By Mandy Bell, GoPSUSports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK - No. 5 Penn State defeated the No. 11 Princeton Tigers 4-2 Sunday afternoon at the Penn State Field Hockey Complex, but Nittany Lions were not satisfied.
The Nittany Lions (11-1) got off to a slow start when the Tigers' Krista Hoffman snuck Princeton's (6-4) only shot on goal of the first half past Penn State goalkeeper Jenny Rizzo into the back of the cage.
"Once you start getting into the grove of things blocking shots gets pretty easy," Rizzo said. "I think that once you make that first save, you just keep it rolling. Even if you do let a goal in, I just kind of have to reset. In other positions you can get mad at yourself and it doesn't really matter, but I am the last line. You got to push it to the side."
Despite the fact that Penn State answered with three well-set-up goals before the end of the first half, the Nittany Lions' head coach Char Morett-Curtiss was looking for more.
"I just thought we were really flat," Morett-Curtiss said. "I thought giving up that goal early is obviously an issue that we have. I don't think we played with a lot of inspiration today, which is disappointing as a coach. The goals were beautiful. Some of the goals were absolutely perfect. But at the same time I think we missed a lot of opportunities to score more goals."
Princeton came out much stronger offensively in the second half. The Tigers were forcing themselves into the circle to get more looks on goal, meaning the Nittany Lions had to place their trust in Rizzo to stay in the game.
"Jenny having to work so hard was because of the defense," Morett-Curtiss said. "Our defense just let them walk into the circle and take shots. I think that's obviously an issue that we have right now and that's something we have to continue to work on. We thought we had these things ironed out but we don't. We need a stronger presence. Jenny was brilliant. I think she really kept the lead for us in that second half."
After allowing Princeton's only shot on goal to find the cage in the first half, Rizzo came back in the second half blocking any ball that was shot her way. The sophomore goalkeeper recorded eight saves and only allowed one goal in Princeton's 10 shots on goal in the second half.
"I just was not ready for the first goal," Rizzo said. "I realized that I really need to be in this game and the only way we were going to win it is if my defense and I were working together. Once my defense started talking and we were communicating a little bit more, it got a little bit easier."
Although the Penn State squad may not have been clicking the way it has been for the majority of its 2016 season, senior forward Kirsten Gochnauer has been someone Morett-Curtiss can constantly rely on.
"I think Kirsten is the most consistent player that we have," Morett-Curtiss said. "She is just one end to the other. You see her put some strong block tackles down in the defensive end and she's right there in the offensive end either helping set things up or finishing."
Gochnauer scored her second goal of the season halfway through the second half securing the Nittany Lions' fourth and final goal of the game. Her last goal of the season came against Old Dominion in the first game of Penn State's season.
"It was great to score," Gochnauer said. "I missed the same shot in the exact same position about five minutes earlier in the game, so you kind of beat yourself up. It was awesome to have another opportunity at that one and kind of put it away."
The Nittany Lions have already put this game behind them and began looking ahead to their next matchup.
"I think we just have to realize that you have to keep chipping away," Gochnauer said. "Maybe you're not playing your best game or you're not as connected as you think you should be, but taking it one game at a time and taking it into practice this week will help. You just have to keep going. Ohio State is next. They are always a great opponent. Each game is different. You can always learn something from each game."
The Penn State Nittany Lions will host the Buckeyes at 4 p.m. Thursday at the Penn State Field Hockey Complex.