By Chelsea Howard, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - When the six seniors first came to Penn State and went through preseason their freshman year, they never thought they would make it through four years. However, with senior night here - the four years went by fast as it's a bittersweet time for the players who started playing the sport at such a young age.
With only four regular season matches left in their collegiate careers, these seniors want to end their senior year the way that they started their freshman year - with a national championship.
"It's a full progression and evolution for them," head coach Russ Rose said. "All of those guys have had a major impact on the program. Despite the fact I'm hard on them all the time - soon they'll be done. We're graduating three people who have started for four years. We haven't had that many kids who have started for four years in the 35 years I've been here."
Take a closer look at each of the senior's journey through their collegiate career as a Nittany Lion and their thoughts as their time comes to a close.
8 Erica Denney
Coming out of high school as a member of an undefeated team (31-0) and traveling to the 2009 World Championships as a member of the youth national team, Erica Denny faced an injury and took a redshirt her freshman year. In her second year with the Nittany Lions, she made her collegiate debut against Rutgers where she registered a kill. During both her sophomore and junior years, she earned Academic All-Big Ten and continued her junior year appearing in six matches and nine sets. The Colorado native recorded her first start against DePaul in 2012.
15 Maggie Harding
Maggie Harding came to Penn State from just a few miles away. As an active member of the Student Athlete Advisory Board and captain for the season, Harding has proven to be one of the strongest leaders on the team. At the NCAA Semi-finals Championship last year, she earned the Elite 89 Award after having the top GPA of all of the student-athletes at the tournament.
"It's exciting because it's a big time of the year and we have a lot coming up, but it's bittersweet. I've been watching Penn State volleyball since I was five, so knowing it's coming to an end is pretty tough. But knowing I was a part of it and contributing what I can to the program is pretty cool."
6 Maddie Martin
Earning Academic All-Big Ten honors during her sophomore and junior year, Maddie Martin has proven to be another strong leader in the senior class for the underclassmen to follow. Making an immediate impact her freshman year, she played in 20 matches and 29 sets. The outside hitter reached a career high hitting percentage at Indiana in 2010 at .600. Her first two kills were against Villanova and she took that momentum into a strong sophomore season where she played in 33 matches - starting in 24 of them. During her junior season, she registered 51 kills, 14 aces, 71 digs and eight blocks. With only a few matches left, the Tampa, Fla., native cannot believe how fast the four years have gone by.
"It's weird - you think during your freshman year while you're going through preseason that it's never going to end. Looking back on it now - it went so fast. (Playing under Russ Rose) is cool; he's such an amazing person and such an amazing coach. Knowing we've played for a legend is just a great feeling."
18 Deja McClendon
The outside hitter from Louisville, Ky., did not waste any time getting adjusted to the college volleyball scene as she was named the 2010 AVCA Division I National Freshman of the Year and started in all 37 matches. She was also the only freshman to earn a spot on the 2010 AVCA All-American team. McClendon continued to develop into the player she is today through her sophomore year adding 2011 AVCA First Team All-America to the list of honors and was the Unanimous Preseason All-Big Ten. During her junior year, she kept her competitive edge going as she set a career high hitting percentage of .800 against Binghamton. She also hit a career high of 29 digs at Michigan proving to be a versatile player. The outside hitter has made 247 kills and 239 digs this season giving her an impressive total of 1,500 kills and a career total of 1,052 digs with four matches left before championship season.
"It doesn't feel real - it's a sad moment but at the same time it's a good time to look back on everything we've accomplished and where we want to end the season. There were points where we were really low and points where we were really high and to see us where we are now it's just crazy that we did finish this together. That's probably one of the most important parts for me - that we've been through thick and thin together."
1 Ariel Scott
Known as A. Scott to the team, the outside hitter has developed into one of the key players for the Nittany Lions. During her freshman year, she played in 20 matches gaining experience early in her collegiate career. She went into her sophomore year and was named AVCA Third Team All-America and Unanimous First Team All-Big Ten. The New Jersey native was second on the team with 418 kills for the 2011 season. Scott added even more honors to the list making AVCA First Team All-American and Big Ten Player of the Year with her strong performances during her junior year. She set a career high of 85 attacks against Stanford during that season. Registering 244 kills so far this season, Scott totals 1,274 kills for her collegiate career.
"It's really crazy seeing how far we've come. It's bittersweet because we made it, but it's kind of sad too since it's our last home game. Freshman year going from preseason not knowing if we're going to make it, being the hardest thing we've ever done and then winning that year. For me I went from not playing to being on the court so it was definitely a big development year for me."
16 Katie Slay
Throughout Slay's four years as a Nittany Lion, she has proven to be one of the most consistent and dependable players for the team. Her freshman year, she started in 11 matches and played in 23 where she totaled 54 kills and a hitting percentage of .404. Her sophomore year, she did not hold anything back as she was named AVCA Second Team All-America and Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year. She also hit career highs with 16 kills against Wisconsin in 2011. During her junior year, the Raleigh, N.C. native continued to put up impressive defensive performances. She made a career high of 12 blocks against Michigan. This season, she has added 19 solo blocks and 132 block assists to her career totals giving her 74 solo blocks and 497 block assists and a total of 571 blocks throughout her career.
"It's exciting - senior year I've just been trying to soak it all in. Freshman year we just did whatever the upperclassmen did. I remember playing in the national championship match and it didn't feel like a huge deal - I didn't feel stressed out because the upperclassmen were dancing in the locker room and doing whatever we usually did before any other match. As we've gotten older, we had to set the bar for the team. We're the one's who have to put out a persona."
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By Chelsea Howard, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
By Mike Esse, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Penn State head coach Bob Warming called the first round of the NCAA Tournament the hardest match to play until the Elite Eight. Thursday night against St. Francis Brooklyn (12-6-1), his No. 16 Nittany Lions (12-5-2) hurdled that tough task and now are on their way to a second round battle with 10th-seeded UC Santa Barbara.
In true Penn State fashion, it was a hard fought defensive battle for the full 90 minutes that allowed them to escape the gritty Terriers on their home turf of Jeffrey Field for the final time in 2013.
There were two chances for the Nittany Lions early in the match that were stopped by St. Francis. But the Lions struck in 37th minute when midfielder Drew Klingenberg and Eli Dennis connected on a goal that defined their contributions in the 2013 season for Penn State.
Klingenberg played a ball on the outside and saw the streaking Dennis who finished the cross just as he did three times in the regular season, except this tally had bigger implications.
"Any time I see Eli open I know there's a good combination play ready to happen and if he's going to put the work in I'm absolutely going to put the work in too," Klingenberg said after the match. "I saw him streaking and before you know it, it was a goal. It was an awesome play."
Warming called the sequence a world-class goal and it was exactly that.
St. Francis was just a few inches away from a world-class goal of their own in the 57th minute when junior forward Kevin Correa took a free kick from deep outside the box and nearly bent it past goalkeeper Andrew Wolverton before he hit the post.
Penn State was then able to hold off a Terrier rally late in the second half and seal a trip to the second round of the tournament and a Friday morning trip to California.
A lot is to be learned, though, from this tough first round test for the Nittany Lions. First and foremost, however, the most important thing in Dennis' mind is that they were able to play an NCAA tournament game, something only two Penn State players could say prior to Thursday's match.
"It's good to get a first round win like this because other than Jordan (Tyler) and Grant (Warming) nobody has been in a tournament game on our whole team," said Dennis. "It's nice to have a first round game especially on that was as competitive as this to set the stage for what's to come."
Coach Warming added a short bit to Dennis' statement.
"We're veterans now," he said.
That's how he wants his team to play moving forward. The biggest thing he, Dennis and Klingenberg stressed post-game is game management, something all three thought could have been improved late in the second half against St. Francis Brooklyn.
The Terriers had a few opportunities late in the final 45 minutes and that will be the focus for Penn State prior to playing Santa Barbara at historical Harder Stadium on Sunday.
"We need to slow the pace of the game down sometimes and that means instead of flying forward and taking guys into the box we have to put our foot on the ball and play it back," Dennis said. "We have to pick and choose when we want to attack and sometimes possession is better than taking a chance and potentially losing the ball."
Warming agreed, saying in a situation with the ball and the lead his team has to be more aware of where they have the ball and what they are going to do with it.
"If you're going to lose the ball, it has to be on the edges," he said. "It's too easy to counter attack when you lose the ball in the middle. We could have played around the edges a lot more. It's just the little things."
Penn State will have two full days to make those adjustments before facing off with Santa Barbara at 9 p.m. on Sunday with a trip to the round of 16 on the line.
By Jackson Thibodeau, GoPSUsports.com
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - As the holiday season rolls in, so does the midway point of the Penn State women's hockey 2013-14 campaign. The Nittany Lions remain focused on their unique opportunity to develop the young program and continue to work towards their goals.
With 14 regular season games behind them and 20 remaining, head coach Josh Brandwene is pleased with the growth his team has shown, but he would rather focus on what's ahead of them.
"The big things going forward that we are looking for are continued consistency and continued individual accountability," Brandwene said, "and it's those little details that will help us get to the next level."
Brandwene has seen an improvement in these departments, acknowledging that recent practices have had increased intensity as the team has been battling for pucks along the boards and been making plays along the blue line.
At 2-11-1, the Blue and White wish that they had more tallies in the win column, but they can still draw plenty of positives from the games they have completed to this point in the season.
They have improved in many statistical categories from the 2012-13 campaign, including power play percentage (.129 in 2012-13, .157 this season) and faceoff win percentage (.450 in 2012-13, .463 this season).
Fourteen games into last season the Nittany Lions were 5-8-1 (1-4-1 CHA0, which included a 2-5-1 record at home, while this year Brandwene's squad is 0-6-0 in the CHA and 1-7-0 at home in Pegula Ice Arena. Rather than focus on the negatives associated with this kind of adversity, the team has chosen to take a different approach.
"It's all about how you respond to adversity and this presents a tremendous opportunity for us," said Brandwene. "Teams that grow from this kind of adversity give themselves the opportunity to do magical things later in the season. That's the way we are choosing to look at it and they [the student-athletes] are rising to the occasion."
One way that the team has dealt with adversity so far this season has been a focus on building chemistry and relationships with one another beyond the confines of Pegula Ice Arena.
With the arrival of the holiday season and breaks from academics, the Nittany Lions have an even greater opportunity to grow closer. The team will remain on campus during the Thanksgiving holiday break because of their game on Nov. 30.
"I think it will be a good time for our team to do stuff together outside of hockey and school and grow a little more as a team and family," said junior forward Jess Desorcie. "Fortunately, everyone who lives in the area or close to it has offered for teammates to come over and celebrate Thanksgiving with their families. We just want to make sure everyone has a place to go."
For a team that is already so close-knit, this time that they will spend together in the coming weeks will establish chemistry that can translate back onto the ice.
"They are tremendously supportive of one another and that's a huge plus on the team chemistry side," Brandwene said. "It benefits us on the bench, it benefits us on the ice and it benefits them in their lives away from the rink."
Before Thanksgiving week, the team will first travel to Wentzville, Mo., to square off against conference foe Lindenwood for matchups on Friday at 8 p.m. and Saturday at 3 p.m. The team will take Thanksgiving Day off from practice before hosting Maine on Nov. 30 at 2 p.m.
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. -
Each one of the Nittany Lion football seniors who will be honored prior to
Saturday's Nebraska game (3:30 p.m.) had the opportunity to walk away from Penn
State at no cost.
But they didn't.
Kyle Baublitz, Kevin Blanchard, Alex Butterworth, Glenn Carson, Bryan Davie, Brandon Felder, Garry Gilliam, Adam Gress, Ty Howle, DaQuan Jones, Alex Kenney, Matt Lehman, Stephen Obeng-Agyapong, Eric Shrive, John Urschel, Malcolm Willis and Pat Zerbe stayed at Penn State because they felt like the people around them were too special to walk away from.
For that, the 2013 senior class will forever be remembered for their commitment to Penn State. And for that, fans are encouraged to be in the stadium to recognize the commitment of the special senior class.
"We can't wait to come into Beaver Stadium and hopefully it will be a great crowd," head coach Bill O'Brien said. "I would imagine that the Penn State fans will turn out in force to show their respect for this senior class that stuck with this university and stuck with this football program. I'm looking forward to the game on Saturday."
In addition to its success on the field, the 2013 senior class is a standout group in the classroom. By the end of the spring semester in 2014, the 17 seniors are projected to earn a combined 22 degrees. Additionally, the group is projected to have graduated from eight different Penn State colleges. Of the 17 players being recognized, 10 of them have a cumulative GPA higher than 3.0. Eight members of the senior group entered the 2013 with a Penn State degree already in hand.
"I think it's a special thing when you get introduced in front of the home crowd. It's a special stadium; I think these kids deserve a great crowd."
All 17 seniors are unique to one another, but they share the common bond of sticking together in the most difficult of times. When the NCAA sanctions were announced in July of 2012, this group of players had a choice to make. Outsiders thought it was a no-brainer and the members of the roster would walk out the door in favor of a fresh start at a program without sanctions.
But that's not in the DNA of anyone who will take part in the senior recognition ceremony. The 2013 seniors viewed the situation as an opportunity to be a part of something special. They stuck together and nothing tore this group apart.
"Resilient is a perfect word to describe us," linebacker Glenn Carson said. "We have been through so much together. We chose to be with each other over any school in the nation. Without a doubt, we will always stick together."
Fans are encouraged to be in their seats at least 30 minutes prior to kickoff on Saturday afternoon to be a part of a Senior Day ceremony that will honor a special group of student-athletes. The ceremony begins at 3:10 p.m.
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By Tyler Feldman, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - The one area that head coach Coquese Washington has repetitively stressed as integral to the success of her team this season is the development of her seven freshmen student-athletes.
"The more experience that they get playing, and start to feel comfortable and confident, that is going to be good for us," said Washington.
Penn State may have completed just its fourth game of the season, but thanks to the dazzling play of two of Washington's freshmen, the Lady Lions had no problem breezing past Bucknell, 92-49, in the friendly confines of the Bryce Jordan Center Wednesday evening.
Both Kaliyah Mitchell and Alex Harris impacted the pace of the game substantially to lead the Lady Lions in a lopsided home victory. The two first-year players logged 20 minutes apiece; with each of them appearing more confident and more productive as the game progressed.
"The more playing time they can get, and they can learn from their mistakes in games, it's better for us overall, and it's going to be better for our growth and development," said Washington. "Kaliyah and Alex have been getting better and better as the season goes on. Their confidence is getting better. They're naturally impact players and both of them have a knack for rebounding."
For Harris, a 6-foot-3 forward out of Lorain, Ohio, her night ended with a near double-double. She was a force to be reckoned with as she tallied eight points by shooting a perfect 3-for-3 from the floor, while also corralling a career-best 11 rebounds and adding two blocked shots.
"Alex [Harris] has a knack for blocking shots," said Washington. "I don't even know how she does it. She just taps it. It's barely a block, so I don't even know what you call that. She just has a knack for being around the ball and making plays."
The Lady Lions were able to contain the ball and contest shots consistently due to the play of Harris, whose size was a clear advantage against the Bucknell squad. Not only did Penn State out-rebound the Bison, 56-32, but Washington's squad also managed to hold their opponent's field goal percentage to a season-low 25.5%.
With that being said, the Lady Lions were not just strong on the defensive end. Because of the energized play of 6-foot-2 freshman Kaliyah Mitchell, the Blue and White were extremely active on the offensive end, swinging crisp passes along the perimeter to create open shots and opportunities down on the low post.
The forward/guard from Stone Mountain, Ga. scored a career-best 14 points, while managing to dish out eight assists, too.
"[Kaliyah] is a hustle player; a blue collar player," said Washington. "She brings her lunch pail to work with her everyday, and she does all of the non-glamorous stuff--diving on the floor and deflections. She just has a knack for being around the ball. She contorts her body and makes tough baskets when she drives. She does those things in practice, so I'm not surprised when she does them in games."
After the game, Washington alluded to the fact that each game the freshmen players are progressing and learning to play at the pace she would like to see. With the focus of the team being to get better everyday, for the freshmen, logging minutes and gaining game experience is critical to their development.
"Every game I see a little bit more progress," said Washington. "For us, the focus is just getting better everyday, so that we are playing our best basketball at the end of the year. If we can do that, I like the team that we will be."
Since Penn State now does not play again until Nov. 29, when the team heads down to the Bahamas during Thanksgiving break to take part in the Junkanoo Jam, both Harris and Mitchell will have to find ways to maintain their confidence on the hardwood.
Luckily for them, Washington plans to scrimmage in practice all week to help keep the freshmen confident and in sync with the system.
Though practice can't always simulate real game speed and a trip to the Bahamas may seem like a vacation to some, Washington joked with the media following Wednesday's contest and, in part, made her team aware of what she expected in the week to come.
"They may think this will be a little bit of a vacation," said Washington, "but they haven't seen the itinerary yet."
By Matt Allibone, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVESITY PARK, Pa. - As a star senior at Newark Academy in West Orange, N.J. in 2009, Maya Hayes had her selection of college soccer programs to choose from, including Duke, North Carolina, and UCLA.
Despite the wide range of options, there was something about the promise of the program that head coach Erica Walsh had started at Penn State that Hayes couldn't walk away from.
"I didn't want to go to another school where I was just going to be another name going through their program," said Hayes. "I wanted to go to a place where I could help build a program and make a good team great."
Four years, two All-American selections and 71 goals later, the senior forward has no regrets about the ride that her decision to come to Penn State has taken her on.
From her freshman campaign, when the Nittany Lions finished just one game over .500, to last season when they made the school's first appearance in a national title game, Hayes has watched the Lions grow as a program.
"It's been a journey and one that I've enjoyed since I got here," said Hayes. "My expectations have been exceeded and it's been a joy to watch this program grow."
As the Nittany Lions have risen as a national power during Hayes's time with the team, she herself has developed immensely, having gone from a raw, talented freshman to the third leading goal scorer in Penn State history.
When Walsh watches Hayes play now compared to when she first watched her suit up for the Blue and White, the differences begin with the refinement that the two-time Big Ten Forward of the Year has put into her game.
"She's a student of the game and she's become a lot more sophisticated," said Walsh. "She reads the play a lot better and her movement has improved as she's added more variety to her game."
That variety of skills and explosive speed has been terrorizing Big Ten defenses since 2010, but when Walsh thinks about Hayes's development, she spends little time dwelling on the goals.
Never the team's most vocal player, Hayes's ascension in the locker room as a player who others can learn from has impressed the entire Nittany Lions coaching staff, and it all begins with her work ethic.
"Maya is definitely a lead by example player," said Walsh. "She puts the work in and people respect her and understand who she is and what she is about."
For Hayes, being a leader has meant understanding the regard that her teammates hold her in and living up to the expectations that come with being one of the nation's top goal scorers.
"The older that I've gotten I've learned about the affect that I can have on people around me," said Hayes. "I've tried to be a bigger influence, not just with my play but also with my words and doing the little things."
Perhaps the best quality that Hayes has exhibited during her time at Penn State has been her never-ending desire to continue improving.
After consecutive All-American seasons her sophomore and junior years, Hayes spent the summer before her senior year working harder than ever, in order to make sure she was prepared for her final campaign.
For a squad that had just lost All-American midfielder and Herman Trophy Finalist Christine Nairn, the added dedication and devotion was invaluable.
"When you lose a player like Christine your attack changes," said Walsh. "Maya has had to do a whole lot more which has made her a better and more well-rounded player."
After another sterling campaign in which she has added 19 more goals to her career total, Hayes has led the Nittany Lions into the second round of the NCAA Tournament looking for one more shot at a national title.
However this season ends up for her and her teammates, the West Orange, N.J. native hopes that she will be remembered in Happy Valley for more than just the offensive ability that she has displayed on a regular basis.
"I just want to be remembered as someone who cared and looked out for everyone," said Hayes. "It's easy to say scoring goals but at the end of the day it's [your influence] more about the people around you than it is about soccer."
When asked what she will remember about her star forward the most, Walsh doesn't hesitate to say that she will remember Hayes's smile before she thinks of anything else.
At the end of the day, the spirit that Hayes has brought to the Penn State women's soccer program only makes the task of replacing her that much harder.
"She's always happy and she makes everyone want to train which makes training so enjoyable," said Walsh. "A player like her comes around every five years if you're lucky so you can't just replace someone like her."
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - GoPSUsports.com caught up with junior cornerback
Adrian Amos and senior offensive tackle Adam Gress following Wednesday practice
as the Nittany Lions prepare for Saturday's Senior Day matchup against Nebraska.
Follow GoPSUsports.com's Tony Mancuso on Twitter @GoPSUTony
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. -
GoPSUsports.com talks with associate head coach Cody Sanderson in the latest
installment of This Week In Penn State Wrestling. The No. 1-ranked Nittany Lions host Lock
Haven on Sunday in the first home dual of the season.
Follow GoPSUsports.com's Tony Mancuso on Twitter @GoPSUTony
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Game Notes | What to Watch Blog Post | BLOG: Improvement Continues for Youthful Lady Lions
By Julie Bacanskas, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - As the Nittany Lion field hockey team took the practice field back in August, the high expectations for success this season were made very clear.
The Lions began their season ranked No. 6, the highest preseason ranking the team had earned in five years. Nevertheless, the Lions knew they had some work to do, especially after losing key seniors Kelsey Amy, Hannah Allison, and Ayla Halus.
"Honestly, it's one game at a time because of the personnel we lost last year," said Morett, at the start of the season. "Whenever you have those major changes there's a little bit more work to do in the areas that are obviously significant to the outcome of the game."
Despite these losses, the Nittany Lions returned a core group of seniors, including captains Brittany Grzywacz and Whitney Reddig, as well as a strong group of juniors, one of which was captain Laura Gebhart. Additionally, Grzywacz, Reddig, and Gebhart were all named Big Ten Players to Watch, demonstrating that the team was not lacking in experience.
Penn State began regular season play against then-No. 8 Old Dominion, defeating the Monarchs by a final score of 3-1. While this win sparked excitement, the Lions dropped their next three matches against then-No. 7 Virginia, Temple, and then-No. 4 Connecticut.
"I think a lot of people had some doubts early on," said Morett. "We started out 1-3, but I really wasn't worried because I knew we were playing some tough teams and that this team would get back on track."
As Morett had predicted, the Lions quickly bounced back from these losses, stringing together a 12-match win streak over the next month and a half.
A major turning point in the season came during the Lions' match against then-No. 3 Princeton, the NCAA defending national champions. After a tough 70 minutes of play, Penn State emerged victoriously by a final score of 4-3, snapping the Tigers' previous 17-match winning streak. This win also marked the first time the Lions had beaten the Tigers since the 2010 season, which dramatically boosted the squad's confidence. Two of the Lions' four goals during the match came from junior Taylor Herold, who emerged as the Lions' leading goal scorer this season.
"We accomplished our goals today," said Herold following the Princeton game. "Not only did we score and finish, but we also reached our goals of playing with discipline on defense and pressuring the ball. Our future looks good if we keep playing how we played today."
As the Lions continued to improve both offensively and defensively, they continued to win. Throughout the season, the Lions accumulated a total of seven shutouts, showcasing their defensive dominance. The Big Ten also recognized this superior defensive play, as the Nittany Lions were awarded the Big Ten Defensive Player of the Week award for seven consecutive weeks. Grzywacz collected the honor four times, while Gebhart, junior goaltender Kylie Licata, and senior defender Abby Fuhrman all earned the award once.
As the squad started conference play, they successfully defeated Indiana, then-No. 10 Northwestern, and Ohio State, allowing only one goal over the three matches.
"I think that we just try to take each game one at a time," said Morett of conference play. "You try to be as sharp as you can on the road and hopefully you have more momentum playing at home, but you have to be on your toes all the time."
With a 3-0 conference record, the Lions were set to play Michigan State on Oct. 9. Not only did the match determine a conference leader, but it also marked the Lions' final home game of the 2013 season, as well as senior day for the eight graduating student-athletes.
Late in the second half, the Lions trailed 3-1; however, two quick goals tied the game, forcing overtime. After two scoreless overtime halves and incredible defensive plays by both Licata and Grzywacz, the game went to a shootout, where the Nittany Lions completed their comeback in dramatic fashion. With the win, the Lions remained undefeated in the Big Ten.
"I think that Brittany Grzywacz played out of her mind," said Morett after the game. "I mean she could be offensive, defensive. That save she had at the end was incredible."
The save Morett referenced came during the first overtime half as Grzywacz made a diving stick save to keep the ball out of the back of the Lion's cage. Such strong efforts throughout the season helped the senior captain earned the award of Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year for the second consecutive season.
After 12-consecutive wins, Penn State was defeated by Michigan in the final regular season game. The game was hard-fought, as the Lions took Michigan to overtime. This defeat marked the team's only conference loss. They finished with a regular season record of 13-4.
With a 5-1 Big Ten conference record, the Nittany Lions grabbed a share of the Big Ten Regular Season title for the second consecutive season and also earned the No. 1 seed in the Big Ten Tournament. Additionally, the squad was granted a first round bye, allowing for some extra rest before the first match.
In the semi-finals
of the Big Ten Tournament, Penn State took on Iowa, but was ultimately defeated
in overtime by a final score of 4-3.
Even with the early exit from the Big Ten Tournament, the Nittany Lions were invited to the NCAA Tournament for the 29th time in program history and the fourth consecutive year. The Lions faced off against Princeton for the second time this season and knew that match would be incredibly competitive.
"It's tournament time, so it kind of has a different element to it than it did back when we played them in September," said Morett leading up to the match. "I think it's going to be a very competitive game for 70 minutes, and both teams are going to be fighting hard to play on Sunday."
Penn State was defeated in the back-and-forth thriller, as Princeton edged out the Lions in the 5-4 heartbreaker.
While the team is certainly disappointed by the loss and end to its season, the future of Penn State field hockey remains bright. Next season, the Lions will return many key starters, including Licata, Herold, Gebhart, Katie Breneman, and Katie Andrews. Although the losses of student-athletes such as Grzywacz and Reddig will be hard to adjust to, the expectations for Penn State field hockey will remain high, just as they have throughout the years.