Local women help Penn State to best ranking in years

  • Penn State senior goalie Dana Cahill, a Mercy graduate, has helped Penn State to an 8-2 record and a No. 7 national ranking, the team's highest in at least five years.
Penn State senior goalie Dana Cahill, a Mercy graduate, has… (Penn State athletics )
March 27, 2012|By Katherine Dunn

In just her second season at Penn State, former Towson coach Missy Doherty has the Nittany Lionson the rise, all the way up to No. 7 in this week’s Inside Lacrosse media poll.

Until last week, the Lions hadn’t been ranked in the Top 10 since April 2007 and a handful of Baltimore natives are among the major contributors to their ascension, including senior goalie Dana Cahill, a Mercy graduate. Last season’s American Lacrosse Conference Goalkeeper of the Year, Cahill has .520 save percentage and 8.54 goals-against average as the young Lions are off to an 8-2 start.

“In some of these games when your defense is super young and your team as a whole is pretty young, having a goalie that can keep us in games and then win them, is key,” Doherty said. "She’s been a huge part of the reason why we’ve been able to pull out some games and not just the big games. In games like Delaware, Hofstra, William & Mary, she’s really saving us, because if it wasn’t for her, we could end up getting upset.”

In Sunday’s 9-7 win over William & Mary, Cahill made seven saves to keep the Lions in the game while the attack shot just 9-for-33. Three of her saves came as the Lions rallied from 5-3 down with 21 minutes to go. In a 12-11 overtime win at No. 12 Vanderbilt last week, she had 11 saves including one with two seconds left in regulation.

Senior Colleen Shea (Seton Keough) has been a stalwart on the young defense while four of the top six scorers are Baltimore-area players. Mackenzie Cyr (Winters Mill) leads the team with 21 goals and 14 assists followed by Maggie McCormick (Liberty) with 13 goals and 17 assists. Molly Fernandez (McDonogh) is fourth with 19 goals and four assists and Theresa Zichelli (Severna Park) is sixth with 12 goals and one assist.

Doherty said she expected a rebuilding season after graduating seven starters, but freshmen, including McCormick, Good Counsel graduate Kelly Lechner and U.S. Under-19 team veteran Tatum Coffey, who leads the team with 25 goals, have played major roles in keeping the Lions rolling. Freshman Haley Ford (North Harford) is also contributing after returning from a knee injury.

“It’s been great, our season so far,” Doherty said. “I’m not completely surprised because we have great athletes, but being as young as we are, it has been a pleasant surprise that we’re doing so well. The girls work hard and they challenge me as a coach. We’ll give them something and they’ll get it and then I’m like, ‘They got this so quick, what can I do next?’ so it’s a challenge for me to figure out what’s the next thing we can challenge them with.”

The schedule will certainly continue to challenge the Lions, who have lost only to No. 5 Maryland, 16-6, and No. 18 Loyola, 12-10 in overtime. After picking up their first American Lacrosse Conference win at Vanderbilt, they face No. 4 Florida Sunday and No. 1 Northwestern on April 6. They finish their conference schedule later in April with No. 16 Ohio State and No. 12 Johns Hopkins (tied for 12th with Vanderbilt).

“This conference is a huge reason why I came to Penn State,” Doherty said. “If you’re going to be on top of our conference, you’re probably top in the country. I think we’re getting to be where the ACC is if not surpassing the ACC. Vanderbilt beat Duke this year. We beat Virginia. It’s getting to be neck-and-neck with that conference. It’s really fun. It’s tough though. You have to be on your toes every time. I worry more about our non-conference games, because I know the girls are getting up for the conference games.”


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