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Rules of the Game

Collegiate women’s lacrosse is a spring team sport that can be played both indoors and outdoors; Penn State’s lacrosse team plays at the new Penn State Lacrosse Field (opened for the 2012 season), and in Holuba Hall when necessary.  Outdoor fields are 110-140 yards long and 60-70 yards wide.  A goal that is six feet long, six feet high with a net backing is placed 10-20 yards from each end line.  Restraining lines 30 yards upfield from each goal line effectively divide the field into three zones; no more than seven players from an attacking team may cross the restraining line closest to their opponent’s goal.   

The object of the game is to move a round ball (8 inches in circumference) into the opponent’s goal.  Players may carry, throw, or bat the ball with a stick with a netted pouch on its end, referred to as a crosse; players also may roll or kick the ball.  All players must use crosses with a length of between 35 ¼ and 43 ¼ inches; the goalkeeper’s crosse may be between 35 ½ and 48 inches long.    Each team is allowed a maximum of twelve players (including the goalkeeper), and only after repeated team penalties (at least 2 yellow and or red cards) does a team lose a player for any period of time. 

A regulation game lasts 60 minutes, divided into two 30-minute halves.  If tied at the end of regulation time, two entire three-minute overtime periods are played; if still tied, sudden-victory (first goal wins) overtime periods (each not more than six minutes) are played as needed.

Lacrosse is a physically punishing sport, but women’s lacrosse rules do not permit as much stick hitting (checking) as men’s.  A player may not check any opponent’s body with her stick, and body checks must be made away from the opponent’s head.  Players may be penalized for excessively violent play; major fouls include slashing and checking to the head, and minor fouls include less physical rules and equipment violations.  Usually these penalties result in giving a “free position” to the opponent (an opposing player gains possession of the ball without a defender within 4.4 yards of her).  For repeated or serious fouls, the free position occurs within an 8 meter arc of the offending team’s goal.   The referee may issue a yellow (warning) card for misconduct. A red card is issued to the player for subsequent violations, at which time the player must leave the field for three minutes of play (but may be replaced by another player). With the issuance of a fourth card to the team (any combination of yellow and red cards), the penalized player may not be replaced by another player.

Penn State Women’s Lacrosse History

Penn State fielded its first women’s lacrosse team in 1965, and over the years the team has been coached by some of the great names in Penn State athletics.  Ellen Perry, one of the most influential administrators in bringing women’s sports to Penn State, coached from 1968-1973.  Gillian Rattray coached from 1974-1985, compiling an astounding record of 143-19-3, and she was succeeded by current Associate Athletic Director Susan Delaney-Scheetz, whose teams lost only nine games in four seasons. Suzanne Isidor coached the Lady Lions from 2001 to 2010. 

In July, 2010, Missy Doherty was named head coach of the women's lacrosse team after a seven-year career as coach at Towson University.

The team has achieved recognition throughout its history.  They earned three consecutive U.S. Women’s Lacrosse Association (USWLA) national championships from 1978-80 (going undefeated with one tie in 1978-79), and were 1987 and 1989 NCAA champions.  They compiled an undefeated streak of 44 games (with 3 ties) between April 1977 and April 1980, including a 27 winning streak.  In 2002, Penn State became the first women’s lacrosse program to play in 500 games.  

In the 1970’s, many field hockey players also were varsity lacrosse players.  Char Morett, Candace Finn Rocha, Mary McCarthy, Tami Worley, and most recently Jill Pearsall in 1994/1995 were All-Americans in both sports.  Rocha also has the distinction of being the only NCAA athlete to have scored the national championship game-winning goal in two different sports (lacrosse and field hockey).  Gillian Rattray coached both sports at Penn State, and is a member of each sport’s Hall of Fame.  In addition to her Broderick Award as the best field hockey player in 1981,  Rocha also won that award in lacrosse in 1981 and 1982.  Times have since changed; players no longer participate in both sports at the varsity level, and coaches no longer coach both sports at Penn State.

Penn State was a member of the ALC from 2002-2014.  Other 2014 members were Florida, Johns Hopkins, Michigan, Northwestern, Ohio State, and Vanderbilt. Beginning in 2015, the Big Ten will support women’s lacrosse and hold a Championship Tournament.  Six teams - Penn State, Michigan, Northwestern, Ohio State, and new members Maryland and Rutgers, will compete for this championship, and the winner will receive an automatic bid to the National Championship Tournament.

In the first year of Big 10 competition, the Nittany Lions finished 2nd during the regular season, but defeated Ohio State 13-11 to become the first women’s lacrosse champion in Big 10 history.  They advanced to the quarter-final round of the NCAA Tournament, ultimately losing to North Carolina 11-8 and were ranked 5th in the final IWLCA poll.  Missy Doherty was named Big 10, ECAC, and IWLCA Regional Coach of the Year, and Amy Altig was selected as the IWLCA Assistant Coach of the Year.  Maggie McCormick, Tatum Coffey, Abby Smucker, Madison Cyr, and Emy Smith were all selected to the inaugural All-Big 10 team (the first 3 were unanimous choices), and Smith was voted the Conference’s Goaltender of the Year.

The 2016 season ended in surprising fashion.  After being eliminated in the 1st round of the Big 10 Tournament, the Nittany Lions got hot in the NCAA Championships.  They upset #2 seed Florida 14-13 in overtime, and reached the final 4 for the first time since 1999 before being edged by eventual champion North Carolina, 12-11.  Penn State finished ranked number 4 in the nation.  Six Lions made the All-Big 10 Team, Madison Cyr and Steph Lazo were1st team All-Region selections, ECAC All-Stars; Cyr was a 2nd team All-American, and Lazo a 3rd teamer. Madison Carter was chosen as the Big 10 Freshman of the Year.  In the classroom. The Lions fared even better; six players were named Big 10 Distinguished Scholars, and the team was honored as an IWLCA Academic Honor Squad (team GPA of 3.0 or greater for the academic year).

The 2017 season played out much like 2016.  After being eliminated by Northwestern in the 1st round of the Big Ten Tournament, the Nittany Lions defeated James Madison and Princeton in the NCAA Championships to reach the final four for a 2nd straight season.  They then lost in the semi-finals to Maryland, the eventual unbeaten national champions; two of the Lions’ four defeats in 2017 came at the hands of Maryland.  The team finished with a 17-4 record (5-2 in the Big Ten), and was ranked #3 nationally at the end of the season.

The 2017 season saw numerous players recognized for their play.  Steph Lazo was a 1st Team All-American, All-Big Ten, All-Region, and All-ECAC player.  She was the Big Ten Attack Player of the Year, and Penn State’s Female Athlete of the Year.  Katie O’Donnell and Madison Carter were also All-Big Ten honorees, and named to the All-Region 1st team; in addition, O’Donnell made the All-ECAC 1st Team.

In 2019, the Nittany Lions finished with an 8-9 record (3-3 in the Big Ten), and lost to Maryland 15-8 in the Big Ten Championship Tournament.  Maria Auth, Kayla Brisolari, and Reilly Masterson were All-Conference selections, and Brisolari was also named to the All-West/Midwest Region 1st team.

Tami Worley (1989) was elected to the National Lacrosse Hall of Fame class of 2018.


Team Accomplishments

National Championships
1978-80 (USWLA), 1987, 1989 (NCAA) 

NCAA Final Four
1982 (AIAW), 1983, 1985, 1986 (2nd), 1987 (1st),1988 (2nd); 1989 (1st), 1991, 1995, 1999, 2016, 2017

Big 10 Tournament Championships

IWLCA Academic Honor Squad

Notable Players 

Candy (Finn) Rocha (1979-82)

1980, 1981 US Lacrosse All-American     
1982 Brine/IWLCA All-American
1981, 1982 Broderick Award (lacrosse)
PSU 2nd place – career points (338), goals (265)
PSU sin


gle home game points (17), goals (14)
1998 National Lacrosse Hall of Fame inductee
2016 Tewaaraton Legends Award

Marsha Florio (1982-85)

1982-85 Brine/Women’s Lacrosse Coaches Association All-American
PSU 1st place – career points (380), goals (271), assists (115) 

Steph Lazo (2014-170)

2016, 2017 – All Big Ten
2016, 2017 – 1st Team All-Region
2016, 2017 – 1st Team All-ECAC

 2017 – 1st Team All-American

2017 – Big Ten Attack Player of the Year
2017 – Senior All-Star game MVP
2017 – Penn State Female Athlete of the Year



Gillian Rattray (1974-85) 143-19-3

1978-1980 US Women’s Lacrosse Association National Champions
2004 National Field Hockey Coaches Association Hall of Fame inductee
2005 National Lacrosse Hall of Fame Inductee
26 All-Americans

Susan Delaney Scheetz (1986-1989)

1987, 1989 NCAA National Champions
2000 National Lacrosse Hall of Fame inductee
1998 Pennsylvania Lacrosse Hall of Fame inductee
25 All-Americans

Missy Doherty  (2011-present) (111-65, 18-10 in Big 10)


2012, 2013, 2015 NCAA ¼ finals
2015 Big 10 Tournament Champion
2015 Big 10 Coach of the Year
2015 ECAC Coach of the Year
2015 IWLCA Regional Coach of the Year
2016, 2017 NCAA Final Four

Player Recognition

Broderick Award (National Outstanding Player of the Year – Candace (Finn) Rocha (1981, 1982).

US Lacrosse All-Americans – 43 selections, including 3-time selections Barb Doran (1975-77); Tami Worley (1987-89); Jill Pearsall (1993-95);

Brine/International Women’s Lacrosse Coaches Association (IWLCA) All-Americans – 56 selections, including 4-time selections Marsha Florio (1982-85) and 3-time selection Ann Kolongowski (1991-93)

1st Team IWLCA/US Lacrosse All-Americans  - Lee Tortorelli (2004).Steph Lazo (2017); Katie O’Donnell (2018)

1st Team All-ALC – Colleen O’Hara (2003), Janique Craig (2004); Stephanie Curnoles (2004); Lori Havrilla (2004); Lee Tortorelli (2004); Emily Chambers (2005); Renee Cipro (2005-6); Jessi Lieb (2006, 2008); Maggie Dunbar (2010, 2011); Theresa Bucci (2010); Dana Cahill (2011, 2012); Lizzie Carney (2012); Katie Guy (2013); Kelly Lechner (2013); Maggie McCormick (2013); Madison Cyr (2014); Lauren Purvis (2014).

ALC Defensive Player of the Year – Lauren Purvis (2014).

1st Team IWLCA All-Region – Madison Cyr (2016), Steph Lazo (2016, 2017), Katie O’Donnell (2017,2018), Madison Carter (20172018) Kayla Brisolari (2018, 2019)

All-Big 10 – Madison Carter (2016, 2017,2018), Tatum Coffey (2015); Madison Cyr (2015, 2016); Maggie McCormick (2015); Steph Lazo (2016, 2017); Jenna Mosketti (2016), Katie O’Donnell (2016, 2017, 2018), Abby Smucker (2015, 2016, 2017); Emi Smith (2015), Natalie Schmitt (2017), Kayla Brisolari (2018, 2019), Maria Auth (2019), Reilly Masterson (2019).

Big 10 Goaltender of the Year – Emi Smith (2015).

Big 10 Attack Player of the Year – Steph Lazo (2017).


Big Ten Midfielder of the Year – Katie O’Donnell (2018)

Big 10 Freshman of the Year – Madison Carter (2016).

National Lacrosse Hall of Fame – Susan Delaney-Scheetz, Candace Finn, Gillian Rattray, Betsy Williams, Julie Williams, Michelle DeJulius, Tami Worley.


Big 10 Distinguished Scholars – Taylor Bleistein (2016); McKenna Coyle (2016); Madison Day (2016); Katie O’Donnell (2016); Abby Smucker (2016); Shelby Wells (2016).

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