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A Friendship Between Goalkeepers

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By Maria Evangelou, GoPSUsports.com student staff writer

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - In the game of field hockey, there are 11 players on the field. On offense, a left and right wing, two inner forwards and three midfielders. On defense, three backs. In the net, one goalkeeper.

In most cases, the competition between goalies can be tense, especially in cases where a team possesses two goalkeepers with equal potential to be the best in the league.

Penn State's goalkeepers are a special case. 

With two stellar goalies on the roster, there's hardly tension between juniors Colleen Conway and Jenny Rizzo. Rather, it's their love for Penn State and the game that has resulted in one of the most tight-knit friendships on the team. 

Their teammates and coaches are also in agreement - it's a relationship you can see and hear, from across the field and even miles away. The two can be found laughing or joking around before and after games, or getting pumped up for a tough outing with some football, just the two of them. 

"It's a very unique relationship," head coach Char Morett-Curtiss said. "What I love about it is it's very sincere and genuine. There's such mutual respect and admiration, and the reason for that is they both work extremely hard. They both work hard at their positions."

Rizzo and Conway didn't know what was in store for them when they recognized each other on campus in passing prior to the start of their freshmen seasons.

 "In the summer it was interesting, because I think we did see each other more as competition than possible friends," Conway said. "Once the season came around, we really got along and became supportive of each other and realized that would be a better way to go about it. Now she's one of my best friends on the team."

Rizzo was recruited early in high school by Penn State, arriving from her hometown in Hershey, Pennsylvania. Conway, who is from Franklin Lakes, New Jersey, joined her in committing to the Nittany Lions a bit down the road.

"We got to know Jenny over such a long period of time through her club coach from home and we were a bit worried about bringing someone else in for the right fit," assistant coach Stuart Smith said. "When we saw Colleen play, we were blown away by her capabilities and her personality. It's not easy to recruit goalkeepers in the same class and everybody gets nervous about it because they think they'll just fight each other for the starting job. What I love about these two is that they're best friends." 

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Morett-Curtiss and the rest of the coaching staff recognize their similarities as well as the strengths both Nittany Lions possess in the net.

"Colleen is very aggressive, whereas Jenny is aggressive but has a bit more calculation to her," Morett-Curtiss said. "We've had connections with goalies in the past but I think these two are very unique. Especially because I think more recently, society and culture has sadly focused a lot on individuals and less on the team. I think Colleen and Jenny are both in it for team success." 

It's not uncommon for the team to hear Conway on the sideline screaming Rizzo's name, cheering her on with each save. 

"Goalies spend a lot of time together apart from the team just working on their own position and they don't integrate with the other field players as much, so it's right in your face that their  competition is right there," Morett-Curtiss said. "They are so supportive of each other, verbally encouraging each other."

Their similarities don't stop at their personalities, as both keepers also have a twin sibling. Rizzo has a twin brother and Conway has a twin sister. 

"Jenny is pretty similar to my twin," Conway said. "We get on each other's nerves sometimes but then we're right back at it. She's like my twin away from home."

For Smith, coaching two keepers with such a special bond and support system has been enjoyable, rare and even easy.

"I've worked with national teams and I've never seen keepers get along the way they do, just because there's always such competition, Smith said. "They are so close, they make me laugh every day," Smith said. "They're both in my office all the time looking over film and they both want to get better. The level of growth has been fantastic. I love it when they come to talk to me about what's going wrong, they're always in and they're both such good people."

Evident in their friendship, the duo had nothing but good things to say about each other, both on and off the field. Instead of viewing each other as competition, both chose to make the most of their relationship, which has only helped them grow as teammates. 

"Colleen's ground game has grown so much and I think that's helped me because I'm learning from her," Rizzo said. 

Rizzo earned a spot on the Team USA U21 National Team, which has provided her the opportunity to compete and attend practices and clinics throughout the year. It's also an experience she uses to help others around her grow. 

"A lot of times when I'm struggling with something, I go to Jenny and ask her take on it," Conway said. "Especially when she comes back from USA stuff, I want to know what the best of the best are working on. If I'm struggling with a drill, I'll watch Jenny to see what skills she uses and kind of work off of it."

For Morett-Curtiss and her staff, the bond between Conway and Rizzo largely contributes to the rest of the team's bond as a whole. 

"The team sometimes sees us as goofballs I think," Conway said. "We're definitely comic relief and we lighten the mood for the team," Conway said.

Experience Pacing Nittany Lions Ahead of Road Trip

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By Maria Evangelou, GoPSUsports.com student staff writer

 

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - A stellar goalkeeper. An aggressive forward line. A fierce defense. At 10-2 on the year, Penn State is halfway through its Big Ten slate following a weekend featuring a pair of wins.

 

The Nittany Lions bounced back after their first home loss, shutting out Michigan State 1-0, followed by a second-half comeback against Kent State, winning 5-3 just days later.

Penn State junior Moira Putsch is no new face to the field. The starting forward is ranked among the best in program history and top 10 in the NCAA national standings in assists. Only proving it against Kent State, she converted three assists into goals after contributing two unassisted goals of her own.

For Putsch though, her focus isn't centered around individual achievement, rather positioned toward team success.

"I think we're growing as a team game by game," Putsch said. "Each game has definitely been a learning process for us, whether the outcome was a win or a loss, as a team we're definitely taking every game into account and what we can learn from it."

Putsch isn't the only experienced Nittany Lion leading the team this year as junior Gini Bramley dominated in possession, with fellow junior Aurelia Meijer also a key contributor in recent matches, netting a goal against Kent State and an assist against Michigan State.

"They're the players that just have the most experience," Penn State head coach Char Morett-Curtis said. "They've played these teams a number of times so they just have that confidence, they displayed those leadership skills. Shay [Cannon] and Skyler [Fretz] have been doing a really good job as captains. I thought that in our Michigan State game we played so well as a team, we we were really cohesive as a unit and really brought our backs into play, too."

The Nittany Lions have strong veterans on defense too, including junior Jenny Rizzo in goal and redshirt junior Cori Conley on defense, both who have played crucial roles in sending the ball up the field to give chances to their teammates.

"The backs had a really strong performance against Michigan State," Morett-Curtiss said. "I'm not sure if having a conference opponent was a little more meaningful to them, so I think defense is playing more cohesively again."

Penn State stands at 4-1 in conference matches so far, but they're not letting their record speak for itself. The Nittany Lions will still head to Ohio State and Maryland, returning home for Rutgers before heading out to Indiana.

For now, the Buckeyes are all the Nittany Lions are thinking about, guided by the leadership of an experienced core.

"Ohio State gives every team a good game no matter their record, so it's really important for us to come up and play our game," Putsch said. "There's some things we want to work on for Ohio State specifically, but it's really important for us to keep growing and working off of what we built."

Although proud of the recent performances, Morett-Curtiss allocates a substantial amount of practice time for taking former game film into account, working off of visuals, as well as making sure the Nittany Lions are resting adequately to prepare for a tight schedule on the road.

"For us, it's looking at the film from the weekend, bringing the mids and backs into our attack, and getting our forwards to get better pressure lines on the ball so that we can create more counterattacks," Morett-Curtiss said. "For us, I think it's going to be the challenge of getting ourselves rested and ready for a quick turnaround."

As Morett-Curtiss has noted, there's a cohesive bond that is unique and hard to find in many Division I programs. Perhaps part of the environment created by its leaders, Putsch and her fellow upperclassmen will continue to lead their teammates with a sense of positivity and energy.

"We're setting goals for each game and everyone is making a really conscientious effort to get off of that." Putsch said. "It's that point in the season, midway, where we can either go up or down and I think we're headed in the right direction."

Conway Making the Most of Competitive Opportunity

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By Maria Evangelou, GoPSUSports.com student staff writer


UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - It's not news that college students have packed schedules, with 15-plus credit hour weeks, extracurricular activities and often internships or part time jobs to balance. To have all of that, plus the responsibilities of a student-athlete on one of the country's top-ranked field hockey teams? That's a whole different story. Just ask junior goalkeeper Colleen Conway.

 

Conway, a junior from Franklin Lakes, New Jersey, was recruited by Penn State for her impressive skills in front of the net, but says she chose Penn State not only for its athletic program, but for its stellar academic opportunities. Conway now balances the sport she loves, consisting of daily practices, weekends packed with games, flights across the country for away matches and other training time with the demanding course load of a mathematics major.

In addition to a challenging major, Conway was selected to be one of a small group of students accepted into a rigorous and selective finance program, the Wall Street Boot Camp. A training program in Penn State's Smeal College of Business, the exclusive class typically features no more than 40 students.

"The application process was kind of serious, it was like applying to a real job on Wall Street," Conway said. "It took a lot of time and attention and it's a huge deal because I feel like everyone in Smeal wants to be in this class."

Penn State University's Smeal College of Business enrolls an estimated six thousand students, ranked in the Top 20 overall by Bloomberg Businessweek for undergraduate education and eighth among public institutions. Based on enrollment numbers, that means roughly less than three in every five hundred students have the privilege of being accepted into the Wall Street Boot Camp training program, which is selected based on a student's academic merit, resume, business etiquette, communication and leadership skills.

The group meets once a week in the Rogers Family Trading Room, an advanced laboratory setting in the business school, created for students ranging from undergraduate to Ph.D. levels of education. The trading center, which was one of the first of its kind to be implemented in the nation at a university, replicates a real world trading experience on Wall Street with advanced software and technology.

"The class teaches us about investment banking, advanced accounting," Conway said. "We learned how to analyze financial statements, trade and invest. It covers all of those huge topics in class."

Held for three hours in the evening once a week, the training program is an accelerated hands-on environment for students to kick-start their understanding of what happens on Wall Street.

"There's not a lot of in-class time, so we have a huge amount of out-of-class preparation," Conway said. "We have group assignments that are very similar to things that are actually done in internships on Wall Street. It's awesome because the teacher's assistants have all had internships on Wall Street and have accepted full time offers upon graduation. The TA's are an open resource for us, people who have been in our shoes and have successfully earned full time offers, which is a pretty big deal."

Most of Conway's out-of-class time is already dedicated to field hockey practices, team bonding sessions, training, injury prevention and of course, mandatory study hours. All of this combined, leaves her with little free time, but she's focused on the big picture.

"I'm currently in the recruiting process for all of the big banks for internships in sales, trading, and investment banking right now," Conway said. "So on top of this class, that's another full-time thing. Just getting interviews lined up and networking."

When asked how she manages to juggle the stress of perfecting her applications and making herself a fitting candidate for internships, Conway admits it's a heavy load.

"It's extremely difficult to make sure I'm doing proper networking and applying to internships, just because field hockey is so important to me, but I want to make sure I'm getting all that too," Conway said. "It's a lot of work to get those internships because they're so competitive."

Although Conway has a sharp mind and is skilled with numbers, she originally thought her undergraduate career would lead her to medical school to pursue a career as a doctor. That changed when she realized her skills and talents in the classroom could be transferrable to other career paths.

Her inspiration? An iconic former Penn State student-athlete.

Former Penn State football quarterback John Shaffer helped guide the Nittany Lions to the 1986 national championship before working on Wall Street for nearly two decades. Most recently, he served as co-head of New York credit sales for Goldman Sachs Group Inc.

"I know his daughter from high school," Conway said. "He was a student-athlete who went to Wall Street through Penn State sports. I think that's where the idea first came from. I went in here and thought I wanted to be a doctor, but seeing another Penn State athlete and how that helped him and how he got to Wall Street, I thought that sounded like something I wanted to do, too."

In addition to being in such a competitive training program, Conway is also one of only two student-athletes enrolled - an impressive accomplishment, especially considering the time commitment needed to balance responsibilities between their sport and academic lives.

"There's one other student-athlete in the class, a girl on the tennis team," Conway said. "So we bond over the class and it's unique to us because we're the only two with our exact experience, both being female student-athletes. Especially being female athletes, we're a huge minority in that sense."

Conway has a few more years at Penn State to prepare for her future career, but hopes to use the 500-plus network of Penn State alumni offered to her through the course, in addition to her skill in the field, to secure a job on Wall Street after Penn State.

Lions Fall in First Home Loss

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By Maria Evangelou, GoPSUsports.com student staff writer

 

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - As Penn State's Big Ten slate continued in a weekend finale against Michigan, where fans in the stands and scattered outside field were dressed in pink to celebrate a special breast cancer awareness game.

 

With a fierce start from both teams, the Nittany Lions and Wolverines battled for the ball, with plays across the field and aggressive exchange of possession.

The first half was packed with penalty corners on both sides. Michigan managed to find space for two shots, in addition to the first penalty corner of the game by the seventh minute, but Penn State keeper Jenny Rizzo deflected the ball to reject their attempted shots on goal.

The Nittany Lions bounced back to achieve their own two consecutive penalty corner, after Alexis Horst nearly opened the scoring with a competent shot on goal. Two more shots followed, including one by Katie Dembrowski, who was selected as one of "Char's Stars" for her performance against Northwestern this past Friday. Both shots were denied by the Wolverine goalkeeper.

"I thought that we threw the ball away too much," Dembrowski said. "I thought one thing we did do well was getting the ball out of our backfield, and outletting. It's just that next step of getting it up to the forwards for a goal."

Pressure mounted at the 18th minute, when the Wolverines converted on a play after a penalty corner by Penn State resulted in a turnover. Michigan rushed to the circle, and earned the first goal.

"Michigan came out, and they just wanted it more," head coach Char Morett-Curtiss said. "We talked about their physicality, they showed determination and when they kept out-cutting us for passes, I knew we were in trouble."

While energy remained high from both teams, the Wolverines took over for the rest of the first half, forcing the Nittany Lions to defend the circle. Michigan slammed their second goal into the back of the cage in the in the 26th minute, making it the first home game where Penn State has trailed at the half.

"I was very disappointed that we didn't show that competitiveness at the start," Morett-Curtiss said. "Michigan did a great job of spreading the field, and we were just slow to recover."

The Nittany Lions returned to the field with their engines fired, and took possession of the ball to send it to the Wolverine circle. Gini Bramley made a beeline for the net, but a locked defense from Michigan wouldn't let up.

Michigan fought back for their ninth and 10th shots on goal in the 45th minute, but Jenny Rizzo, with some help from Cori Conley, denied the opportunity, temporarily sending the ball back to Penn State.

"Our connectedness was off," Morett-Curtiss said. "I was taken back by how many times we turned the ball over. We lacked possession skills."

When Michigan returned to Penn State's circle with 17 minutes left on the clock, Gini Bramley made some swift moves to send the ball to her teammates, setting Maddie Morano up for run down the field and the Nittany Lions' ninth shot on goal. The attempt earned Penn State their fifth penalty corner of the game. As for the Wolverines, they weren't backing down.

Michigan's offense barreled back to Penn State's circle, knocking in a third goal, ticking the time down to 15 minutes. At six minutes left, shots were tied up for both teams, 12-12.

The Nittany Lions gave it their all as time expired, including an impressive save by Jenny Rizzo. The game concluded at 3-0, the Nittany Lions' first loss at their home field and second loss of the season.

"I think we were missing togetherness at the start of the press," Bramley said. "We weren't connected like we usually are. It's something we should work on for next weekend."

The Nittany Lions will travel to East Lansing, Michigan to face Michigan State Friday, Sept. 29.

Putsch Pushes Lions Past Northwestern

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By Maria Evangelou, GoPSUSports.com student staff writer


UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - The first day of autumn brought a warm evening for the Nittany Lions, who squared up to the Northwestern Wildcats for their second Big Ten contest of the season.

 

The pressure of Big Ten competition could be felt.

Since 1992, Penn State leads the all-time series 29-6-1 with Northwestern. Last season, they fell to the Wildcats 5-3. Combined with the first Nittany Lion loss of the season in the most recent game against Delaware, motivation was all they needed.

 

Both teams jolted forward with energy at the start of the half, but Penn State exceeded in force, a positive change of pace from the trend of second-half dominance seen from the Nittany Lions so far this season.  It didn't take long for Penn State's possession of the ball to reward forward Shay Cannon with the first goal of the night just before the five-minute mark, followed by two shots on goal off penalty corners all in less than 10 minutes.

By the 20th minute, Penn State's forward line continued to keep the momentum going, converting passes into plays and shots at the net. The Nittany Lions attempted a total of seven shots on the goal, including two apiece from Aurelia Meijer and Cassie Kline, all denied by Northwestern's goalkeeper.

"We kept the goals for the game today very simple," Morett-Curtiss said. "Possession, individual defense and finishing in the circle. Again, we had so many chances in the circle in the first half that, just like our Delaware game, just weren't coming through."

The Wildcats converted on a play off of a penalty corner, finding space for their first goal at the 29th minute of the first half. The Nittany Lions made an effort to bring the ball back to the hands of their offense, but fell short of chances as the whistle blew to signal the end of the first half.  The half wrapped up at 1-1, with both teams also tied in penalty corners and saves by goalkeepers.

"We know that after we score, they're going to come out strong in the next few minutes," Cannon said. "So we know that we have to stay strong and play smart. Sometimes they get down the field, but we're a strong outletting team, we know we can come out with it."

The Nittany Lions took no time bouncing back when the second half kicked off. In the first five minutes of the half, Penn State earned a quick penalty corner, where Cori Conley used her speed and handled the ball to set up forward Moira Putsch for a strike at the goal to bring the score to 2-1. The Nittany Lions earned two more penalty corners, where one shot opportunity was deflected by the Wildcat keeper.

"We worked on penalty corners and we put Cori up on the line today," Morett-Curtiss said. "Moira [Putsch] has really just been getting her stick in there and does a great job in front of the goal."

Penn State, with heads held high, held the advantage, sending Bes Bovelander an assist as Aurelia Meijer slammed the ball into the back of the cage. The Nittany Lions were dominant at 3-1, with 20 minutes left in the match, and kept the engine going on Northwestern's side of the field.

"The energy was really contagious," Putsch said. "A little frantic at times, I think there's some things we can still work on, but I think it was really exciting for us to get the win out of it.

Northwestern was able to come back and pressure Penn State's defense, locking another goal onto the scoreboard for the Wildcats. The Nittany Lions attempted to battle back when their next attempted goal was disallowed, and Northwestern took possession for the goal to tie the score, 3-3.

"We know Northwestern never gives up," Morett-Curtiss said. "They're very competitive and well-coached, they just keep coming back with more."

With three minutes remaining and a tied score, the pressure was mounting, and Penn State is known for doing well under pressure. The Nittany Lions remained composed, when Putsch converted a penalty corner to a fourth goal with just over a minute left, ending the game with another win for Penn State.

"I thought the energy was very good today," Morett-Curtiss said. "Gini [Bramley], Moira [Putsch], Shay [Cannon], everyone went in and had good energy. We had a good week of practice, got our legs back under us, and I think hopefully we'll be good for Sunday."

Penn State will welcome the Michigan Wolverines to the Field Hockey Complex Sunday, Sept. 24.

Second Half Guides Lions to B1G win

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By Maria Evangelou, GoPSUsports.com student staff writer

 

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. -  The long-awaited Big Ten slate finally arrived, as the Nittany Lions secured their first conference victory against the Iowa Hawkeyes Friday at the Penn State Field Hockey Complex.

 

Penn State took possession and launched into Iowa's defense at the blow of the starting whistle, but it didn't take long for Iowa to put pressure the ball and bring it back to Penn State's half.

"We expected Iowa to come out strong," head coach Char Morett-Curtiss said. "I asked the girls in the locker room what they remembered about Iowa, and that was it."

The first quarter of the match was a true toss-up, with the ball on both sides of the field and turnovers for both teams. In just the fourth minute of the game, Iowa attempted a shot at the goal, with a swift block by Penn State goalkeeper Jenny Rizzo. The shot was followed by two consecutive corner penalties for Iowa, where the Hawkeyes placed two more blocked shots at Rizzo. Even when the Nittany Lions fought back with an opportunity from forward Gini Bramley, the first attempted goal of the night was stopped by the Hawkeye keeper.

"I thought they had momentum in the first fifteen minutes of the game," Morett-Curtiss said. "We were just not making good decisions at first, which surprises me, but we made some adjustments and kicked in some speed."

As the half progressed, Iowa's offensive line proved to be a challenge for Penn State as the Hawkeyes pressed on, finding two more opportunities for shots on goal, but Rizzo wouldn't crack, blocking both.

"The backfield works well together," Morett-Curtiss said. "They can interchange really well and Jenny [Rizzo] had some great saves."

Penn State's Cori Conley proved to be a key piece of the defensive line, offering little space for Iowa's offense to get too close to the circle.

"We just had to make sure we were really communicating in the backfield, making sure we were marking our girls and making good outlet passes to our forwards," Conley said. "I thought we did a really good job holding it down and not letting them get an easy ball."

The Nittany Lions earned their first penalty corner of the game in the 23rd minute, followed by an immediate second. Penn State remained energetic on the attack, despite two more shots blocked by Iowa's keeper.

Although unsuccessful in conversions, the Nittany Lions pushed on with force, managing to keep the ball in the away team's half. Penn State continued to pressure the goal and despite a blocked shot by Aurelia Meijer, it wasn't long before the Nittany Lions found an opening with a penalty corner. Senior Shay Cannon perfectly set up her teammate Moira Putsch for the first goal of the night.

The Nittany Lions came into the second half with fueled with new fury. In the second minute, Putsch slammed a goal past Iowa's defense, thanks to an assist by Meijer.

 "We definitely improved with ball speed in the end of the first and into the second half," Morett-Curtiss said. "I think there was more composure and stretching out across the field."

Penn State's offense kept the engine going, progressing with some aggressive play in the second half. The chances kept flying in as the Nittany Lions placed more attempted shots at the goal, until Maddie Morano finally slammed a shot into the back of the net, marking her fifth goal of the season and Penn State's third goal of the game.

"I think our unity as a team improved," Putsch said. "I think since we felt more connected, I could have more space to move into different pockets. In the second half, we definitely opened it up for each other."

Penn State battled on to close the second half, leaving Iowa with little opportunity to mount a comeback. The match wrapped up seamlessly at 3-0 with yet another shutout, making it the third consecutive season that Penn State has defeated Iowa.

"We got our first taste of Big Ten hockey this season and we know it's just a really physical time of year," Conley said. "We're really looking forward to keep pushing at that level."

Big Ten play will resume on September 22, when Penn State will put Northwestern up to the challenge.

"It's always great to win that first Big Ten game," Morett-Curtiss said. "It's a very tough conference, top to bottom, so we have to take care of some business on the road."

The Nittany Lions will head to Spooky Nook Sports in Lancaster, Sunday, Sept. 17th to meet defending NCAA national champion Delaware.

Nittany Lions Open B1G Slate Before a Homecoming

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By Maria Evangelou, GoPSUsports.com student staff writer


UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - With an impressive 6-0 start to the season, Penn State rose to No. 2 in the most recent NFHCA Poll, but isn't dwelling on its early success. The Nittany Lions are looking ahead with a new challenge on their minds, gearing up for the Big Ten opener at home before hitting the road.

 

First up for the Nittany Lions? Iowa.

 

For Penn State, the Hawkeyes are a fierce opponent to kick off the Big Ten slate. With a slow start to this week's earlier 5-1 win at Bucknell, Penn State is looking to lock in with conference play approaching.

 

"With Bucknell, I think we had a lot of scoring opportunities and we weren't focused to find the back of the net," head coach Char Morett-Curtiss said. "Our focus should've been a bit sharper in the circle and opening up the play instead of playing into the Bucknell defense."

 

Morett-Curtiss has been focusing on implementing both adequate training and rest in addition to film study in preparation for the Hawkeyes.

 

Penn State's other Big Ten outings include home matchups against Northwestern and Michigan before hitting the road for trips to Michigan State, Ohio State and Maryland, wrapping up with a home finale against Rutgers and a trip to Indiana.

 

"With Princeton and Bucknell behind us, it's great to get our focus on the start of the Big Ten," Morett-Curtiss said. "It's obviously going to be very competitive opening up with Iowa, they're a strong team. They come to play, they compete."

 

Equipped with standout play from goalkeeper Jenny Rizzo, she'll guide the Nittany Lions into conference play having totaled 10 saves in Penn State's roadwins at Princeton and Bucknell.

 

 "We know it's our first conference game," Rizzo said. "It's just another game, but it's an important game, and we just want to come out strong and set the tone for good play."

 

Earning both Big Ten and NFHCA Offensive Player of the Week honors this season, forward Gini Bramley has continued her solid play, all backed by a strong sense of faith in her teammates.

 

"Being there for my teammates, they're leading for the ball and I just want to give them that perfect pass so we can get some outcome in the circle, to keep our win streak alive," Bramley said.

 

Iowa aside, the Nittany Lions also travel to Lancaster, Pennsylvania to meet defending NCAA national champion Delaware at Spooky Nook Sports. Home to the official training location of the USA Field Hockey Team, and to many of the Nittany Lions, Sunday's outing will be a refreshing trip back home to balance a heavy away schedule for the remainder of the season.

 

"We love playing in the Lancaster area because so many of our girls are from that area," Morett-Curtiss said. "It's a great field hockey community, so we have a lot of alums in the area. It's a great hometown feel for us and being at the U.S. training facility has a little bit of a prestige to it."

 

With a roster featuring at least half of the Nittany Lions calling home somewhere in close proximity to the Lancaster area, Bramley and Rizzo, are both from the Lancaster-Hersey area and familiar with the setting.

 

"It's fun because you see familiar faces, like friends from nearby colleges and family," Bramley said.

 

While it's always special to compete in front of a hometown crowd, Penn State is focused on keeping one foot in front of the other, taking each game as its own challenge.

"Our focus is on Iowa and the Big Ten this Friday," Morett-Curtiss said. "Both teams have a lot of spirit and physicality, it should be a great game."

 

The Nittany Lions will take on the Hawkeyes Friday, Sept. 15 at 5 p.m. in the Penn State Field Hockey Complex before heading to Lancaster to meet the Blue Hens Sunday, Sept. 17 in a 1 p.m. matchup. 

Nittany Lions Set to Take On the Road

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By Maria Evangelou, GoPSUsports.com student staff writer

 

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Following a weekend of back-to-back matches to open up the home schedule for the season, Penn State will be spending a lot of time on the road, with a heavy away schedule spanning nearly the next two weeks.

 

With so much time spent traveling, one would assume Penn State must experience some away-from-home jitters requiring extra preparation. As head coach Char Morett-Curtiss and forward Moira Putsch had to say though, it might in fact be the opposite.

 

"Honestly, being on the road is more of a positive thing more than anything," Morett-Curtiss said. "It gives the girls time to regroup, focus on their studies and get away from the hectic campus in the fall. They always go into traveling ready and with a positive mindset."

 

This weekend, Penn State is set to travel to Princeton, N.J. to face off against the Tigers, followed by a trip to Bucknell just two days later. The Nittany Lions then head to Delaware the following week returning for a short trip back to their home field before spending the first two weeks of October everywhere from Michigan, Ohio, to Maryland.

 

"Going to away games is actually such a great thing," Putsch said. "We get away locker rooms, and we have little pregame dance parties."

 

It's not all fun and games though. The Nittany Lions know better than to let their recent successes get to their heads. Despite a 4-0 record this season and a recent jump to No. 3 in the latest NFHCA Poll, Morett-Curtiss emphasizes the importance of taking it day by day.

 

"We've learned a lot this past weekend," Morett-Curtiss said. "Although the team faced some tough competition, they managed to power through to smashing victories at the end. "We take a one-day break and get right back into it. We're very good at taking it one day at a time anticipating each game."

 

Putsch and goalkeeper Jenny Rizzo are both upperclassmen and have been leading the pack with incredible assists and goals from Putsch, and flawless saves from Rizzo. Along with their upperclassmen teammates, the two are excited for their younger teammates to see what life on the road is all about.

 

"It's cool to be home and get the fans, but when we're away, we get into a different flow and it's cool for the underclassmen to be a part of that," Putsch said.

 

The best part of a road trip for Putsch and Rizzo? Their fellow teammates having their backs for each and every play, but the mindset remains on a day-by-day approach.

 

"I think we're going to focus on Princeton for now, because we take it one game at a time," Putsch said.

"We lost to them in the NCAA tournament and in the spring. They're a really good match for us and I think it's important for us to remember the fact that we did lose to them and that it's not going to be an easy game no matter how well our season has been going so far."

 

Whether its on the road or close to home, the Nittany Lions love the support that the nationwide Penn State community provides.

 

"If you go to an away game, you hear the fans. We definitely compete with the away teams with fans. There are Penn State fans everywhere," said Rizzo.

 

The Nittany Lions are set to meet the Tigers Sunday, Sept. 10 at noon. 

Lions Dominate Home Opening Weekend

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By Maria Evangelou, GoPSUSports.com student staff writer

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Much like Penn State's earlier weekend matchup, the seventh-ranked Nittany Lions found their offensive footing in the second half to power past Wake Forest for a perfect home opening weekend.  

Wake Forest came out charged from the first whistle to start the game, but Penn State held off the Demon Deacons, overcoming a bit of the same slower start that the Nittany Lions saw earlier in the weekend. 

After an early Moira Putsch shot went wide of the goal, Penn State's passing remained consistent between the Nittany Lion midfielders and forwards, keeping the ball under offensive ownership in the first five minutes of the game.

In another early offensive attempt, Skyler Fretz juked a Wake Forest defender before sending a swift pass to Emily Klinger. Moments later, Klinger worked past the Demon Deacon defense looking for a shot on goal before Bes Bovelander followed with a shot, saved by the Wake Forest keeper. 

Less than a minute later, Aurelia Meijer attempted a shot, before Gini Bramley finished moments later with the first goal of the game in the net at the 16-minute mark in the first half.

The Demon Deacons battled back after Penn State's first goal, only to face a now fully charged Nittany Lion offense. Penn State drew its first penalty corner of the game shortly after, but couldn't seem to fit a shot in on a tight defensive line.

The Nittany Lions continued to push the attack as Aurelia Meijer slammed an unassisted shot to the corner of the net to send Penn State ahead with a 2-0 lead. 

With less than four minutes left in the half, Wake Forest looked to capitalize on a few offensive opportunities, only to be stopped by Penn State back Bes Bovelander and keeper Jenny Rizzo.

Heading back to the field with a 2-0 lead, Penn State regrouped and settled into its offensive momentum as Putsch set up Mary Nell Smith for a perfect shot between the Wake Forest keepers legs to spark a 4-goal run. 

"I think our team really buys in to being a strong second half team because they trust their fitness," Morett Curtiss said. "I thought we had a little lull in the second half but I think that we just told them to sharpen up their passing and be firmer with your passes and that will pick up the speed of the game."

As the momentum increased so did the Nittany Lion penalty corner opportunities as Putsch dished to Katie Dembrowski on an attempt to bring the score to 4-0.

Penn State's fire was only getting fueled as Shay Cannon darted to the goal just before the 50-minute mark to send in a fifth goal sending the fans in the stands wild and rallied up for a "We Are" chant.

"I just think this team plays so well as a team," Morett-Curtiss said. "They play together, they don't leave anybody hanging on the field and they have each other's backs, so it's great."

Perhaps no better representatives of that mentality come from Putsch and Meijer. Putsch closed out the weekend with three goals and two assists, including the sixth and final goal off a penalty corner, while Meijer added two goals and three assists.

"I think they're feeling good about the combinations that we're using," Morett-Curtiss said regarding the penalty corners. "Bes, Aurelia, and Katie can really get the ball on the goal, and that's what it's all about." 

With a home opening weekend under their belt, Penn State charges ahead this season with a 4-0 record. Despite the stellar start, the Nittany Lions know better than to let confidence get the best of them, as they remain focused on preparing for one of their most challenging opponents, Princeton, this week. 

Last season, Princeton shocked Penn State with a win in the opening round of the 2016 NCAA Tournament. The Nittany Lions and the Tigers are set to meet Sunday, Sept. 10 at noon on the road. 

Offense Finds Momentum as Lions Blank Owls

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By Maria Evangelou, GoPSUsports.com student staff writer

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - It was a brisk 50-degree evening for Penn State's first home game of the season Despite the cool air, the Nittany Lions had nothing on their minds but christening their home field with a win to open the first weekend at home. 

Seemingly a trend after their past few games, Penn State got off to a slow start. Playing the ball all across the field, the Nittany Lions kept pushing Temple's defense, but the Owl defenders and fierce keeper held their ground. 

Forward Gini Bramley pushed on in the first quarter, with a blocked shot on goal. The midfielders also met some difficulty in the first half with some swift and aggressive competition coming from Temple.

"Temple has definitely improved their program," head coach Char Morett-Curtiss said. "I was really happy with how we played. There were some great plays all around."

Penn State was met with their first of many penalty corner opportunities around the 14th minute of the match, although a missed shot off of the goal post halted the opportunity, before a quick second shot by Penn State forward Shay Cannon was blocked yet again.

"We had two corner penalties off the goal post in the first half, so we told the corner shooters to really read the play, read the defense," Morett-Curtiss said. "They were changing up their corner defense, which threw us off a little bit, but I think we played off their defense really well then." 

After an opening half played predominantly in Penn State's half, the forward line began to find its stride. In the 29th minute, Penn State's Aurelia Meijer slammed the ball into the goal to end the half. 

The Owls showed no signs of backing down as the first half concluded, but they didn't seem to expect what was ahead as the Nittany Lions found their momentum. With another attempted shot off of a penalty corner at the end of the first half, the Nittany Lions were settling in.

"We just had to score," Meijer said. "I feel like we had that in the game against ODU, too, we're almost there, and we trust each other, but we just have to score."

As we've seen as a consistent trend throughout this season so far, Penn State came into the second half with fury and a whole new level of energy.

Within the first five minutes of the second half, junior forward Moira Putsch scored off a penalty corner assisted by sophomore midfielder Maddie Morano to commence the attack of the Nittany Lions. 

In just the fifth minute, the Nittany Lions pushed through for a goal on yet another penalty corner, when an assist from Meijer saw Murano finish for a goal. Penn State rocketed to a 2-0 lead with nearly 40 minutes to go.

"Normally we have to figure out what we have to do with those corners, we don't really know what to do, which can be a problem," Meijer said. "Tonight we really played as a team, we really played together and passed to each other and that resulted in scoring."

For the next 15 minutes, Penn State was able to sustain control over Temple's side of the field.

Temple, unable to generate chances, managed 11 saves from Penn State's peppering on goal at minute 52 of the match, with zero attempted shots of their own. 

The Nittany Lions didn't waste any time with their third goal as redshirt freshman Alexis Horst fired for an unassisted goal, her first of the season. Temple attempted to push back, but not for long, as Penn State kept control. 

"I thought where we improved in the second half was definitely our elimination skills. I thought our attack did a much better of pressuring the defense," Morett-Curtiss said.

Fueled by their first three goals, the Nittany Lions charged on. Murano scored off of a penalty corner, and was quickly followed by junior Cassie Kline, who scored her first goal of the season, and Penn State's fifth of the game to wrap up the match.

The Nittany Lions now look ahead with confidence and composure as they face Wake Forest Sunday.

"We saw them play against Indiana and it was a tough loss for them," Morett-Curtiss said. "They played well, they're a great opponent, and I think it's going to be a very exciting field hockey game."

Penn State will host Wake Forest Sunday at noon in the Penn State Field Hockey Complex. 

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