Maria Evangelou, GoPSUsports.com student staff writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - As Penn State's Big Ten slate continued in a weekend finale against Michigan, where fans in the stands and scattered outside field were dressed in pink to celebrate a special breast cancer awareness game.
With a fierce start from both teams, the Nittany Lions and Wolverines battled for the ball, with plays across the field and aggressive exchange of possession.
The first half was packed with penalty corners on both sides. Michigan managed to find space for two shots, in addition to the first penalty corner of the game by the seventh minute, but Penn State keeper Jenny Rizzo deflected the ball to reject their attempted shots on goal.
The Nittany Lions bounced back to achieve their own two consecutive penalty corner, after Alexis Horst nearly opened the scoring with a competent shot on goal. Two more shots followed, including one by Katie Dembrowski, who was selected as one of "Char's Stars" for her performance against Northwestern this past Friday. Both shots were denied by the Wolverine goalkeeper.
"I thought that we threw the ball away too much," Dembrowski said. "I thought one thing we did do well was getting the ball out of our backfield, and outletting. It's just that next step of getting it up to the forwards for a goal."
Pressure mounted at the 18th minute, when the Wolverines converted on a play after a penalty corner by Penn State resulted in a turnover. Michigan rushed to the circle, and earned the first goal.
"Michigan came out, and they just wanted it more," head coach Char Morett-Curtiss said. "We talked about their physicality, they showed determination and when they kept out-cutting us for passes, I knew we were in trouble."
While energy remained high from both teams, the Wolverines took over for the rest of the first half, forcing the Nittany Lions to defend the circle. Michigan slammed their second goal into the back of the cage in the in the 26th minute, making it the first home game where Penn State has trailed at the half.
"I was very disappointed that we didn't show that competitiveness at the start," Morett-Curtiss said. "Michigan did a great job of spreading the field, and we were just slow to recover."
The Nittany Lions returned to the field with their engines fired, and took possession of the ball to send it to the Wolverine circle. Gini Bramley made a beeline for the net, but a locked defense from Michigan wouldn't let up.
Michigan fought back for their ninth and 10th shots on goal in the 45th minute, but Jenny Rizzo, with some help from Cori Conley, denied the opportunity, temporarily sending the ball back to Penn State.
"Our connectedness was off," Morett-Curtiss said. "I was taken back by how many times we turned the ball over. We lacked possession skills."
When Michigan returned to Penn State's circle with 17 minutes left on the clock, Gini Bramley made some swift moves to send the ball to her teammates, setting Maddie Morano up for run down the field and the Nittany Lions' ninth shot on goal. The attempt earned Penn State their fifth penalty corner of the game. As for the Wolverines, they weren't backing down.
Michigan's offense barreled back to Penn State's circle, knocking in a third goal, ticking the time down to 15 minutes. At six minutes left, shots were tied up for both teams, 12-12.
The Nittany Lions gave it their all as time expired, including an impressive save by Jenny Rizzo. The game concluded at 3-0, the Nittany Lions' first loss at their home field and second loss of the season.
"I think we were missing togetherness at the start of the press," Bramley said. "We weren't connected like we usually are. It's something we should work on for next weekend."The Nittany Lions will travel to East Lansing, Michigan to face Michigan State Friday, Sept. 29.