By Jackson Thibodeau, GoPSUsports.com
Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Outstanding goalkeeping and a swarming Bucknell defense kept the Penn State field hockey team scoreless in the first half of play for the first time in nearly two seasons on Tuesday night.
It had been 23 games since the Nittany Lions were held without a goal in the
first half, but a well-executed offensive attack in the final 35 minutes earned
two late scores for Penn State, propelling them to a 2-0 win over Bucknell.
"We weren't on the same page in the first half," said head coach Charlene Morett regarding her team's offensive communication.
"But in the second half they honestly just put a clinic on and did a lot of great things."
The Nittany Lions were able to tally 16 shots in the first half alone, but nine Bucknell saves and a defense that swarmed around Penn State's most prolific scorer kept the hosts off the board for an alarmingly long time.
Kelsey Amy, the team's leading scorer (51 points this season), was held without a goal for just the third time this fall.
"They shut [Kelsey] down and that doesn't happen often," said Morett.
Amy's presence on the field didn't go unnoticed on Tuesday night, as the senior registered an assist and brought intense physicality for the entire 70 minutes.
"We did a great job keeping our poise given the circumstances," Amy said in reference to the gritty, physical play and to being held off the scoreboard for nearly 60 minutes.
"We are going to experience physicality no matter who we play so I think just having the poise to play through that is a good thing to have."
The Penn State sideline breathed a huge sigh of relief midway through the second half after a steal in the offensive zone led to a beautiful set up and a goal for sophomore Taylor Herold.
Herold's goal completely shifted the game's momentum in favor of the Nittany Lions and allowed them to play with less of a frantic demeanor as time dwindled down.
Just five minutes after the first goal, Penn State took the ball into the offensive zone again and forced a penalty stroke, which junior Brittany Grzywacz and her 100 percent penalty stroke success rate capitalized on and gave the Nittany Lions a 2-0 lead.
"We knew that it wasn't the end of the world that we hadn't scored yet so we just kept our composure and played our game," said Grzywacz in reference to the two late scores.
As for what kept the Nittany Lions scoreless for so long, players and coaches alike referenced a tough Bucknell defense and a lack of offensive communication.
"We need to work on our positioning around the goal," said Herold. "We need to work on being in our spots and being ready."
The defensive battle served as the final regular season home game for the Nittany Lions this season, but the team could potentially host an NCAA Tournament game if they are a top four seed.
Penn State, now with a 14-3 overall record and a 4-1 Big Ten record, has just one game remaining before entering tournament play.
The Nittany Lions will travel to East Lansing to square off against Michigan State on Saturday and, with a Northwestern loss to Iowa, would secure the Big Ten regular season championship with a victory over the Spartans.
Penn State lost a heartbreaker in overtime to Northwestern in September in Evanston.
"We've been really dialed in on winning a Big Ten championship," said Morett. "It is going to be really exciting that we have the opportunity for it to be in our hands."
Game time is slated for noon on Saturday in East Lansing while Iowa and Northwestern will square off at noon on Sunday.