By Maria Evangelou, GoPSUsports.com student staff writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Between senior night, a THON-dedicated game and ESPN's College Gameday just a few blocks away, Happy Valley was bursting with activity as Penn State field hockey hosted Rutgers to wrap up their regular season home schedule.
Maybe it was the swirling excitement, or maybe it was pure motivation as the Nittany Lions seamlessly defeated the Scarlet Knights to earn their fifth conference victory.
Junior midfielder Gini Bramley was impressive on the field, quickly switching possession and sending the ball to Penn State's forwards. Penn State capitalized offensively in the first five minutes, as forward Moira Putsch offered another attempt at opening up the scoring, followed by Madison Morano, giving the Nittany Lions three shots.
Unable to take possession of the ball until the 14th minute, Rutgers earned the first penalty corner of the game, converting a shot into a goal for the Scarlet Knights. The Nittany Lions didn't let the disadvantage hold them back, despite heading into halftime with a 1-0 deficit.
"We knew they were going to come out strong," Bramley said. "It is a Big Ten game, so we knew it was going to be something we needed to battle."
As the teams returned to the field, the Nittany Lions rang in the second half with two consecutive penalty corners. With an assist by Mary Nell Smith, sophomore back Bes Bovelander converted the second opportunity into Penn State's first goal to tie up the match.
"As I said to the girls at halftime, we have been in this position before with Rutgers, where we've come back after halftime," head coach Char Morett-Curtiss said. "We made a great adjustment with opening up the field. We just were able to get pressure on the ball and create turnovers, which was one of our goals."
One goal, with some help from the most enthusiastic and most packed stands at a home game yet, was all the Nittany Lions needed to spark the scoring.
Putsch didn't waste any time, pounding in a second and third goal just moments later for a three-goal outing, thanks to assists from teammates Katie Dembrowski and Bramley.
"Mo [Putsch] had an amazing game, she played so outstanding," Morett-Curtiss said. "I thought Shay [Cannon] and so many of the seniors played so inspired tonight and they really set a great tone for us."
Rutgers nearly snuck an opportunity with a shot at the post, but Bramley wasted no time to carry the ball the entirety of the field to Putsch, who slammed another goal in the back of the cage.
The Nittany Lions dominated as the clock ticked to zero, leaving little opportunity for the Scarlet Knights to trim the deficit, outshooting Rutgers 15-5.
"I think this set us up really well for Indiana now that we won and are more comfortable again, it's just going up from here," Bramley said.
Hosting the Scarlet Knights on senior night, Penn State honored seniors Skyler Fretz, Shay Cannon, Delani Higgins and Cassie Kline, who all took to the field for their final regular season home game.
Cannon reflected on her last regular season home game of her collegiate field hockey career following the game.
"We practiced really hard this week with a game plan," Cannon said. "We wanted to get back to Penn State field hockey, we felt like we haven't been able to get goals. Today it worked out because we stretched the field, we were able to find our teammates and goals happened. It's sad, I can't believe this is my last season here. I love my team, we have each other's backs and I wouldn't have wanted to go through this with anyone else."
The Nittany Lions will hit the road to face the Indiana Hoosiers for their final game of the regular season Sunday, Oct. 22 in Bloomington, Indiana.