Relentless Defense Lifts Lions in Intense Contest

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By Jackson Thibodeau, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - The seniors of the Penn State field hockey team took the field on Sunday afternoon with bouquets of flowers in hand and jubilant tears streaming down their faces.

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Nearing the end of their collegiate playing days, the four seniors were recognized in a pregame ceremony prior to the team's highly anticipated matchup and 5-1 victory over Iowa.

"The seniors really led this win today," said head coach Charlene Morett. "They came out and were very aggressive at the start--I'm so proud of them."

Surprising her fans and teammates was redshirt senior goalkeeper Ayla Halus, who sang the national anthem before Sunday's contest.

The joyful and reminiscent emotions didn't last long, however, as the team shifted focus to what they knew would be a physical matchup against the Hawkeyes.

"That's just the way it is. It is a physical game. It's a Big Ten game," said Morett.

The Nittany Lions took the field fully expecting a gritty battle with their conference foes, but by no means did that cause them to back down.

Before the game, Penn State football head coach Bill O'Brien spoke to the team about how to feed off of the game's intensity.

"He told us 'They're not going to come on our field and push us around,'" said senior Kelsey Amy. "I think we went out there and played aggressively, kept our composure and played a great game."

The intensity remained strong throughout the entire showdown, as a total of five penalty cards were issued to the teams (three to Iowa and two to Penn State).

Amy had a terrific day in front of the 600-person crowd, registering three goals and one assist.

Two of her goals came by way of one of the strongest aspects of this year's squad--penalty corner execution.

"They were right on," said Morett in reference to her team's penalty corner success. "The thing that I am really proud of is that we didn't even give up a corner and they have some dangerous corners."

The Nittany Lions have registered a combined 80 more penalty corners than their opponents this season.

Penn State continued that dominance on Sunday, registering 12 penalty corner attempts compared to the Hawkeye's zero.

Penalty corners weren't the only means by which the Nittany Lions found the back of the cage--extreme physicality and relentless defensive pressure in the midfield transitioned into fast breaks for Penn State.In the midst of the offensive pushes was junior Ashtin Klingler, who registered two goals on the day.

The 11th-ranked Hawkeyes came into University Park with the best goals-against-average in the Big Ten, giving up just 1.57 goals per game.

This impressive statistic didn't hold up long in Happy Valley as Penn State put three goals up on the board in the first 15 minutes of the matchup on their way to a four-goal victory.

"Bill O'Brien told our team to play complementary field hockey today and that's what he does with his football team," said Morett.

"When the defense comes up with a great play or an interception then the offense has to turn it into points--that's what the girls did today."

The tough midfield defense was complemented by precision passing and a well-executed offensive attack in the decisive victory.

"I think we did a great job of finding each other today and that's why we were so successful," said Amy.

With just two conference games remaining this season for the Nittany Lions, the victory over Iowa puts them in prime position to secure a Big Ten regular season title.

As long as the squad can earn wins against both Ohio State and Michigan State, they will own the regular season crown, holding the tiebreaker over Iowa.

Penn State is set to take the field again on Friday afternoon as they travel to Columbus to square off against Ohio State. Game time is slated for 3 p.m.

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