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Lions Hit the Diamond for Big Ten Play

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By Kelsey Detweiler Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - This time last year the Penn State softball team was headed to Ann Arbor, Mich. for its first week of conference play in the 2012 season.

8774470.jpegA little more than 365 days later, the Lions will open their Big Ten season on their home field against the same opponent. Penn State welcomes Michigan in a three-game series to open the conference season on Friday afternoon.

The Lions were slated to open conference play against Michigan State last weekend, but snowy conditions and cold temperatures kept both teams off of the diamond.

After a challenging preseason schedule that put the team at 7-16 to start the year, assistant coach Jen McIntyre said that starting Big Ten play means everyone gets a clean slate.

"Whether they've been struggling or they've been successful everybody starts with 0-0-0 again," said McIntyre. "We're ready to get going."

McIntyre said that the start of any team's conference season is special for a number of reasons. Not only are the teams all vying for the same title within the same group, but they also have no secrets.

"You're facing kids three and four times a game, multiply that by three times in a series, by the time the series is over I know the kid's shoe size and I know what she likes to eat for breakfast," said McIntyre. "Not only do you know all of their strengths and weaknesses but then you know a team's tendencies and what they're thinking and it gets kind of scary when you start knowing how the other team is thinking."

The Wolverines rolled to an undefeated weekend against Purdue last week to begin their Big Ten season, but the Lions will treat this as their own conference opener. Senior Shannon Hutchinson said that she and her teammates have been anxiously waiting to get the ball rolling.

"Our pre-season wasn't what we expected, so it's kind of like a new start," said Hutchinson. "Plus, playing in front of our fans we always play better, so it's kind of fun to show off to the donors and regular fans, parents and our walk-up songs - that's always really fun."

Penn State has competed in 23 games leading up to this weekend, all of which were played west or south of North Carolina. Hutchinson said she and the team will have to prepare differently for playing in colder temperatures, but feel well rested and ready to play.

"We have seen so much live action that we kind of needed this rest," said Hutchinson. "Now that we're home and the weather is going to kind of be a factor, we just get to hang out in our lounge where as Michigan doesn't know what's going on and we are in our home setting. I think it's going to be an advantage for us."

The weekend's contests will be the first games that the Lions play on Beard Field this year. While the Lions have been able to get on the dirt elsewhere throughout the country, they've been restricted to practicing and playing indoors in University Park until this week.

McIntyre said that the temperature outside won't stop her or the Lions from doing what they do every day.

"At the end of the day I tell everybody, the ball's round and it's yellow and they've been playing for years," said McIntyre. "It's Big Ten weather now. You've got to be a little bit tougher."

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