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Champions Visit State Capitol

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HARRISBURG, Pa. - Penn State hit the state capitol today for an afternoon of recognition, celebrating Nittany Lion conference champion student-athletes and head coaches following a record-setting 2016-17 season both in competition and in the classroom.

Joined by select head coaches and staff members as well as student-athletes, the group toured through the Pennsylvania House and Senate, stopping in for lunch with Sen. Jake Corman in his office. Penn State then made its way to the floor of the Pennsylvania Senate before remarks from Corman, welcoming the group to the state's capitol following a few early proceedings.

Penn State then made its way to the floor of the Pennsylvania House, which holds all 203 members, including Pennsylvania's Rep. Mike Hanna, Rep. Kerry Benninghoff, Rep. Rich Irvin and Rep. Scott Conklin, who read a resolution to again welcome and congratulate the Nittany Lions on an all-around successful season, one that drew a standing ovation from the members on the floor. 

"I want to congratulate the teams for not only what they do on the field but what they do in the community, the outreach they give, the coaches who oversee them," Conklin said. 

Nittany Lion director of athletics Sandy Barbour only echoed the all-around success in her remarks in the main rotunda later in the afternoon, noting that the individuals surrounding her representing a combined 2016-17 total of nine conference titles, among a few other crowns, are only one part of the story.

Penn State was recently slated fourth in the first spring update of the Learfield Directors' Cup standings following a year that saw seven Nittany Lion squads earn Big Ten Championships or tournament titles in seven sports, the most of any league institution and the third-highest total in school history.

As head coach Cael Sanderson brought instantaneous cheers from the floor of the Pennsylvania house upon his introduction, the room was reminded of Nittany Lion wrestling team's stunning second consecutive NCAA Wrestling Championship, marking its sixth in the last seven years, with five individuals earning NCAA titles along the way.

As Barbour pointed out though, the impact of the Blue and White extends much further than excellence in competition.

Nearly a month ago, a school record 114 Penn State student-athletes graduated, bringing the 2016-17 total to 142, with more students on track to cross the stage in August. Penn State also revealed its 89 percent NCAA Graduation Success Rate this year, which stands just one point below its all-time program mark. 

"Penn State student-athletes, not unlike their student colleagues and their servant hearts, have dedicated themselves to service," Barbour said. "Our student-athletes served over 6,200 hours of community engagement this last year. This comprehensive excellence is embraced by our Penn State and Pennsylvania community. It's truly Penn State's point of difference. It has historically motivated a state and a community, connected passionately to each and every one of our programs and each and every one of our student-athletes who wear the Blue and White."

Representative of just a small piece of a variety of community engagement close to Penn State student-athletes is THON, a beloved annual event that encompasses the entire university and Happy Valley community.

Led by the efforts of the Penn State Student Athlete Advisory Board, SAAB raised $59,679.49 for THON in 2017, which ranked third among the 400-plus general organizations represented. Surging past a fundraising goal of $50,000, the 2017 figure is SAAB's second-largest total in the history of the organization, adding to a career total of $680,000, all for THON and the Four Diamonds Fund, with four Penn State student-athletes joining the 703 dancers on the floor this year.

Among those dancers this year was women's soccer's Megan Schafer, a Big Ten Champion from Langhorne, who joined the group today for her second trip to state capitol, but first as a Nittany Lion. 

"A couple of years ago I got recognized for winning a state championship, so I think it's pretty cool coming back at the collegiate level to get recognized for our hard work all season," Schafer said. "I think it's really cool everything that people put together just to recognize us today."

Prior to Penn State, Schafer scored the overtime game-winner to lead Neshaminy high school (also the alma mater of Penn State head football coach James Franklin) to a Pennsylvania state title.

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The entire group of Nittany Lion coaches and student-athletes were treated to a personal meeting with Gov. Tom Wolf, who stopped by the steps of the main rotunda to greet the champions before heading back to Happy Valley.

VIDEO: Field Hockey's THON 2017 Pep Rally Dance

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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Another highly anticipated THON event, check out field hockey's full pep rally dance!
 

Celkos Representing Field Hockey at THON

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By Mandy Bell, GoPSUSports.com Student Feature Writer

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa.  - Four years ago, as a freshman, Carly Celkos joined her field hockey team on stage at Penn State's 46-hour dance marathon, THON, to dance in the annual pep rally. As she looked out over the floor seeing the hundreds of dancers who chose to stand for the entire weekend, Celkos knew that is where she wanted to be before she graduated.

"In my freshman year, all the freshmen wore crazy outfits and I was in a banana suit," Celkos said. "We split into grades and did like a 30 second clip and danced and I did the jerk. It was just a lot of fun. Then I started doing committees my sophomore, junior and senior year and I knew I wanted to dance my senior year to come full circle."

Now, as a senior, Celkos will be dancing in THON 2017, as a Student-Athlete Advisory Board (SAAB) representative from the field hockey team. SAAB selects student-athletes each year from various programs to dance in THON based on the athlete's participation in fundraising for the event. Celkos is one of four athletes who will be representing SAAB throughout THON weekend.

"I am so proud and thankful," Celkos said. "The field hockey alumni have been great and they have helped me raise so much money for THON. It definitely makes me proud to be a Penn Stater. I get to represent athletics and Penn State for all the kids, so it's really great."

SAAB is paired with two THON families. Each athletic team shares its time with the two families, but Celkos and the field hockey team spend a lot more time with one family than any other athletic team on campus. 

The trainer for the field hockey team is Renee Messina. Messina's daughter, Isabella, had pediatric cancer. Growing up with a mom who was constantly with the Penn State field hockey team, Isabella has a close relationship with the field hockey team. Celkos said she will be using Isabella as her main motivation throughout THON weekend.

Isabella will be in attendance at THON between her field hockey games at a local tournament. Celkos said when those familiar faces are with her, the weekend will be much easier. 

"I was thinking there's definitely been times in games when you mentally think you can't do it anymore, but you have another five minutes and you just have to," Celkos said. "I definitely will hit those moments during THON where I am super tired, but I'll just have to get over the hump and cruise through."

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To help her during these tough moments, Celkos has a list of close family and friends who will be able to come visit her on the floor to give her that extra motivation to stay on her feet. Some of her pass list members include her parents, some teammates and her roommates. Celkos said that her parents have been the biggest help in preparation for THON and some of her family members have been preparing packages she will receive during the event. 

Other than seeing her family, friends and THON families, Celkos is looking forward to experiencing her two favorite THON events as a dancer on the floor.

"I am definitely biased. I love the pep rally," Celkos said. "I am really excited to watch it. I am not going to dance with my team this year, but I am going to go up after to get a picture with them. I know all the athletes so that will be so much fun. Also, the final four hours are always amazing."

Celkos found out that she would be dancing in THON this year on January 18. Since then, the senior has been preparing physically as if she were training for the field hockey season. Celkos has also worked on getting as much sleep as possible and avoiding all colds and stomach bugs that have been spreading on campus. Her biggest preparation has been eliminating coffee from her diet and drinking a lot of water to be ready to stand, without sleep, for 46 straight hours.

After years of fundraising, participating in committees and now dancing, Celkos encourages every Penn State student to get involved with THON. 

"It's definitely a great community outreach that reaches so many people," Celkos said. "Especially for athletes, we are really on a time constraint, but whatever time you can give to other things do it. THON has helped me have a more well-rounded experience at Penn State. Certain kids look up to certain athletic teams, so it's definitely great when they see us giving back too."

SAAB Hosts Lip Sync Battle to Benefit THON

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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Filling the HUB-Robeson Center Freeman Auditorium with Penn State students and Nittany Lion student-athletes, the Student Athlete Advisory Board (SAAB) hosted its second annual lip sync battle Wednesday evening.

In a full for the kids effort, the annual event benefits THON, Penn State's Interfraternity Council/Panhellenic Dance Marathon to support pediatric cancer.

Featuring musical lip syncing acts from 11 different Penn State Athletics programs, months worth of planning and preparation finally came together in an energetic evening for a tremendous cause.

"I think it just bring out more of the sense of community that we really already have in athletics," track and field sophomore and lead event coordinator Tess Kearns said. "We're so strong all together but to be able to something for THON and see the impact that it's making every year - if we could just raise that number even a little bit on final reveal, that would be all the difference."

From lip sync covers ranging from Justin Beiber mixes to Beyoncé, Sia and School of Rock, the event, which was open to all to attend, brought laughs throughout the night with guest judges featuring director of student-athlete welfare and development Liz Johnson, director of Penn State's John Curley Center for Sports Journalism, John Affleck and Penn State Blue Band drum major Jimmy Frisbie. 

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Penn State women's volleyball highlighted early with their Justin Beiber mix, followed up with women's soccer's rendition of Sia's "Chandelier" midway through the program. 

"SAAB THON is my favorite thing in the world," said SAAB THON chair Angela Widlacki, a member of the Nittany Lion women's soccer team. "Being able to come out here and see this huge crowd, it means so much to us and I know it meant a lot to our family the Messina's." 

Men's hockey and defending SAAB lip sync battle champion wrestling closed out the evening lip syncing to a pair of movie tunes featuring "Zach's song" from School of Rock and "Breaking Free" from High School Musical. 


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With the final scores tallied, the panel of judges voted Penn State women's soccer duo of Widlacki and Liisi Vink-Lainas in the top spot this year to earn the golden microphone. Men's hockey finished second, while wrestling claimed the third-place finish.

Penn State's Season Ends in NCAA Round One

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By Mandy Bell, GoPSUSports.com Student Staff Writer

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Penn State's Jenny Rizzo said last week that it is both good and bad to face a familiar face in the NCAA Tournament. It is good because the team knows what to expect, but bad because it is hard to beat a good team twice. 

On Saturday at the Penn State Field Hockey Complex, the Nittany Lions proved how difficult it truly is to defeat a top 10 team twice in a 2-1 loss to the Princeton Tigers. 

"I think they definitely came out stronger than the last time we played them," Rizzo said. "I think their defense was phenomenal today. They read our corners a little bit more than they did the first time, so I think they did a good job of scouting us."

The Nittany Lions, who ranked first in the Big Ten and fourth in the NCAA standings for goals scored per game (4.05) were shut down in the first half by the Tigers' defense. None of Penn State's five shots in the first half were the quality looks at the cage that the offense had been used to getting all season.

"Princeton's defense was the best defense we have seen all year," Penn State head coach Char Morett-Curtiss said. "We have been preaching to our kids all year about being low and [Princeton] just did a phenomenal job of taking away lanes that we wanted to attack. I thought Princeton played a great defensive game today. We couldn't get into the circle and draw the corners to get the quality shots that we wanted to get." 

Princeton broke the 0-0 tie 10 minutes into the second half. Cat Caro sent a ball into the circle just ahead of Ryan McCarthy. McCarthy reached her stick in front of her to get the ball and started to fall to the ground. As she was falling, Rizzo got low to protect the cage, but McCarthy was able to get some air under her shot sending the ball into the top left corner of the cage.

The Tigers (11-7) tacked on another goal by Caro on a penalty corner with just 10 minutes remaining in the game.

The Nittany Lions (17-3) were finally able to get on the board with a little more than three minutes left in the second half when Moira Putsch assisted Aurelia Meijer on her 11th goal of the season.

Despite a late scramble by the Penn State offense, the Nittany Lions ended their season, losing the first round of the NCAA Tournament.

"In the NCAA Tournament, anything can happen," Morett-Curtiss said. "We sort of had a slow start. We had the right intentions, but we didn't give a good pass or we didn't receive the ball well. We had the right ideas. I just feel like we should have come out even stronger in the second half. It just took us too long to get the momentum built up."

Penn State will be losing its four seniors Carly Celkos, Kirsten Gochnauer, Emilee Ehret and Brooke Birosik. In her postgame press conference, Birosik struggled to control her emotions after playing her final game as a Nittany Lion.

"I am sorry I am just upset right now," Birosik said. "I wouldn't have wanted to go to any other school. I just love Penn State so much. It hasn't set in yet that that was my last game."

Without its four seniors, the Penn State field hockey team would not have had one of its most successful seasons in the program's history. The four seniors combined contributed 14 goals, 19 assists and 47 points in the 2016 season.

"This team would not have had the success that we had this year if it wasn't for the four seniors," Morett-Curtiss said. "When we started in the spring they were very committed. They were passionate about how hard they wanted to work. They wanted to turn this season around and get back to playing Penn State field hockey. They were incredible leaders throughout the entire year including today. I couldn't be more proud of the senior class. They really elevated this program in a short time."

Although Penn State struggled to accept this loss, the team already knows that they have to look forward.

"I know this team was capable of anything," Rizzo said. "We saw that last weekend with the Big Ten Championship. But looking forward, we just need to have a strong spring. We need to work on a lot of things I'm sure, but we just need to move on from this and look forward to next season. We grew so much from last season to this season, so I know we will just grow more for next season."

NCAA Tournament Time In Happy Valley: What You Need To Know

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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Fall NCAA Tournament play in Happy Valley has nearly arrived as two Nittany Lion squads are set to kick off a pair of postseason events this weekend.

As both the defending NCAA national champion women's soccer team and the the 2016 Big Ten Tournament champion field hockey team gear up for postseason play, here's five things you need to know before heading out to catch them in action this weekend.

Penn State Women's Soccer vs. Bucknell - Friday, Nov. 11 - 6 p.m. (Jeffrey Field)
1. With an 11-4-4 overall record, the Nittany Lions have qualified for their 22nd consecutive NCAA Tournament, having also clinched a share of their 18th Big Ten regular season title earlier this year. 

2.  Penn State holds a 15-3 advantage in first round games heading into the matchup against the Bison, having won each of the last seven consecutive opening round outings. Within the last 15 years, the Nittany Lions have had the opportunity to host the first and second rounds of the NCAA Tournament in the "pod" format a total of 10 times, accumulating an 18-2 record within the 10-season span.

3. Penn State is 46-19-2 all-time in NCAA Tournament outings, which includes a total of five College Cup appearances along with the 2015 NCAA national title. 

4. Drawing Bucknell in the opening round, Penn State owns an 18-0-1 record in the all-time series against the Bison. The Nittany Lions and the Bison have met twice in NCAA Tournament play, with Penn State claiming wins in both outings at home in Jeffrey Field.

5. Bucknell is also a familiar program to Penn State head coach Erica Dambach, who started her coaching path out of college as a graduate assistant on the Bison staff in 1997.

More from Dambach below.


Penn State Field Hockey vs. Princeton - Saturday, Nov. 12 - 11:30 a.m. (Field Hockey Complex)

1. The Nittany Lions captured their seventh Big Ten Tournament title last week, taking down Maryland, 2-1 to secure the crown. Penn State earned the No. 4 seed in the NCAA Tournament, marking the first time since 2014 that the Nittany Lions will compete in the postseason event. 

2. The Nittany Lions have competed in 31 NCAA Tournament events in program history, which is tied with Old Dominion for second all-time.  

3. Penn State is set to welcome its NCAA Tournament first round opponent to the Field Hockey Complete for the first time since 2012. The Nittany Lions drew Princeton as their opening round opponent, having already defeated the Tigers, 4-2 during the regular season.

4. Both Penn State and Princeton most recently met in first round of the 2013 NCAA Tournament where the Tigers earned a 5-4 win to advance to the quarterfinals. 

5. Should the Nittany Lions defeat Princeton, Penn State would host the winner of the Michigan/Virginia matchup Sunday, Nov. 13 at 2 p.m. in the Field Hockey Complex. Penn State has also already topped both the Wolverines and the Cavaliers during the 2016 regular season, defeating Michigan once again in the semifinals of the Big Ten Tournament.

Catch up with Penn State head coach Char Morett-Curtiss ahead of the opening round. 

Everything On the Line in NCAA Tournament Play

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By Mandy Bell, GoPSUSports.com Student Feature Writer

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - The Penn State field hockey team's dinner reservations at The Tavern restaurant on Friday can only mean one thing - the NCAA tournament is right around the corner. 

The only time the Nittany Lions have organized dinners is when they qualify for the NCAA Tournament and they always go to The Tavern in downtown State College. 

"It's an NCAA tradition," Penn State head coach Char Morett-Curtiss said. "Even if we had an away game, we'd be having dinner at The Tavern before we left. We have been doing it forever. I am really good friends with the owner. He is a big supporter of the team and really pays attention to us."

The team will reunite at the Penn Stater the following morning for a team breakfast to make sure everyone is fueled up for Saturday afternoon's game. The Nittany Lions only have to make a short drive to the Penn State Field Hockey Complex to kick of NCAA Tournament play this year though.

"We broke attendance records this year," goalkeeper Jenny Rizzo said. "It's crazy to think about. The opportunity to host an NCAA game at home just gives us another opportunity to get students and parents here. The fact that we know the turf and know what to expect is a huge advantage. It is tough to go into someone's home turf and beat them. I think it'll be a really cool opportunity." 

"It's just huge to be able to play at home," Morett-Curtiss said. "Knowing that we are number one in attendance in the country is just great. We have such an energetic fan base. All the other sports teams and athletes come and support us and it's just great and adds that extra enthusiasm to the environment. Also, their parents can come up and the girls sleep in their own beds. They don't have to pack a bag or get on a bus. It just keeps the playoff season short and feels like a regular season game."

Although it may seem like a regular season home game, the Nittany Lions all know how important Saturday's game is going to be. With the loss in the second round of the Big Ten Tournament last year, Penn State was unable to qualify for the NCAA Tournament leaving the freshmen and sophomore classes with no experience in this weekend's upcoming tournament. The team will be relying heavily on its seniors and their experience to prepare them for the big stage.

"It definitely adds pressure when we are the most experienced," senior Emilee Ehret said. "Especially when the season is on the line for each of these games. It also adds pressure to our senior class, but I think we are ready for the challenge. We are really excited. The [seniors] haven't stopped smiling since wearing the Big Ten Champions shirt and hat." 

The senior class is also battling the reality of their field hockey careers coming to an end. As much as Ehret wants to solely focus on the games at hand, she cannot help but think that her time left playing field hockey is nearing completion.

"I think just more is on the line for us," Ehret said. "My field hockey career is on the line. I won't be in a collegiate game ever again if we lost. I just want to play as many games as possible. There's only two weeks left. These games aren't that long. We just want to make sure every minute counts and that we are putting every ounce of energy into every game."

It is hard to leave a sport that a player has dedicated so much time to since being a little kid, but leaving a team with so much success makes saying goodbye so much harder.

"It's honestly unreal how successful we have been," Ehret said. "It makes [the seniors] so happy how great this year was. We've had so many challenges the past three years and to end on such a high note is just the greatest feeling for all of us and we are super stoked to have this opportunity to do well in the NCAA Tournament."

"I think what it is about this team is everyone respects the role they play on the team, everyone respects the leadership and then you just have the juniors, that's a good class," Morett-Curtiss said. "Everyone works so hard at practice. If we put the starting lineup against our second team, it's competitive. The Indiana coach said to me, 'You have the luxury of having that every day at practice.'"

After winning the Big Ten Tournament last weekend, the first thing the Nittany Lions wanted to know was who they were playing in the first round of the NCAA Tournament. The team gathered around to wait for its first round draw to find that they will be playing a team they had faced earlier this season, Princeton.

"It's good and bad that we have played them before," Rizzo said. "It's nice to know them but it's also hard to beat a team twice. I think we are just excited because both of the teams know that their seasons are on the line, so it'll be an exciting game." 

"I like our bracket because we are familiar with every team," Morett-Curtiss said. "We get tape on every team, but when you already had a chance to play the team, you understand their tendencies. So I think we can look at things that they do routinely throughout the game. They have the same advantage against us, but we faced them at home before. We know what we have to tweak to be successful."

 Morett-Curtiss does not want this game to be treated any differently from any other regular season game.

"We just try to keep things consistent and not make it bigger than what it is," Morett-Curtiss said. "There will be some nerves and there was some this past weekend. I think being at home for this takes the nerves a little more out of the picture. When we go into the locker room before games they are always singing, dancing and laughing. I think that plays into their success. They take the fun they have there and take it to the field." 

Penn State will host Princeton in the first round of the NCAA Tournament Saturday at 11:30 a.m. at the Penn State Field Hockey Complex. 

Meijer Settled in at Penn State

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By Mandy Bell, GoPSUSports.com Student Staff Writer 

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - With Aurelia Meijer being from the Netherlands, the Penn State sophomore very rarely has her family in the stands.

Once each year, one of Meijer's parents flies nine hours to the United States to watch their daughter compete. A few weeks ago, Meijer's mom was preparing to make her trek to New Jersey to watch Penn State take on Rutgers. 

"My mom was mad because when my dad came last year I had a hat trick and she told me I had to do it for her too," Meijer said.

In 2015, Meijer's father was in the stands in University Park as the Nittany Lions played the Iowa Hawkeyes. With the added pressure of her father watching her compete in the United States for the first time, Meijer did what is rarely done, scoring three goals in one game.

"He was so excited. I remember it was on BTN and even he was on the television," Meijer said. "In the Netherlands we don't have that. Only the national team gets attention. The way we get attention here is so insane. When I made that everyone was so pumped up. [My dad] teared up. He was so proud."

A year later, when it was Meijer's mom's turn to come watch her play, she wanted nothing but the same outcome.

She succeeded.

"I really didn't do it because of them, but now they are even," Meijer said. "It was just a coincidence. My team tells me to get my parents here so I will score more. I would love to do it again." 

Meijer is from a small town in the Netherlands called Hattem. The field hockey field she played on growing up was only a one-minute walk from her house. 

"I practiced there three times a week," Meijer said. "My whole family played there. All the sports complexes were right beside me. It's a really little town, everyone knew each other. It's little and cute compared to cities here." 

With her dad as her field hockey coach since she began playing at age six, Meijer said she had no option to focus on any other sport than field hockey.

 "My dad is really good at field hockey and so is my grandpa," Meijer said. "He played in the national Dutch game. He always would take me on Sunday's and I hated it. He would teach me over and over again to be good. Now I am grateful, but then I hated it. He always wanted to go to the turf with me. Now we go for fun. I play with my sister against my two brothers. We always do games together."

As she got older, Meijer knew that she wanted to come to the United States to continue playing field hockey and get a degree in the country that she always heard was so great and had so many opportunities.

She used a recruiting service to talk to field hockey coaches throughout the country and met them via Skype to find the perfect match for her future home. When Meijer Skyped with Penn State head coach Char Morett-Curtiss, both knew that Meijer would be a future Penn Stater.

"I loved her," Morett-Curtiss said. "She was just so enthusiastic. She had this enthusiastic, positive energy. When we would Skype with her, she would get on the screen and just yell, 'Hey!' She's just so genuine. What you see is truly what you get." 

Meijer said that it came down to either Penn State or Northwestern, but there was something about the connection with Morett-Curtiss Meijer could not avoid. After her first official visit to Happy Valley, there was no doubt left in her mind. This was her new home.

Meijer became the first international player to play on Penn State's field hockey team. Although a historic moment in the program's history, this meant a lot of new experiences for not just Meijer, but the entire team.

English was not Meijer's first language. Although she was taught English in high school, she only felt comfortable with reading and writing. Speaking was not something she had practiced regularly. Meijer had difficulties figuring out what time to show up for practices, what things to bring to games and other simple details that came so easily to an English speaker. 

"To be honest, I was really homesick," Meijer said. "Everything is so different here. I love it now, but at the beginning I was shocked by everything. Not just food, not language, but just how people act. People didn't always understand me and I didn't always understand them. There's little details that people here don't understand about how we act. It was so different. Because I was the first international player, I had no one to lean on. It was really good for me because I learned so much."

Meijer said it only took three months for her to feel completely fluent in her new language because she had no way around it. She had to speak it in class, at practice and with her friends.

To feel more comfortable in such a foreign land, Meijer Skyped her family a lot and looked forward to playing field hockey every day. The freshman at the time, focusing on having fun every day until she finally felt a little bit at home at Penn State. 

After a few months of explaining her hometown and culture to her new teammates, Meijer was able to show her friends everything she was talking about first hand when the team traveled to the Netherlands last spring. 

"It was amazing," Meijer said. "That weekend was one of the best weeks of my life. Most of the girls had never been to Europe. They were excited to see the culture. They saw my family. The social life is so different. It was cool for them to see what I was used to. I could never explain it really well because it was so different. They saw it with their own eyes it was such an amazing experience."

On the first day of the trip, the team played on the little field beside Meijer's house that was once her own.

"We lost that game, but it really didn't matter," Meijer said. "It was so cool that it was my field with my new friends. I can't explain it. It was awesome."

When she is at Penn State, Meijer can be found enjoying waffles at the Waffle Shop or small coffee shops downtown. Although Thanksgiving break is too short for the sophomore to travel back home to see her family, Meijer will visit Philadelphia to be with some of her teammates. Once she finishes her final exams, Meijer will be back in the Netherlands for winter break. 

But this year, there is one difference. Instead of being homesick, Meijer will be excited to get back to her new home in Happy Valley.

Check out Meijer recapping the Penn State field hockey victory over Maryland to clinch the Big Ten Tournament Championship title. 

Penn State Prepared For Big Ten Tournament

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By Mandy Bell, GoPSUSports.com Student Staff Writer

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa.  - With a No. 2 seed in this weekend's Big Ten Field Hockey Tournament, the Nittany Lions will kick off the event against a familiar face Thursday afternoon. 

Penn State (14-2, 6-2 B1G) finished its regular season last week against Indiana, claiming a close 3-2 victory. On Thursday, the Nittany Lions are set to face the Hoosiers (8-11, 3-5 B1G) once again to begin the 2016 playoffs.

"I do think there's a little bit of an advantage because it is someone you are so familiar with," Penn State head coach Char Morett-Curtiss said. "It's not like you have to re-invent practices. It is something we have been doing the past week for our game, so it's something they are familiar with."

Last time, the Nittany Lions relied on Brooke Birosik's strong offensive outing to carry the team to victory. The senior is trying to approach her final Big Ten Tournament like any other game.

"I think I try to play hard in every game," Birosik said. "I don't want to leave any regrets on the field and think I could've run harder on a certain play. I always try to play like I'll never play again. This is a little more because it's my last one, but it honestly makes it more exciting knowing it's your last. You don't want to regret anything. I just want to win with my team." 

With last week's strong offensive showing, the Nittany Lions will be looking to improve their defense in their second chance against the Hoosiers. 

"We have definitely been focusing on corner defense and definitely our in-line defense and defense in the circle," Morett-Curtiss said. "I just thought we needed a little bit more of a presence." 

Not only did Penn State play Indiana last week, the Nittany Lions also competed against the Hoosiers in the first round of the 2015 Big Ten Tournament.  

"It's funny," Morett-Curtiss said. "I think that within our conference there are just so many strong opponents that you just have to take what you get and not over think it. You have to be prepared for each Big Ten opponent and not look beyond it." 

The freshmen that did not experience last year's tournament are going into this weekend's tournament with a blank slate. 

"I am super excited," freshman Maddie Morano said. "Everything is so new to me right now. I have never experienced anything like college field hockey. I have already had so much fun in the regular season, I can't imagine how exciting playoffs will be. The girls are such great leaders. They are so supportive. I am so excited to take on this tournament with them."

Morano has looked to her older sister Kasey for advice all season and will continue to do so during playoffs.

"[Kasey] said the Big Ten Tournament is fast and tense and that I need to be physical and tough out there," Morano said. "I just love having her here. She's my best friend. To have your best friend here, it's just another support that's really nice to have." 

After defeating Indiana in the first round of the Big Ten Tournament last year, the Nittany Lions came up just short in a 2-1 overtime loss to Michigan in the second round.

"The feeling of losing to Michigan last year just stinks and no one wants to go home," Birosik said. "Being a senior leader, you don't want that feeling and don't want that to happen again. You can't take anything for granted. You need to leave it out there because you never know if that's your last game. We've seen comebacks with a couple minutes left in the game and that's how we lost. You have to come to this tournament ready to play. Play like it's your last one."

The Nittany Lions will travel to College Park, Maryland at 12:30 p.m. Thursday to take on the Hoosiers in opening outing of the Big Ten Tournament. 

Birosik Leads Penn State on Senior Night

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By Mandy Bell, GoPSUSports.com Student Staff Writer

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - With a packed crowd and pictures of the four seniors at the top of the stands, Penn State senior Brooke Birosik had the senior night every athlete dreams of having.

"I kept saying in my mind that I didn't want to regret anything, just leave it out on the field," Birosik said. "I was really nervous because I wanted to have a really good last game on our home field."

More than five minutes into the first half, Birosik found the back of the cage and gave the Nittany Lions a quick 1-0 lead.

"I was just thinking get it low and get it on cage," Birosik said. "I definitely felt relief that I got one final goal at home. It's always exciting to score on a corner because we work so hard on them and we practice them a lot, so it feels like it pays off when you score on a corner."

Near the end of the first half, Moira Putsch added her 14th goal of the season to give the Nittany Lions (14-2, 6-2 Big Ten) a 2-0 lead at the half.

At the beginning of the second half, fate had one more magical moment in store for Birosik's last game on Penn State's turf.

Birosik had the ball in the circle and only the goalkeeper in front of her. Her goal was to keep it low and find the back of the cage, just like the first goal. And she did just that. Birosik registered her second goal of the game and 11th of the season to give the Nittany Lions a 3-0 lead. Birosik also finished her final regular season at Penn State with seven assists and 29 points.

 "It was great," Penn State head coach Char Morett-Curtiss said. "She just plays hard all the time. I was happy to see her get some goals because she hasn't the last couple games, so it's nice to get her back on the scoring track."

Indiana (8-10, 3-5 Big Ten) came back in the second half to make the score 3-2, but a solid Nittany Lions lineup led by its four seniors held on to the win. 

"We talked about the seniors and how they each have their own personality and what they bring to this team," Morett-Curtiss said. "Emily [Ehret] brings composure, Kirsten [Gochnauer] brings a lot of determination, Carly [Celkos] brings a lot of steadiness and Brooke just brings a lot of physical aggressiveness to the team and I think that sets the tone for us."

With the wind chill dropping into the low 40's, fans were bundled in layers and blankets to keep warm during the game. The weather was no issue for Birosik, who refused to wear a long sleeve shirt under her tank-top style uniform.   

"I was hot during that game," Birosik said. "Warmup was a little cold, but after that it was hot. I just don't like the compression of the undershirts. I just like playing in the tank top."

"Well, I am freezing," Putsch said. "I am not sure what [Birosik] is talking about."

The win against Indiana concludes Penn State's 2016 regular season. With the Big Ten Tournament now in sight for the Nittany Lions, the team just wants to win for its seniors.

"Before the game, in the locker room, Char [Morett-Curtiss] had a speech about how the seniors this year took what happened last year and just raised the level," Putsch said. "It's a different team. We owe all of it to the seniors. 

The Nittany Lions will begin the Big Ten Tournament on Thursday on the road in College Park at Maryland. 

@GOPSUSPORTS

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