Lacrosse vs. Northwestern

Story posted March 31, 2022 in CommRadio, Sports by Molly White

After two consecutive one-goal losses, the Lady Lions are looking to make a comeback this weekend against No. 3 Northwestern on their home turf in Happy Valley.

Penn State comes into this contest with a 5-4 record, as the underdogs, as Northwestern is 8-2 on their season.

Northwestern is a well known name in women's lacrosse, as they are fresh off of a Big 10 championship last season and won its most recent national championship in 2012.

They have been a powerhouse competitor in the past two decades, as they were competing in the championship game every year from 2005-2012.

Northwestern is second to Maryland in total national championship victories with seven to its name.

The Nittany Lions have fallen short against the Wildcats with a 5-21 all time matchup record, looking to decrease that deficit this weekend.

Northwestern has one of the strongest offenses in all of Division I collegiate lacrosse, as throughout the Wildcats’ whole 2021 season they averaged 20.12 goals per game.

Although they have had to mend the losses of Big Ten attacker of the year and Tewaaraton Award finalist Izzy Scale due to an ACL injury, they have managed to maintain the same strength on offense.

Lauren Gilbert has been a key performer this season for the ‘Cats, leading the team in goals and total points, with 37 and 54, respectively. She matched her season-high of seven goals per game against some of the strongest defensive units in all of lacrosse, Syracuse and Notre Dame.

Gilbert was named Big 10 Offensive Player of the Year by Inside Lacrosse after her performance in the 2021 season, as she scored 66 goals, tallied 65 draw controls and 32 turnovers. She also earned first-team All American by USA lacrosse in her 2021 campaign.

Working alongside her are Erin Coykendall, who has 25 goals and 19 assists, and Jill Girardi with 17 goals and five assists. Girardi complements Gilbert well on the circle as she herself tallied 69 draw controls and a team-best of 19 turnovers last season.

Leading the Wildcats’ defense is Ally Palermo, who had an extremely impressive 2021 season and proceeds to exceed her own standards. She was named first team all Big Ten, as well as Big Ten defensive player of the year.

The anchor of the defense is senior goaltender, Madison Doucette. The Pennsylvania native who has appeared and played the majority, if not all, of her games so far, is looking to keep the Nittany Lions off the board. She has a save percentage of .394 on the season, with a total of 80 saves.

Though she has impressive statistics, Penn State has a powerhouse offense that can impose on her record thus far.

Kristen O’Neill, who is arguably the face of Penn State women's lacrosse, leads the team in goals and total points with 25 and 31, respectively. While it is rare to see a midfielder with such high numbers, she has proven herself to be the leader of the offense while only in her second season with the blue and white.

Kara Nealon works selflessly at X, setting her teammates up for success at every play. She leads the team with 20 assists, while only having four goals to her name.

Taylor Regan and Mary Muldoon are tied for second with 17 goals each on the season, as they are both key assets in the starting lineup for the Nittany Lions.

With Kayla Abernathy on the circle tallying 42 draw controls this season, they will need to rely heavily on execution to gain momentum with early possessions. She will face off against Lauren Gilbert, who has 32 to her name in her 10 game starts.

While previously discussed, Gilbert has an extremely impressive skill set, but Abernathy does have a three-inch advantage over her, which is huge on draw controls.

Penn State has struggled this year trying to fill the gaps on defense, but the Nittany Lions have improved immensely over the course of the season. Leading them is defensive midfielder Sammy Dupcak, who has 22 ground balls and eight caused turnovers, as well as Rachel Spilker, who has 13 ground balls and eight caused turnovers.

They have noticed a big development in such a short time period with the defense as they have the former defensive coordinator, Katrina Geiger, from Georgetown joining the Nittany Lions this season.

In net for the Nittany Lions is freshman Ashley Bowan, who has a .402 save percentage in her seven season starts.

Molly White is a second-year majoring in kinesiology. To contact her, her email is