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By Miranda Kulp, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer

 

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Coming off of their opening weekend with two big wins, the Penn State women's soccer team entered Friday's game against the University of Connecticut determined to keep the streak alive. 

The two teams prior meeting was on August 23, of last season. The game ended in a 2-2 tie after double overtime. Both Penn State and UConn were set on not letting history repeat itself. 

Penn State was able to change history by winning the match with a 3-1 victory.  With a strong performance from what has become one of the strengths of the team, their defense allowed only their first goal of the season. 

"They've [defensive backfield] done an unbelievable job. So far, they are the glue during the game," said coach Walsh.

One defender in particular that shined was senior Whitney Church. Church has been a key player on the Nittany Lion defense for the past four years. Church played a full 90 minutes protecting the Penn State's lead over the Huskies.

"It's always great when we can deny them any shots," said Church.

"It's a great start to the season," said Church. "It's key to make sure the chemistry on and off the field works as well. It's two seniors and two freshman, we have to make sure we can bring them along with us and help them."

Starting her freshman year Whitney Church made her presence known including being honored on the All-Big Ten Freshman Team back in 2011. Additionally, she was named All-Big Ten Defender of the Year in 2012.

Alongside Church was freshman defender Elizabeth Ball. Ball played for 76 minutes on Friday's game where she was able to help keep UConn away from the goal.

Midfielder Salina Williford also had an outstanding performance on Friday. Williford spent much of her time in the offensive zone taking three shots on goal. She also helped the defensive backfield during the second half of the game.

"I feel confident with everyone in behind and in front of me honestly, we just have such a great team. Whoever I'm on the field with I feel confident." Said Williford.

A strong defense would be nothing without a focused goalkeeper. Junior Britt Eckerstrom had three saves during the match.

Penn State will be taking its perfect record on the road next week facing North Carolina and Duke.



 

VIDEO: Postgame Press Conference In Ireland - vs. UCF

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VIDEO: Player Interviews

DUBLIN, Ireland - Head into the media room following a thrilling 26-24 victory over UCF in the Croke Park Classic to hear from head coach James Franklin, quarterback Christian Hackenberg and defensive tackle Anthony Zettel.






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VIDEO: Postgame Player Interviews from Ireland

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VIDEO: Postgame Press Conference

DUBLIN, Ireland - Hear from several Nittany Lions following Penn State's thrilling 26-24 victory over UCF in the Croke Park Classic.




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Lions' Will to Win Shines on Final Drive in Ireland

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irelandblog_story_drive.jpgVIDEO: Postgame Press Conference | VIDEO: Postgame Player Interviews

DUBLIN, Ireland - It was almost as if a sense of calm came over the Penn State sideline on the pitch in Croke Park Stadium on Saturday afternoon when UCF capped off a 75-yard drive with a go-ahead touchdown as the clock read 1:13 to play.

Down 24-23, Christian Hackenberg trotted onto the field with three timeouts in his pocket knowing he need to get the ball into field goal range or the game was over. While he is just a sophomore, Hackenberg has the poise of a senior and was no stranger to the stakes.

"We were excited. This team has been there before," Hackenberg said. "Even though we are young, we knew what we could do. Geno (Lewis) made a big play. Bill (Belton) made a fantastic play to get out of bounds. It's just one of those things where guys stepped up."

From top to bottom, the offensive unit never doubted how the game was going to end. That says a lot about the leadership in the huddle on an offense that had five players starting in their first game on Saturday.

"We all believed in each other," redshirt freshman Andrew Nelson said. "We all knew that the person next to you had your back. We had repped it in practice, and we were confident in what we were going to do."

"Whenever he is out there, everyone has the most confidence in him," senior Mike Hull said. "When he is in a two-minute situation at the end of a game, we know he is going to get the job done."

The final drive began at the Penn State 26-yard line. Hackenberg connected with Geno Lewis for a seven-yard gain. Following a third-down incompletion, the reigning Big Ten Freshman of the Year made a quick decision to scramble for a do-or-die first down on fourth-and-three.

"I knew it was fourth down and if I was going to go, I had to go," Hackenberg said. "I just tried to get as much as I could."

One play later, Hackenberg shoveled a pass to Bill Belton, who raced 13 yards to the UCF 46. Lewis and Hackenberg connected for completions of nine and 18 yards, respectively, on the next two plays.

"It's just like it was last year, we practice it so much, and the coaches do such a great job of putting us in situations (on the practice field)," Hackenberg said. "I think today, guys went out and they wanted it. Guys made plays."

The final reception to Lewis led to a Nittany Lion timeout with three seconds on the clock.

Ficken trotted onto the field with the kicking unit, and the rest will live in Penn State and Croke Park lore.

"It wasn't a really difficult kick. The wind was blowing right to left," Ficken said. "I asked them to get the ball to the right side of the field so that I could play the wind a little better. The snap was good. The hold was good. Honestly, I didn't hit it great, but it went through and that's all that matters."

As the 36-yard kick sailed inside the right upright to give Penn State a 26-24 victory, the Lions stormed the field to chase after Ficken, who made a victory lap in front of the more than 15,000 Penn State fans who flew across the pond to see the game. The field goal made it a storybook ending for head coach James Franklin's first win as Penn State head coach.

"That guy has had as consistent of a spring and summer as anyone on our team," Franklin said. "I'm just happy for him...He's a perfect example of people in life and in this program that if you stay positive, persevere and keep working, good things will happen."

After landing in Pittsburgh on Saturday night around 11 p.m. ET and a bus ride to State College, the team will get some rest before getting right back to work on Sunday in preparation for Saturday's home opener against Akron.

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2014 Photo Blog - Penn State vs. UCF

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DUBLIN, Ireland - Welcome to GoPSUsports.com's coverage of the 2014 football season. Check back often for an inside look at the Lions' season-opener across the pond in Dublin.


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2014 Game Blog - Penn State vs. UCF

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DUBLIN, Ireland - Welcome to GoPSUsports.com's live, interactive coverage of the 2014 football season. Tune in for live blog coverage from all 12 games on the schedule. We kick things off today with coverage from the season-opener inside Croke Park against UCF in Ireland.


Live Blog 2014 Game Blog - Penn State vs. UCF
 



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Nittany Lions Greeted By Huge Crowd in Dublin on Friday

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irelandblog_18.jpgLIVE GAME BLOG

Gameday Preview | Photo Gallery |  Ireland Day I Coverage | Ireland Day II Coverage


DUBLIN, Ireland - Approximately 10,000 boisterous Penn State fans filled every inch of the cobblestones on Essex Street East in Dublin on Friday afternoon to give the Nittany Lions a warm welcome across the pond.

The crowd began forming around the pep rally stage more than an hour prior to the start of the scheduled event. The Blue and White supporters surrounded the stage from street level to the rooftops. The Nittany Lion, Blue Band, cheerleaders and Lionettes performed before a host of speakers addressed the crowd.

"Penn State nation has descended on Dublin," said Director of Athletics Sandy Barbour.

"You guys take road trip to a new level," said Hall of Fame and Nittany Lion great Jack Ham.

Approximately 20 members of the 2014 squad walked onto the small stage to say hello to the fans in attendance. Juniors Ben Kline and Matt Zanellato spoke to electric crowd.

"We came here to get an unbelievable education and play in front of the best fans in the world. This is what we are talking about," said junior Matt Zanellato.

The Nittany Lions held a walkthrough at UCD on Friday morning before having lunch inside Trinity College. From there, the team filled three double-decker buses for a narrated tour through the city. On seemingly every city corner during the bus tour, the players exchanged "We Are" chants with Penn State fans. Nittany Nation traveled in great numbers to Dublin for the Croke Park Classic.

The support across the pond on Friday was tremendous as the season-opener approaches.

Take a look at some snapshots from Friday's festivities in Dublin.

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By Miranda Kulp, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - After two wins last weekend, Penn State shows that although this team may be young- they mean business.

Already this season, seven of the 11 freshmen have already seen playing time. Several of the freshman players, such as Megan Schafer and Frannie Crouse, have become key players on the pitch.

"She brings a personality to the team we haven't seen for a while," coach Walsh said about freshman Megan Schafer. "She plays a variety of roles and is going to be a big player this season."

Coach Walsh also noted that the upperclassmen are taking on leadership roles.

"This preseason contained a little more teaching and mentoring from upperclassman," said Walsh.

Emily Hurd, an upperclassman on the team, spoke on Monday at Penn State's Fall Sports Media Day about the freshmen class and their performance so far this season.

"[The freshmen] have done awesome," Hurd said. They're obviously a talented group and they're very eager to learn from the leaders on this team and that's what has made this transition so seamless. They want to grow in every game and every practice. They're a fantastic group soccer-wise but off the field and within the chemistry of our team, they've been absolutely fantastic.

"They're putting together performances like that of upperclassmen and they're only their second game in," she said.

With such a diverse group of players, the freshmen bring a wide range of skills and personalities to the team. This year's freshman class comes to Penn State from nine different states.

Making the move from Langhorne, Penn., to Happy Valley, Schafer expressed what experiencing Jeffery Field was like for the first time this past weekend.

"It was awesome and kind of surreal because you grow up always dreaming of playing soccer in college and then the first game at five o'clock comes along and you can't believe it's here already," Schafer said. "We are so lucky to experience this with such great teammates and coaches," she said.

During the team's season opener against West Virginia, Crouse scored the game-winning goal, showing that, although she in her first year, she is a player with a presence.

"The nerves were definitely there, but once you're on the field and the whistle blows, it's like we've done this our entire lives," said Crouse.

During the team's second match of the year against Syracuse, Crouse was one of four freshmen to start the game. The other freshmen that started Sunday's match were Maddie Elliston, Elizabeth Ball, and Emily Ogle.

With the freshmen already making big moves, the Lions look forward to their next game.

Penn State will face Connecticut on Friday night at Jeffery Field. The whistle blows at 5:30 p.m.

2014 Gameday Preview - Lions Open Season In Dublin

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LIVE GAME BLOG

Game Notes | Depth Chart | UCF Scouting Report | Huge Crowd Greets Lions in Ireland

Ireland Day I Coverage | Ireland Day II Coverage | Ireland Photo Gallery

DUBLIN, Ireland - For the first time in its 128-year gridiron history, the Nittany Lion football team will play an international game. Penn State is set to meet UCF in the season-opening Croke Park Classic on Saturday (8:30 a.m. on ESPN2) in Ireland.

Head coach James Franklin will debut as leader of the Nittany Lions when he leads the team onto the infamous Irish pitch inside Croke Park Stadium. The Blue and White enter the season with seven returning starters on both offense and defense. The Lions begin the season with 54 true or redshirt freshmen on the roster.

Penn State traveled to Dublin overnight on Tuesday. After practicing at University College Dublin for three days, the Nittany Lions are focused on the season-opener against a very talented UCF squad. On the heels of a 12-1 season and a win in the Fiesta Bowl, the Knights are under the direction of 18-year veteran head coach George O'Leary.

The long wait is over. The 2014 Penn State Football season is here.  Welcome to an international version of the Gameday Preview for the season-opener against the UCF Knights.

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Pregame Reading:
What to Watch For - Penn State
1. The Nittany Lions have been more than 3,000 miles away from Happy Valley since Wednesday morning, so game week has been anything but normal from a travel perspective. But the on-field preparations and meetings have been business as usual for the Nittany Lions across the pond. Penn State held three practices in Ireland and usual gameplan meetings throughout the week. The schedule has been as close to a typical game week as possible. As Coach Franklin has said all week, this is a business trip for the team and its staff. The Lions have been exposed to some of the finest cuisine and sites in Ireland during the week, but the group has been focused on the task at hand since it arrived.

10256181.jpeg2. Reigning Big Ten Freshman of the Year Christian Hackenberg will lead the Nittany Lion offense for the second-straight season. Hackenberg, who was voted captain by his peers during training camp, is an improved player in all facets of the game after a strong offseason in the weight room and on the field. Franklin has noted several times during the offseason that the cast of players surrounding the quarterback is the key group to keep an eye on. Headlining the cast is a pair of senior running backs - Bill Belton and Zach Zwinak - and a corps of veteran tight ends led by Jesse James and Kyle Carter. Keep an eye on the youthful receiving corps made up of Geno Lewis, DaeSean Hamilton, Chris Godwin and Saeed Blacknall.

3. The Penn State defense had a superb training camp season. A group filled with veterans, the Nittany Lions enter the season with eight defensive starters who are juniors or seniors. The man calling the shots on the defensive side of the ball is fifth-year senior Mike Hull. Hull is the team's top returning tackler (78 stops in 2013). In addition to Hull, defensive end C.J. Olaniyan and safeties Ryan Keiser and Adrian Amos will start as seniors. Defensive coordinator Bob Shoop wants to see an attacking style with relentless pursuit of the ball every time his unit steps onto the field.

What to Watch For - UCF
1. The UCF defense features nine returning starters from last year's team that went 12-1. The Knights finished in the nation's top 20 in scoring defense in 2013, allowing just 21.3 points per game. Bednarik Award candidate Terrance Plummer returns as the team's top tackler. He finished with 110 tackles in 2013. The UCF secondary features two Jim Thorpe Award candidates in senior Clayton Geathers and sophomore cornerback Jacoby Glenn. Geathers recorded 100 stops, two interceptions and 10 pass breakups last season. Glenn had two interceptions and 15 pass breakups.

10256196.jpeg2. The Penn State coaching staff believes UCF has among the top receiving units that the Nittany Lions will face all season. Senior Rannell Hall made 57 receptions for 886 yards and had five touchdowns last year. Junior Breshad Perriman averaged nearly 21 yards per reception in 2013. Perriman finished with 811 yards and 39 catches. J.J. Worton is the third key contributor in the receiving corps. Worton tallied 47 receptions and seven touchdowns last season. Former UCF quarterback and NFL first-round selection Black Bortles is now playing on Sundays. Redshirt freshman Pete DiNovo will make his first career start, but he has a talented cast of receivers on the field to distribute the ball to.

3. The Knights also enter the season with a solid group of specialists on the depth chart. Placekicker Shawn Moffitt is a Lou Groza Award candidate after going 21-for-23 on field goal attempts in 2013. Punter Caleb Houston averaged 42.2 yards per punt last season, as well. Hall (KR) and Worton (PR) are the team's return threats. Hall is among UCF's leaders in nearly every kickoff return category. Worton has 55 punt returns for 573 yards in his career.


The Final Word:
Historic Croke Park will play host to Saturday's clash between Penn State and UCF. Finished in 1913, Croke Park Stadium has a 69,000-seat capacity for the football game. Home of the Gaelic Games, the stadium is a large structure that towers over most of the buildings in Dublin, but does so with an intimate feel inside. The sports and cultural heritage of the stadium can be felt from the moment an individual walks inside. The pitch is hallowed ground not touched by anyone but competitors or the grounds crew. The pitch itself is large enough to fit more than two football fields across it, giving Saturday's game a unique look. The football lines will be centered in the pitch, which provides significant space between the sidelines and the stadium structure. Playing inside Croke Park means a lot to the Nittany Lions.

"There is no doubt that it is a national treasure for them," Franklin said. "Sports are very, very important in this country. I think the whole thing has been surreal in a lot of ways."


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By Gabrielle Richards, GoPSUsports Student Staff Writer

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa.- Twenty-eight years ago, head coach Charlene Morett-Curtiss opened her playbook for the first time as the head coach for the Nittany Lion field hockey team. Since then, her teams have won three Big Ten Championships and have made an appearance in the NCAA Tournament each year. This year, Coach Morett-Curtis and the team are eager to work hard for another successful season.

In a press conference on Monday, Morett-Curtiss used the words "chemistry" and "experienced" to describe this year's squad.

"We have a lot of talented players, but we need to make sure that we're getting them in the right positions," Morett-Curtiss said. "I'm excited about the senior class that we have coming back."

With seven seniors and a pair of fifth-year seniors, the Nittany Lions will bring a level of maturity to the field unparalleled by younger squads in the conference.

Heading into this weekend's home opener, the Nittany Lions are ranked No. 8 by the NFHCA (National Field Hockey Coaches Association), putting them ahead of Old Dominion but just behind Virginia.

For the past ten years, Penn State has opened the season against Old Dominion but 2014 brings new additions to the schedule. Maryland, Quinnipiac, Drexel and Lock Haven are new to the schedule this year. Maryland is not only a new addition to Penn State's schedule, but a new addition to the Big Ten Conference.

"I think it makes it more challenging, but at the same time it's a welcomed addition to the conference," coach Morett-Curtiss said of the schedule additions. "You look at some of the conferences, where the ACC, they have a lot of strong teams. So, a win or a loss against them really only helps strengthen your schedule. That's what I think is going to be positive for us."

Chemistry

Much like any sport, the longer a team plays together, the more familiar they become with one another. Familiarity doesn't even begin to describe the 2014 roster. With two Big Ten Championships and three NCAA Tournaments between them, this senior class is prepared for a challenging schedule.

Seniors Jenna Chrismer, Laura Gebhart, and Taylor Herold have been major contributors to the Penn State offense since the trio first came to Penn State. Katie Breneman and Katie Andrews have been a constant force in the backfield, as they started in all 19 contests last season. Fifth-year senior Kylie Licata will be returning to the cage, also starting every game last season.

Casey Haegele, Amanda Dinunzio and Natalie Buttinger also return to the Nittany Lion roster, all of whom saw action in 13 games last season.

Experience

The forward line is one of the strongest dynamics that the Nittany Lions will field this season. Chrismer, Gebhart and Herold have been major assets to the forward line since their freshman seasons. The trio combined for 21 goals, 20 assists and 145 shots on goal last season, ranking them as the top contributors of last year's squad.

Licata, who was the Nittany Lions only goalie last season, will return to the field with her 0.683% save percentage intact.

Aside from the seniors experience in conference play, Gebhart recently returned from playing on the U.S. National Team this summer.

"It was a huge learning experience," Gebhart said in Monday's press conference. "It's really great that I can come back to Char (coach Morett-Curtiss) and we can talk about things that I learned, how we can implement them at Penn State and how we can pick up our level and just really take the whole program to the next level."

This leadership and experience will help mold the incoming freshman class, as this group of seniors will be leaving behind big shoes to fill.

"I'm always excited to get the fall season started," coach Morett-Curtiss said. "We were really fortunate this year that we were able to schedule two scrimmages. As a coach, you're always trying to find the perfect fit. We have a lot of talented players, but we need to make sure that we're getting them in the right positions."

The Nittany Lions open their regular-season this Friday against Old Dominion at 5 p.m. and Virginia on Sunday at 12 p.m..