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Lions Dominate Home Opening Weekend

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By Maria Evangelou, student staff writer

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Much like Penn State's earlier weekend matchup, the seventh-ranked Nittany Lions found their offensive footing in the second half to power past Wake Forest for a perfect home opening weekend.  

Wake Forest came out charged from the first whistle to start the game, but Penn State held off the Demon Deacons, overcoming a bit of the same slower start that the Nittany Lions saw earlier in the weekend. 

After an early Moira Putsch shot went wide of the goal, Penn State's passing remained consistent between the Nittany Lion midfielders and forwards, keeping the ball under offensive ownership in the first five minutes of the game.

In another early offensive attempt, Skyler Fretz juked a Wake Forest defender before sending a swift pass to Emily Klinger. Moments later, Klinger worked past the Demon Deacon defense looking for a shot on goal before Bes Bovelander followed with a shot, saved by the Wake Forest keeper. 

Less than a minute later, Aurelia Meijer attempted a shot, before Gini Bramley finished moments later with the first goal of the game in the net at the 16-minute mark in the first half.

The Demon Deacons battled back after Penn State's first goal, only to face a now fully charged Nittany Lion offense. Penn State drew its first penalty corner of the game shortly after, but couldn't seem to fit a shot in on a tight defensive line.

The Nittany Lions continued to push the attack as Aurelia Meijer slammed an unassisted shot to the corner of the net to send Penn State ahead with a 2-0 lead. 

With less than four minutes left in the half, Wake Forest looked to capitalize on a few offensive opportunities, only to be stopped by Penn State back Bes Bovelander and keeper Jenny Rizzo.

Heading back to the field with a 2-0 lead, Penn State regrouped and settled into its offensive momentum as Putsch set up Mary Nell Smith for a perfect shot between the Wake Forest keepers legs to spark a 4-goal run. 

"I think our team really buys in to being a strong second half team because they trust their fitness," Morett Curtiss said. "I thought we had a little lull in the second half but I think that we just told them to sharpen up their passing and be firmer with your passes and that will pick up the speed of the game."

As the momentum increased so did the Nittany Lion penalty corner opportunities as Putsch dished to Katie Dembrowski on an attempt to bring the score to 4-0.

Penn State's fire was only getting fueled as Shay Cannon darted to the goal just before the 50-minute mark to send in a fifth goal sending the fans in the stands wild and rallied up for a "We Are" chant.

"I just think this team plays so well as a team," Morett-Curtiss said. "They play together, they don't leave anybody hanging on the field and they have each other's backs, so it's great."

Perhaps no better representatives of that mentality come from Putsch and Meijer. Putsch closed out the weekend with three goals and two assists, including the sixth and final goal off a penalty corner, while Meijer added two goals and three assists.

"I think they're feeling good about the combinations that we're using," Morett-Curtiss said regarding the penalty corners. "Bes, Aurelia, and Katie can really get the ball on the goal, and that's what it's all about." 

With a home opening weekend under their belt, Penn State charges ahead this season with a 4-0 record. Despite the stellar start, the Nittany Lions know better than to let confidence get the best of them, as they remain focused on preparing for one of their most challenging opponents, Princeton, this week. 

Last season, Princeton shocked Penn State with a win in the opening round of the 2016 NCAA Tournament. The Nittany Lions and the Tigers are set to meet Sunday, Sept. 10 at noon on the road. 

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