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Nittany Lions to Face Princeton in NCAA Tournament

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By Julie Bacanskas, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - After a heartbreaking exit from the Big Ten Tournament this past weekend, the No. 6 Nittany Lions have been given new life in the form of an at-large bid for the 2013 NCAA Tournament.

9411883.jpegThe tournament bracket was announced during the NCAA Selection Show, which took place on Sunday night at 10 p.m.  Maryland, Syracuse, North Carolina, and Duke were announced as the first, second, third, and fourth seeds, respectively.  The Selection Show revealed that Penn State will take on defending national champion, Princeton, in the first round of the tournament this Saturday at College Park, Md.

This appearance will be the 29th in program history and the fourth consecutive for the Nittany Lions, but Princeton is no stranger to the NCAA tournament either.  The Tigers have played in 10 consecutive tournaments and defeated last year's No. 1 North Carolina team to become the 2012 national champions.

When the Lions and Tigers take the field this Saturday, it will mark the 10th meeting between the two field hockey programs.  The Nittany Lions currently have a 6-3 edge in victories.  Penn State head coach Charlene Morett is in her 27th season with the team, and Princeton head coach Kristen Holmes-Winn is in her 11th season.  Both coaches are major reasons these programs have been so consistently successful.

The Lions' most recent victory over Princeton took place earlier this season on Sept. 15.

Leading into the match, Morett highlighted Princeton's skills and understood the team would be very difficult to play against, an idea that still stands true headed into post-season play.

"Princeton is the defending national champions," Morett said in September.  "They have very strong players, an Olympian, and a couple athletes that were on the US squad.  I think we really need to understand the game plan." 

The Lions overtook the Tigers in New Jersey by a final score of 4-3, snapping Princeton's 17-game winning streak and handing the team its first loss of the 2013 season.

During the game, Penn State saw goals from four different student-athletes, including Brittany Grzywacz (Collegeville, Pa.), Taylor Herold (Fredericksburg, Va.), Laruen Purvis (Maple Glen, Pa.), and Ashtin Klingler (Selinsgrove, Pa.).  Julia Reinprecht (North Wales, Pa.), Maddie Copeland (Highstown, N.J.), and Allison Evans (Macungie, Pa.) tallied Princeton's three markers, but their efforts were not enough to emerge victoriously over the Penn State squad.

Both Penn State and Princeton have almost identical records this season, with the Lions finishing 13-5 and the Tigers finishing 13-4.  Additionally, the two teams faced three mutual opponents in Delaware, Michigan State, and Connecticut.  Both squads fell to UConn but defeated Delaware and Michigan State.

Statistically speaking, the Lions and Tigers are also very comparable to one another.  As of Nov. 7, Princeton averaged 8.44 points per game and Penn State averaged 8.06 points per game.  The Nittany Lions earned an average of 9.65 penalty corners per game, whereas the Tigers earned an average of 8.81 corners each match.  One of the only major differences between the two squads is the number of recorded shutouts this season.  Penn State tallied seven in total, but Princeton only recorded three.

Headed into this weekend's match, Penn State will try to snap its two-game losing streak.  The team took both Michigan and Iowa to overtime during the matches, but failed to capture the wins.  Princeton is currently on a seven-game winning streak and has clinched the 2013 Ivy League title outright.

Penn State and Princeton will face-off in the first round of the NCAA tournament at 2 p.m. this Saturday.  The winner will then move on to the second round, playing either Maryland, Quinnipiac, or American.

Lions Strive for Continued Success in Big Ten Tournament

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By Julie Bacanskas, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - With the regular season behind them, the Nittany Lions are ready to continue on to the next part of their journey, competing for the Big Ten Tournament crown at Buckeye Varsity Field.

The Lions understand what is at stake this weekend, as a single loss will lead to their elimination and an end to their tournament run.  As a result, the team has been particularly determined, preparing for anything and everything that could possibly come its way.

9423279.jpeg"I think everyone is just that much more focused, realizing that this could be our last game," said junior captain Laura Gebhart (Mount Joy, Pa.).  "I mean, it's about leaving it all on the field because this could be our last opportunity to play together.  It's really about focusing on one game and not looking too far ahead to the potential of playing any other games."

The Lions' No. 1 seed has earned them a first round bye, meaning they will not see action until Friday morning at 10 a.m.  The team is set to play either No. 4 seed Michigan or No. 5 seed Iowa, depending upon the outcome of the first-round match.

"I think there are two ways to really look at it," said head coach Char Morett with regards to the team's bye.  "One is we'll have a great chance to see who we're playing.  I think that's sort of a benefit and feeling a little bit more rested, but at the same time, when you play, you're sort of getting into the excitement of the tournament.  It helps you get rid of the tournament jitters early on.  I think that there are pros and cons of having the bye and not having the bye."

Gebhart agreed with her coach's remarks but believes there are more positives that come as a result of the bye round than negatives.

"I think having the bye is great," said Gebhart.  "It gives us a little more time to rest, which is always good for our legs right now in the season.  It also gives us the chance to watch some of the other games and see how the other teams are competing so close to our own game.  We should be able to watch Michigan and Iowa the day before we play them.  One, it's going to tire them out, hopefully.  Two, it's just kind of a little bit of insight.  We haven't played Iowa as recently as Michigan.  It'll give us the chance to see if they've had any developments or a change in their system."

Due to the fact Penn State is unsure of its first tournament opponent, the team has been preparing for both Michigan and Iowa this week, making sure they are completely ready to compete with either team.

"What we did knowing that we'll play the winner of Michigan and Iowa was we practiced as if we were going to play Michigan on Monday and practiced as if we were going to be playing Iowa on Tuesday," Morett said.  "We just had a look at the way they press and outlet and different things like that."

During the regular season, Penn State defeated Iowa by a score of 2-1.  The team played from behind, scoring two quick goals to take the lead and ultimately, capture the victory.  Michigan handed the Lions their only Big Ten loss this season, winning that match in an overtime battle.  Penn State knows that either team will make for a tough opponent on Friday.

Gebhart shared that she would love to play Michigan again for one major reason.

"Obviously, I would love to have a chance at redemption against Michigan," said Gebhart.  "But, I'd be happy to play either one.  I think both teams have great potential to make for a great game."

Morett expressed a similar attitude, but stressed the fact that the Lions must expect the unexpected in this type of play.

"We have such great respect for both programs and the teams in this conference, and we just know that the tournament has always been a battle," said Morett.  "There have been some upsets, some close games, some overtimes.  When tournament time comes around, you certainly have to be prepared for anything."

In order for Penn State to succeed this weekend, the team will have to execute and play its game perfectly.

"I think that we first of all have to play great individual and team defense," Morett said.  "I think that's huge.  We were just a step off last weekend against Michigan.  I think we need to get on track and play better defense, and I think the other thing is we need to really be aware of how to support the ball when our teammates have the ball.  I think if we can do those two things then, and obviously execute corners, they'll really be the key to our success."

"I think we just need to focus on our team goals," Gebhart added to her coach's sentiments.  "We have to really work on implementing those into the game, regardless of who we play, and just focus on playing Penn State Field Hockey."

Purvis Scores Lone Goal in Lions' Loss to Michigan

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By Julie Bacanskas, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - With just over three minutes left in Friday night's match, Penn State trailed Michigan 1-0 in its final game of the regular season.  Moments later, senior Lauren Purvis (Maple Glen, Pa.) found the back of the cage, tying the game and forcing the team's third overtime match of the season.  This single goal, however, was not enough to help the Lions prevail, as the team ultimately fell to the Wolverines in a loss that snapped its 12-game winning streak.

9413549.jpeg"I thought that Michigan played a strong, a really, really strong first half," said head coach Char Morett.  "I thought they just really controlled the ball well, and we just weren't on the same page as a team.  We just played a little disconnected, but we battled.  Their first goal, it was just a loose ball around the cage that they knocked in.  It wasn't that much of a breakdown, and then in the second half, we made some adjustments."

Headed into the half, the Lions trailed Michigan 1-0 and were being outshot 7-4, but they came out ready to battle back in the second.

"We've been in that situation before, where we're down a goal, but we always have the mentality of never give up," said Purvis.  "A great thing about us is that we play as a team, so regardless of the score, we never really give up or think too much about it.  We just play the way we play Penn State field hockey, and we hope for the best."

During the second 35 minutes of play, the Lions recorded a total of six shots, playing a more aggressive brand of field hockey.

"We had some great opportunities to score there," said Morett of the Lions' second half play.  "Both goalies played well.  We had a number of point-blank opportunities, and we just didn't find the back of the cage.  It's disappointing from our end, but I'm just proud of the way the team battled back."

The Lions' first and only goal of the match came at 66:49.

"We got a free hit inside the 25, and someone passed it to Jackie [Kenney]," said Purvis.  "Jackie flicked it in to the end line, and I just saw the goalie kind of step out to the right.  I took the shot and was really hoping it would go in.  Luckily it did.  That sent it to overtime, which is always good."

Despite the overall outcome of the match, the Lions are optimistic and looking forward to the next step in their journey this season, tournament play.  This single Big Ten loss serves as a major lesson for the Lions and will only help them to further improve their play as they move forward.

"I think the loss really give us more of an awareness of how everybody's playing defensively," said Morett.  "We have to move as a unit defensively.  I think we needed to be better with our press today.  They got the ball by our back line, and we just weren't getting double teams on the ball the way we usually do.  I think we need to visit how we can do a better job of stepping up and intercepting on our press."

"It's a long season, and it's not over yet," Morett added.  "We need to make sure we regroup and figure out what we can improve upon to get ready for tournament play."

With the No. 1 rank in the Big Ten Tournament next weekend, the Lions have earned a first-round bye and will play the winner of the No. 4 Michigan vs. No. 5 Iowa game, which could potentially mean a Michigan rematch.  The Lions will play their first match of the tournament at 10 a.m. on Friday.

"The tournament is pretty much like another whole season we get to play as a team," said Purvis.  "We play mostly every team again.  It's a really great transition, like a clean plate.  That game happened, and we'll wash it out of our mouths.  Then we'll figure out what changes we need to make, and just get ready to move on to the next game and whoever we'll be playing against."

Lions Look to Continue Road Success

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By Julie Bacanskas, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - As No. 6 Penn State prepares to take on Michigan this weekend, they do so in Ann Arbor, a venue where they have struggled in the past.  Nevertheless, the Lions hope this season's many experiences with away matches will work to their advantage, preparing them for whatever challenges they may face.

9400797.jpegThis season, the team's schedule has been primarily made up of away games, but these student-athletes have proved that they are more than capable of playing successfully on the road.  Of the eight away matches that have taken place so far this season, the Lions have emerged victoriously seven times.  Additionally, five of those games resulted in shutouts that showcased the team's talent and dedication.

"When I first looked at the schedule, I thought, 'Wow, we're on the road a lot,'" said head coach Char Morett.  "We were on the road a lot in the beginning, but having that break where we were home three weekends in a row, I think that just settled us a little bit so that having to go back on the road wasn't like, 'Oh, we're at it everyday.  We're at it every week.'"

The team most recently returned from Iowa after defeating both the Hawkeyes and UC Davis during their weekend trip.

"What I like when we go on the road, when we play games like last week, we played Iowa Friday and Davis Saturday, I let them spend time with their families," said Morett regarding the student-athletes.  "They spend time together every day they're here.  The families get on the road, and they sacrifice a lot to travel.  I think it's great for them to spend time with their families.  That way they sort of get a break from each other, but at the same time, then we come together.  We do our pre-game practice; they're energized.  Whatever it is, our practice the day before we play on the road is so much fun.  They just bring it."

With a 7-1 road record, the success of these Nittany Lions speaks for itself.  The team has remained composed in all situations, relying and trusting one another, which Morett believes is a key part to the team's record.

"I think it's everybody understanding their role, and everybody being motivated to be at their best when the game starts," said Morett.  "We don't put a lot of restrictions on them.  They have an itinerary.  They know our team meal.  They know our team meeting.  They know the team breakfast, bus leaves, but other than that, just letting them have their down time a little bit I think is healthy."

Giving the team time to relax and manage on its own is highly important to Morett, as she believes it teaches the girls a valuable lesson.

"I know a lot of coaches control stuff," Morett said.  "I don't want to ever be that type of coach.  I want them, when they get in their life, to know how to manage their time.  They're pretty good at it already."

Junior captain Laura Gebhart (Mount Joy, Pa.) expressed a similar opinion to that of her coach, believing that time management is an important aspect of playing on the road.

"The worst part is sometimes we get a little rushed, just with the timing of the bus schedule and leaving for the field," said Gebhart with regards to playing away matches.  "Sometimes I feel like I'm not as prepared as I want to be, and I don't have as much time as I want for visualization and stuff.  That's the only downfall."

Despite occasionally being crunched for time, the Lions enjoy traveling together and believe playing on the road enhances team bonding and friendships.

"It's super exciting and a really fun atmosphere because you get to be with everyone," Gebhart said.  "You're kind of like forced to hang out because I mean you're in a hotel, you're on the bus together, so it's just a lot of fun team time.  That helps with the games."

As the team enters its final leg of the season, it plans to play aggressively in its final Big Ten regular season match-up against Michigan.  The last time the Lions took on the Wolverines in Ann Arbor, during the 2011-'12 season, they were defeated 2-0.  The loss snapped the team's nine-game winning streak.

"We had a little chat about last time we went to Ann Arbor," said Morett.  "We were playing well, and I think the kids put it a little bit on cruise control.  It's a 70-minute game, and as we said, everybody's got a stake in the Big Ten standings and beyond that.  For us, it's about having the two consistent halves.  I think we've improved a lot, just having confidence, even when we're down a goal or two, to come back.  I think we played more and more together as a team and as a unit, so I think that's positive for us."

Looking to further improve the season's road record, the Nittany Lions know they will have to come out strong against this Michigan team.

"We know Michigan's going to be very tough at home," Morett said.  "They're very organized, well coached, some amazing talents on the field.  Rachael Mack's the leading scorer in the Big Ten.  Just with the career that she's had, it's going to take a village to shut her down."

Although they know the match in Ann Arbor will be difficult, the Lions are prepared and ready to play.

"It's all about going hard and playing this Michigan team just as we've played every other Big Ten team and every other team in our season," said Gebhart.  "We're absolutely not letting on the brakes.  We're going full force.  We want to finish out the Big Ten with a bang, go undefeated."

Lions Earn Second Consecutive Big Ten Title

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By Julie Bacanskas, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - In the midst of reviewing film from their games against Iowa and UC Davis this past weekend, the Nittany Lions were interrupted; however, this interruption was quickly welcomed as the team was surprised with the presentation of their Big Ten title trophy, shirts, and hats.

9390512.jpegWith a 2-1 victory over Iowa on Friday, the No. 6 Lions clinched at least a share of the Big Ten regular season title, meaning the team has now earned back-to-back titles and seven overall titles in the program's history.  Additionally, the Lions have secured the No. 1 seed in the Big Ten Tournament, earning a first round bye.

"I'm just so proud of them, especially because it's just a team that never gives up," said head coach Char Morett.  "Again, I can't speak enough about the quality of leadership we have this year, not just with our seniors, but with our junior class as well.  The captains, Laura [Gebhart], Brit [Grzywacz], and Whit [Reddig] just have really kept this team grounded and kept them focused on playing one game to one game and making sure every day at practice everyone is focused and giving 100 percent effort.  That's what they give in the game.  They're just really a fun group of women to coach, and I just have so much respect for what they've accomplished this year."

The three captains have not only acted as strong voices on the field, but they have also been major producers for this team.  Brittany Grzywacz (Collegeville, Pa.) currently leads the Big Ten with seven game winning goals, is the second highest point producer on the Penn State squad, and has been the recipient of the Big Ten Defensive Player of the Week award four times this season.  Laura Gebhart (Mt. Joy, Pa.) has also had an impressive season, as she has racked up 12 assists, a statistic that leads the conference, and was also awarded Big Ten Defensive Player of the Week.  Whitney Reddig (Lititz, Pa.) is also a leader in assists in the conference, tallying a total of eight thus far.  Additionally, Reddig stands at third on the team in points, earning a total of 18 this season.

"It's just an awesome feeling to win back-to-back, and with this team, we're just so united that we're just really all excited to do it, even with one game left," said Reddig.  "Especially with my class, since we've won it back-to-back and then a Big Ten Championship our sophomore year, I just think we're really excited, and we work hard so I think we have earned it."

Achieving this title was no easy feat for the Nittany Lions, as they participated in many hard fought battles, such as those with Michigan State and Iowa, in order to secure their spot at the top of the Big Ten Conference.

"The Michigan State and the Iowa games where we just came from behind were huge, and we came from behind against Old Dominion, which was our very first game of the year," Morett said.  "I think right then I said to them that's a great quality character to have, just knowing that you're never giving up.  They don't give up in practice.  They're not going to give up in a game.  That's just how they prepare."

Reddig has a similar opinion about her team's determination, expressing that the group will never give up, even when they are forced to play from behind.

"The Michigan State game is just something that I will always remember, especially on senior day, coming back with five minutes left and scoring two goals," Reddig said.  "That was just awesome, and remembering all those games that were tough and we came out with the win is just a great feeling because we never gave up."

The team could take sole possession of the title by defeating its final Big Ten opponent of the regular season, Michigan, this weekend.  Michigan is ranked fourth in the Big Ten, with a 2-2 record.  The team's two conference losses came against Northwestern and Michigan State, a match that extended to double overtime.

"We're playing in such a competitive conference," Morett said.  "Hopefully, we can finish.  We still have a big game against Michigan, but I think just to see that we're one of the top teams in the conference right now means a lot to all of us."

With their eye on taking over sole possession of the Big Ten regular season title, the Lions are making sure to remain focused, not letting this initial excitement lead them astray.

"It's a big game just because they're such a competitive program, and I think that playing at Michigan is not easy," said Morett.  "Marcia's [Pankratz] a great coach and has her team well prepared.  I think we really need to not rest on our accomplishment right now, but continue to improve and get better.  That's what we really talked about today at the video session."

Reddig, along with the rest of the squad, knows the importance of Friday's game at Michigan, but she refuses to treat it as anything but a regular match.

"I think we're just going to take it as a normal game," said Reddig.  "Knowing that we can win it outright is just a little more of an incentive to win."

The Nittany Lions will compete for sole possession of the Big Ten regular season title at 4 p.m. in Michigan on Friday.

Licata Looks to Continue Success Against Iowa

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By Julie Bacanskas, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Penn State goalie Kylie Licata (Mountain Top, Pa.) has played a major role in the team's success this season, demonstrating her skills and aggressiveness in a number of high stake situations.

9369943.jpegLicata started playing field hockey at a young age, joining her first team when she entered sixth grade.  Years later, when it was time to begin touring colleges, Licata knew Penn State would be the best school for the advancement of her field hockey career.

"When I came it, it was just like home to me," said Licata of Penn State's campus.  "I came on probably three visits here, and then I finally decided, 'You know what I'm tired of looking at schools.  I'm going to Penn State.'  I was born on a Penn State, West Virginia football game day, and so my dad was running in and out of the operating room and my mom's like, 'Get in here!'  It was kind of like destiny.  I was supposed to come here."

Licata's success as the Lions' starting goalie this season has come with many impressive achievements.  She currently leads the Big Ten Conference in shutouts, recording a total of six on the season thus far.  The Lion's goaltender also has the second highest save percentage (.710) and the second lowest goals against average (1.36) in the conference.  These statistics, alone, speak volumes of her play, but Licata's overall style is what really helps her shine.

"I think I have a really unique playing style compared to a lot of goalies out there," said Licata.  "I'm very aggressive, but when I came here I learned to be patient in the goal and just do me.  I kind of have that mix of discipline slash aggressiveness, and Char [Morett] said that a couple times to me.  I really like being aggressive.  I really like going out there, getting the ball away from them, and just helping out my defense."

Head coach Char Morett has noticed her goaltender's improvement in the cage this season, and with the help of assistant coach Stuart Smith, Licata has been prepared for all possible situations.

"I think that Kylie has grown tremendously from the beginning of the season," said Morett.  "Stuart does an outstanding job every week of preparing her for our opponents, replicating their scores, their corner options.  I think he's been totally committed to improving her as a goalkeeper.  I would say that with Kylie, we don't want to lose her spontaneity and her aggressiveness, but at the same time we want her to be a little more calculating from situation to situation.  Sometimes I think if it were up to Kylie, she'd go flying at everybody.  At this level of hockey, kids can work around that, but I think that she's just played more consistently as the season's gone on."

While Licata's dedication to growing as a player has majorly contributed to her stellar play, she is quick to credit the rest of her team as well, firmly believing that the connectedness on the field is what allows her to excel and remain confident in the cage.

"I think we all, between me, the defenders, the midfielders, we just all connect," Licata said.  "If somebody gets beat, I have full trust that the forwards are going to get back and come help mark out, just like Brit [Grzywacz] during the Michigan State game.  Even though I missed that, she has my back all the time.  I just think we're a very close team and will fight for each other."

Morett agreed with the sentiments, believing the communication between Licata and the defense is a definite strength this squad possesses.

"I think that she's got an outstanding defense in front of her that obviously has her back," Morett said.  "Brit [Grzywacz] has made a couple defensive saves as the season has gone on, and just with them not giving up some great scoring opportunities, between Kylie and the entire defense, that's been something that I've noticed."

Even with all the success Licata has experienced this season, she understands the importance of staying focused and preparing for the next game, which for the Lions is a conference match against No. 19 Iowa.

"Iowa is going to be a great team," Licata said.  "They're literally the same playing style as us.  We just need to take them on and just do our style of play against them.  We match up very well.  Char told us that in the beginning of the week.  We just match up well between corners, offense, defense, just everything.  It should be a great game."

After coming off such an exciting conference win against Michigan State, the Nittany Lions know they will need to be ready for a strong Iowa team.

"What I like about our team is that we are balanced and stay competitive," said Morett.  "We did some video early in the week, so we know what to expect from Iowa."

Licata and the rest of the Nittany Lions are prepared to engage in a defensive battle Friday afternoon, as they aim to not only remain undefeated in the Big Ten, but also to continue their winning streak.  The Lions currently have the longest active winning streak in the nation with 10 consecutive victories.

"I think it's going to be a big defensive battle," said Morett.  "I think we both play strong defense.  I think we have some key players that can be offensive threats.  It's almost like a mirror type of game.  I think that they're just so well coach, and they're very disciplined in how they play the game."

"Going out to Iowa, we know that it's a challenging place to play," Morett added.  "We're hoping that we can get the women's soccer team, who also plays in Iowa that night, maybe we can get them out a little bit to our game and we can get out to their game so we can show a little bit of that One Team support."

Lions Defeat Spartans in Dramatic Overtime Shootout

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By Julie Bacanskas, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - With less than five minutes left in the match, No. 5 Penn State trailed Michigan State 3-1.  While many assumed the outcome was set, this Nittany Lion squad knew what it was capable of and fought back, scoring two quick goals to force overtime.  After two scoreless overtime periods, the Lions completed their comeback in dramatic fashion, defeating the Spartans in a shootout.

9353658.jpeg"I just couldn't be more excited," said junior forward Taylor Herold (Fredericksburg, Va.), who not only scored the tying goal in regulation but also scored the final goal of the shootout, solidifying the team's victory.  "It was just awesome, especially just to win for our seniors and you know, how we showed that we don't give up.  During the break, our coach was telling us, 'You know it's just like the football game last weekend.  They came back.'  Right when she told us that it fired us up to keep going, and we got the win."

Herold was not the only Lion with a standout performance, as the entire team played with grit, determination, and heart.

"Their performance, their gutsiness, just the resilience and determination by the seniors, I think that they were the leaders out there today and were not going to be denied," said head coach Char Morett.

Although the Lions knew earning the win would be difficult, they were determined to emerge victoriously to honor the senior class.

"When we came together we just all were like, 'Come on.  We got this.  Let's do it for our seniors,'" said Herold.  "That's really what we wanted to win for, our seniors today.  Just to get the W in the end was awesome."

With this win, Penn State not only remained undefeated in the Big Ten, but the team also took over sole possession of first place in the conference.

"I think there's just that sense of urgency," Morett said of the team's comeback.  "I thought it was a really good game by both teams, but I think that we knew that we just had to do a better job possessing.  I kept telling the team to carry the ball, not to give it up.  Just keep carrying so we can continue to possess it."

Senior captain Brittany Grzywacz (Collegeville, Pa.) did just that and played a major role in the victory.  Grzywacz's most noticeable contribution came during the first overtime half when she made a diving stick save, just barely keeping the ball out of the back of the Lion's cage.  Her efforts kept the game alive.

"I think that Brittany Grzywacz played out of her mind," said Morett.  "I mean she could be offensive, defensive.  That save she had at the end was incredible."

"Honestly, I just dove and swung," said Grzywacz of her save.  "It was luck that I got my stick on it.  I was just thinking, 'I don't want this ball to go in.'"

With regards to defense, goalie Kylie Licata (Mountain Top, Pa.) played spectacularly, especially during the overtime shootout.

"It's really hard to even speak," said Licata after the game.  "I'm still amazed that we came back from a 3-1 deficit.  They dug deep.  I was so proud of them.  We couldn't connect in overtime, but we took them to two overtimes.  They left it up to me in the cage, and that's one of my favorite things to do."

Licata's aggressive style proved to be troublesome for the Michigan State shooters, as she was able to save three of the four shots.

"I knew I had to focus," Licata said.  "I didn't want anything in the cage.  I just knew I needed to be to myself, concentrate, focus one ball at a time pretty much, one shooter at a time."

This game marked the second overtime match for the Lions this season; however, it was the first shootout experience for this group.

"We've never gone into shootouts before, so it was really interesting," said Herold.  "We practice them, so we knew what to expect and we knew what we needed to do."

Morett expressed similar ideas, showing her confidence in the team's abilities.

"There are just kids that can score and you give them the ball," said Morett.  "Like to start out with Laura [Gebhart], and you could see her legs were just dying in overtime, just to give her the ball to set the tone.  Then Kylie did a great job of making the saves."

The game and day in general was truly an emotional experience for the team, especially for the eight seniors.

"It's just one of those awesome things and a great memory to leave on this field like that in such an intense win," said Grzywacz.  "It was an emotional day, so it was just awesome to be able to be happy for the rest of the day and have a positive outcome."

Penn State will continue Big Ten play with a match against Iowa on Friday at 3 p.m. in Iowa City.

Lions Look to Remain Undefeated in Big Ten

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By Julie Bacanskas, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - On Saturday afternoon, the No. 5 Nittany Lions will battle Michigan State for sole possession of first place in the Big Ten Conference.  Both teams have a current conference record of 3-0.

9212174.jpeg"It's going to be a tough game," said senior captain Brittany Grzywacz (Collegeville, Pa.).  "I mean, hopefully everyone's pumped up, you know last home game, senior day.  They'll be fired up as well because we both have three wins.  We're tied for Big Ten right now, so it should be a really competitive game."

As Grzywacz mentioned, this game will not only be the last home game of the 2013 season, but it will also be senior day for members of the class of 2014.

"Senior day sometimes has the tendency to be a little emotional, but this senior class has been grounded since they got here as freshmen," said head coach Char Morett.  "I feel like there's enough of them that they can keep each other focused on the game, and I think they'll play with high energy.  We're playing very well at home, so I expect that to continue."

In order to prepare for the match, the Lions have been hard at work this week, perfecting their game in practice.

"We're just getting back to our possession aspect," said Morett when describing the team's main focus.  "When I looked at the film of Ohio State, then the film of Bucknell, it was just two different games.  We didn't really connect in the Bucknell game, so we went back to playing a lot of possession yesterday and back to defense inside our 25.  We're going to focus today on defense inside the 25 and then again, just our flow during the run of play."

Senior captain Whitney Reddig (Lititz, Pa.) agreed with her coach, believing that practices this week are of the utmost importance for the success of the Lions against Michigan State.

"We know that they're 3-0, so I mean, we have to take them seriously and just come out strong and have a good week at practice," said Reddig.  "This week at practice, we're probably just going to try and work on staying connected as a unit, defense, and bringing the energy."

The team understands that they will need to be aggressive, as Michigan State is a very competitive group and has won four of its last five games.

"They have a lot of dangerous players on their field, and I think that they play a very competitive schedule," said Morett,  "They took Princeton to overtime, three great wins in the conference already.  I think that really speaks volumes of their talent.  They have strong goaltending, and they have some scoring threats in Abby Barker and Heather Howie.  Those two really can do some damage.  They dive after balls.  I think they're like the engines for that team."

The last time these two teams met, Penn State defeated the Spartans by a final score of 6-1 and clinched the Big Ten regular season title, an event Reddig thinks will be at the forefront of this current Michigan State team's mind.

"It's definitely going to be a tough game," said Reddig.  "Every team plays hard against us, but I think that they'll probably remember that loss from last year and give it their all against us on Saturday."

Morett expects Saturday's match to be an offensive battle, as both teams are highly skilled up front.

"I think both teams have the ability to score a lot of goals," said Morett.
  "Obviously, you need that solid goaltending at both ends.  I think that you'll have some high quality scores that's going to make it an exciting game."

 

This final home game of the 2013 season will begin at noon on Saturday at the Penn State Field Hockey Complex.

Senior Lions Bid Farewell to PSU Field Hockey Complex

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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - When the seniors take the field this Saturday, they will do so knowing it is the last match they will play collectively as a class at the PSU Field Hockey Complex, which is a very emotional thought for this tight-knit group.

9221342.jpegThe class of 2014 contains many of the Penn State field hockey team's key student-athletes, including captains Whitney Reddig (Lititz, Pa.) and Brittany Grzywacz (Collegeville, Pa.), as well as Lauren Purvis (Maple Glen, Pa.), Abby Fuhrman (Bainbridge, Pa.), Jacqueline Kenney (State College, Pa.), and Ashtin Klingler (Selinsgrove, Pa.).  Redshirt juniors Natalie Buttinger (Kitchener, Ontario) and Kylie Licata (Mountain Top, Pa.) will also be recognized with their fellow teammates on Saturday afternoon.

"I think when they arrived here as freshmen, I just felt they were really very grounded, and just of that mindset that we're here to learn as much as we can and to grow within the program," said head coach Char Morett of the seniors.  "That's what they've done.  Every year they've gotten better.  I think that they really set a great example for the classes below them, just with the way they respect each other and the way they want this program to be success and the work ethic they put into every practice and every game."

Over the past four years, this senior class complied a record of 59-19 with a win percentage of .756, marking the highest win percentage of any field hockey senior class since 2000.  Additionally, these eight student-athletes have made four appearances in the NCAA Tournament, won back-to-back Big Ten Tournaments, and captured last year's Big Ten regular season title.

Whitney Reddig
Since her freshman year, Reddig has made significant and consistent contributions to this Nittany Lion team.  Reddig played and started in every game during the 2011 and 2012 seasons, just as she has this season.  Additionally, Reddig has demonstrated exceptional leadership qualities as co-captain of the 2013 team.

When asked about her favorite part of being a Penn State athlete, she was quick to fire off a response.

"I really like the One Team aspect," said Reddig.  "I think that all the teams are really close.  We all know each other and are connected as One Team.  I think that motto says it all."

Brittany Grzywacz
As co-captain of this season's squad, Grzywacz plays a large and crucial role on the team.  This season alone, Grzywacz has claimed the honor of Big Ten Defensive Player of the Week three times.

Throughout her time at Penn State, Grzywacz has had many exciting memories and experiences.  One aspect of her time at Penn State truly stuck out in her mind; fighting through the adversity of the 2011 scandal with her teammates.

"Just everything that's been going on with the university and fighting through the adversity and just seeing the way that all the teams have gone though it, it's just a cool experience," Grzywacz said.

As far as Saturday's game is concerned, she has mixed emotions.

"It's going to be weird," said Grzywacz.  "My dad cried at my high school senior day, so he'll probably bawl his eyes out for this one."

Lauren Purvis
Playing in every game as a freshman, sophomore, and junior, Purvis has obviously maintained a large role on the field hockey team, but the senior is also highly dedicated to the University's lacrosse program.

"It's awesome because once field hockey is over, I'll give myself like max a day, and then go right into lacrosse," said Purvis.

Of the games played so far this season, Purvis's favorite was the team's exciting and monumental defeat over Princeton.

"I would say Princeton because it was our first game that we really connected and played really well as a team," Purvis said.  "I mean, not that they're just defending national champions, but last year we lost to them in overtime, and I think we've been in overtime two out of the past four years playing them.  They're always a great team, so it's always fun playing them."

Abby Fuhrman
Fuhrman has had close ties to the game of field hockey all her life and has been a dedicated back for the Nittany Lions since the 2010 season.

"I got my first stick when I was one year old," said Fuhrman.  "My mom played in college so I've went to her tournaments and stuff like that all my life.  I've been around it a long time."

Fuhrman is incredibly excited about this season particularly, loving every minute of being on the field.

"The way we've come together this year has just been so exciting and for it to be my last year, I hope it's going to be a memorable one," Fuhrman said.  "I think just all four years we seem to come together at the right time, and it's awesome that as a senior, it's happening again too."

Jacqueline Kenney
As a State College native, Kenney has had close ties to this Penn State program all her life, and she could not imagine playing anywhere else.

"I mean it's been really cool," said Kenney.  "This is what I've always imagined my college experience to be like, you know playing for Penn State.  There's just a lot of pride."

With regards to playing this last home game, Kenney has a similar opinion to those of her fellow classmates.

"It's always bittersweet because we do have a job to do when we come out on Saturday," Kenney said.  "It's a Big Ten game.  We're focusing on the game but it'll be emotional I'm sure."

Ashtin Klingler
After spending her first year of college at Syracuse, Klingler decided to transfer to PSU and quickly became a key piece to this Nittany Lion squad.

"Coming in, my class was very supportive and they've helped me grow," said Klingler.  "They just helped me along the way.  Whenever I had questions, they were always there to help me.  They're all really supportive and really, really nice.  They made Penn State home."

Klingler knows that Saturday will be a very emotional day for this senior class.

"I think it's going to be a little emotional, people crying," Klingler said.  "I hope I'm not one of them.  It's going to be awesome.  We're just really ready to go, and the senior class knows what we want and what the team wants.  We're just going to keep chugging along."

Natalie Buttinger
Ontario native Buttinger has had a whirlwind of experiences during her time at Penn State.  During her sophomore season, Buttinger tore her ACL and was unable to play with the team.  Nevertheless, this setback did not deter Buttinger, and she has remained a vocal leader for this Lion squad.

When thinking about her time at Penn State, Buttinger is most proud of one specific team moment.

"There's a lot of memories I have," said Buttinger.  "I would say one of them is winning the Big Ten Tournament at home, at Penn State.  That was one of my favorite memories, rushing the field and all of our fans in the stands."

Kylie Licata
Although Kylie will return to the team next season to complete her redshirt senior season, she wanted to experience senior night with her class.

"I'll be coming back for my fifth year, but I wanted to go out with my senior class," said Licata.  "I mean I've been best friends with them since I've been a freshman.  They've helped me through the ups and downs and stuff, so I wanted to go out with them."

In terms of Licata's favorite memory with her teammates, one specific anecdote came to mind.

"We were on the bus and we kept chanting at Char that we wanted ice cream," Licata said.  "She had the bus driver drive around for half an hour looking for ice cream for us.  We got to an ice cream place, and it was closed.  We were all like, 'No!'  I think that would be my favorite memory, when Char took us to get ice cream."

The Nittany Lion seniors will be recognized on Saturday afternoon before their Big Ten conference match against Michigan State at noon.

Strong Offense Leads to Sweep of Weekend Matches

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By Julie Bacanskas, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - The No. 8 Nittany Lions continued their success over the weekend, extending their winning streak to nine games after dominating matches against both Ohio State and Bucknell.

9328924.jpegOn Friday, Penn State took on Big Ten opponent Ohio State, emerging victoriously over the Buckeyes by a final score of 6-1.  The Lions saw goals from an array of student-athletes including two from senior captain Brittany Grzywacz (Collegeville, Pa.), one from senior Lauren Purvis (Maple Glen, Pa.), and one each from juniors Taylor Herold (Fredericksburg, Va.), Amanda Dinunzio (State College, Pa.), and Jenna Chrismer (Mountain Top, Pa.).

"I just thought our kids came out really strong," said head coach Char Morett.  "I thought we had a great week of practice.  We only had two days.  We gave them Monday off.  They practiced Tuesday, Wednesday, and then with the rain, we said, 'You know what, they had a great practice on Wednesday.'  I said, 'You're ready to go.  Let's just be rested.'  They hit some corners around early today, and then they just came out ready.  I thought we just did a really, really good job of possessing the ball.  I thought it was just a great performance for this group of girls."

During the game, Dinunzio scored her second goal in two games, which also stood as her second career goal.

"I'm just so happy," said Dinunzio.  "It was a lucky shot that snuck in there, so I'm just really happy to get that second one.  I was just low, covering the post, and saw the ball trickle through and got a little touch on it, and it snuck past the goalie's pads."

"It gives me some confidence," Dinunzio added.  "I just hope to keep it going."

Penn State's dominance and stick work inside the circle was also highly impressive during the match.

"Our strikers did a really good job of getting the ball to space and then getting the shot off," said Morett.  "We haven't always been able to get shots off, and I think you've seen in the past where we haven't gotten to the circle.  So we really emphasized the stick skills today and getting to the circle.  They did a really nice job."

In addition to the overall stellar play of the Penn State forwards, the offensive penalty corner unit proved to be a major difference maker in the game.  The Lions drew 13 total penalty corners during the 70 minutes of play.  The team got creative with its attempts, utilizing the skills of student-athletes such as Grzywacz and junior captain Laura Gebhart (Mount Joy, Pa.).

"We tried some on the fly," explained Morett.  "We made some up today.  I have a lot of confidence in them, so just giving them a little bit of voice on those corners.  We tried one with Laura carrying it down the middle, but they didn't go for it.  I thought their corner defense actually did a nice job against us.  Both Britt's corners were unbelievable.  The drag at the end was just ridiculous."

The team also recognizes its corner success, a direct result of hard practice and determination.

"It's something we've been working on all season, getting a lot of different plays, and we tried a lot of those different ones today," said Grzywacz.  "We were able to execute on them."

"It's a little crazy hectic at the time, but it's fun," added Grzywacz of the team's corner creativity against Ohio State.  "It's fun to get different people shooting, you know, trying different things.  It's fun to see how it all plays out."

The team's newfound corner confidence is highly important to its style of play.  The offensive unit also played a large role in the team's shutout victory over Bucknell on Sunday afternoon.  Purvis and Chrismer scored the team's two goals, both a result of penalty corners.  The team drew a total of eight corners in the match.

"Corners are harder than they look, and especially with us trying some options," explained Morett.  "What's great is when you have an inserter, stopper, shot, goal.  That's ideal.  Britt is getting into a better rhythm with that, even with her drag."

The Lions will take the field again at noon on Saturday when they continue Big Ten play against Michigan State at the Field Hockey Complex.