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2014 Coaches Caravan Day IV - King of Prussia

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King of Prussia Photo Gallery | Coaches Caravan Registration

KING OF PRUSSIA, Pa. - Leg two of the 2014 Coaches Caravan kicked off on Tuesday evening with a stop outside of Philadelphia.

The eighth stop of the 17-event caravan featured James Franklin, four-time defending NCAA national champion wrestling head coach Cael Sanderson, field hockey's Charlene Morett and women's soccer's Erica Walsh.  More than 700 Penn State enthusiasts greeted the coaches inside the event room at Valley Forge Casino Resort.  Take a look at some highlights from Tuesday's event.

Stop No. 8 - King of Prussia (Valley Forge Casino Resort)

More than 100,000 Penn State alums call the Philadelphia area home, and three of the four coaches on stage treated Tuesday night's Coaches Caravan event as a homecoming.  Hailing from Montgomery County, Walsh was just minutes where she grew up in Huntingdon Valley.

"I tried to get the whole caravan moved to the Phillies game (tonight)," Walsh joked.

Morett, who is on the Caravan for the Philly swing, is a proud product of Delaware County.  Like Walsh, she was thrilled to be in front of the home crowd on Tuesday night.

"I'm just a Philly girl coming back home," Morett said.

Morett spent a portion of her speech giving Walsh a hard time for not attending Penn State.  Walsh has spent the past two weeks on the Coaches Caravan delivering a superb visualization speech of the University Park campus.  Morett's response?

"After listening to your speech, how did you not go to Penn State?"

As a 27-year veteran as a head coach of the Nittany Lion field hockey program and Penn State alum, Morett is among the most passionate individuals you will find when it comes to her love for the University.  She genuinely appreciates the support fans and alums give to the school that means so much to her, and it's always evident when she speaks in front of a crowd.

The third Philly product in King of Prussia on Tuesday evening was the headliner of the event.  Franklin grew up in Langhorne, Pa., which is roughly 30 miles from the site of the stop.  As he has said from day one, Franklin is a Pennsylvania boy with a Penn State heart.  He's thrilled to be the head coach of the Nittany Lions, and he could not have been happier to be close to home.

"It's unbelievable to be here tonight," Franklin said.  "...The sense of pride in Penn State is unbelievable."

kop_1.jpg Joining the trio of Philly natives this week on the Caravan is the leader of the nation's premier collegiate wrestling program.  Always entertaining, Sanderson has a knack for keeping the crowd light every time he speaks in front of a group.  He was clad in a "Dominate The State" T-shirt under his suit jacket to show his support of Coach Franklin.

Sanderson's introduction included a small snippet of his unmatched wrestling and coaching career.  After receiving a standing ovation following the introduction, Sanderson stepped to the microphone and noted that the intro had left off his fourth-grade all-star baseball achievement.  The room erupted in laughter.

Sanderson likes to have fun with the crowd, but when it comes to his appreciation for the position he holds, his feelings are clear.

"It's an awesome opportunity to be a part of Penn State, and it's because of you guys," Sanderson said.

The Coaches Caravan travels downtown Philadelphia for a lunch stop on Wednesday before moving north to Scranton for a dinner event.


Miles Traveled:
Day I - 165 miles

Day II - 130 miles
Day III - 387 miles
Day IV - 175 miles

Total - 857 miles


Follow's Tony Mancuso on Twitter @GoPSUTony

Gebhart Fired Up for 2014 and U.S. National Competition

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By Astrid Diaz, Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - In the midst of spring conditioning, the Penn State field hockey team is focused on the competition ahead and they are motivated by the desire to out work the competitors in the fall.

The Nittany Lions have incredible leaders on their roster this upcoming season like junior captain Laura Gebhart, who has been busy as of late.

The Nittany Lion midfielder earned her first international cap in the U.S. National Team's competition against the Canadian National Team on March 10. Team USA went undefeated against the Canadian National Team during the four-day series.

This past summer, U.S. head coach Craig Parnham named Gebhart to one of 30 positions on the 2013-'14 U.S. National Field Hockey Team roster, a feat that many student-athletes strive for their entire careers. Since then, Gebhart's student-athlete life has been a balancing act.

"It's been awesome and manageable, but it's been a bit of a struggle to find a balance with U.S. field hockey and the commitments and goals for that along with Penn State and our program and my academics," she said. "Sometimes having to return to why I'm here and why I'm doing it... I love field hockey. I get frustrated and it's overwhelming but [I remind myself] these are my goals."

However, Gebhart has an evident passion for life and all things field hockey that shines through and speaks for itself.

"Honestly, if it wasn't my passion, I wouldn't be able to do this because it is a huge time commitment but to be able to be on the field and play is awesome," Gebhart said. "I get so much enjoyment out of it."

Her coaches and teammates have been an incredible support system and she comes from a long history of athleticism in her family. Gebhart's mother and sister played at American University and Lock Haven University, respectively. During her impressive career in field hockey, Gebhart's mother had the opportunity to meet some important figures in the sport like Penn State's head coach Charlene Morett, who works everyday with Gebhart to improve her game not only for Penn State but also for competition all over the country. The Gebhart family ties to the sport have been a crucial part of her experience.

"[U.S. head coach] Craig Parnham and [Penn State head coach Charlene Morett] have been phenomenal. They've been working with me to try and find a plan and my teammates have been so supportive," said Gebhart.

Even though she spends only four of seven days at The Spooky Nook (the Nook) in Lancaster, the official training ground for U.S. Field Hockey, she says training has been exceptional and her support system is already growing deeper.

"I'm still getting to know [the girls] better but I have been fortunate to have play almost with all of them at some point before this. I know the girls and now it's just getting to know how to play with them," she said. "[But] training has been phenomenal. This is an awesome, awesome opportunity."

She admits that going into these endeavors has taken her on an unexpected journey. She's grown incredibly as a person and an athlete and she hopes that her teammates are able to rely on her in all aspects of their game. She's confident that her training at the Nook will help her lead the Lions to success.

As for what the future holds for Gebhart? The connection between her and her Penn State teammates and Coach Morett is as strong as it has ever been and she looks forward to spring tournaments.

This summer, she will train full-time with the national team and she will try-out for the World Cup team. Following those efforts, Gebhart will go to the Women's National Championship where she will pursue a position on the 2014-'15 U.S. National Team roster.

She will also continue her career with the Penn State in late summer when the Nittany Lions begin their preseason training.

"The [ultimate] plan, or the goal, is to play with the U.S. [team] full-time out of college," Gebhart said.

Penn State Athletics THON 2014 Coverage

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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Penn State Athletics was heavily involved with the 42nd IFC/Panhellenic Dance Marathon (THON) held at the Bryce Jordan Center this weekend.

A record 711 dancers began standing at 6 p.m. on Friday and did not sit down or sleep until Sunday at 4 p.m. to raise awareness for the fight against pediatric cancer in the largest student-run philanthropy in the world.

Since 1977, THON has partnered with The Four Diamonds Fund at Penn State Hershey Children's Hospital with one goal in mind: conquering childhood cancer.  THON raised a record of more than $13.3 million in 2014.  To date, more than $110 million has been raised by THON.

Several Penn State student-athletes danced in the annual dance marathon.  Representing the Student Athlete Advisory Board (SAAB) will be Maggie Harding from women's volleyball, Natalie Buttinger from field hockey, Erin Kehoe from women's soccer and Christian Kaschak from men's soccer.

Additionally, Nicole Williams and Elise Potter from the Lionettes squad and Eugene Bodden, Kali Fleckenstein, Carrie Tedesco and Ally Zimmerman from Penn State cheerleading danced in THON.

Several teams and coaches played an active role in THON events throughout the weekend, in addition to squads participating in Saturday's annual pep rally and team dance competition.

We would also like to congratulate Penn State Athletic Communications student assistant Rachel Steinberg, as she danced over the weekend, in addition to the several student assistants actively involved with THON.

Take a look through our THON weekend updates on the involvement Penn State Athletics. To donate to THON, please visit

Friday Coverage:

3:30 p.m. - Feature: Student-Athletes Set to Dance for Pediatric Cancer

Click here to read a feature on the student-athletes participating in THON 2014 - Feature Story

6 p.m. - THON 2014 Begins
The 711 dancers took their feet at 6 p.m. before an energetic crowd inside the Bryce Jordan Center to begin 46-straight hours on their feet.

11 p.m. - Interview on the Floor talked with women's volleyball senior Maggie Harding on the floor about her experience during THON.

Saturday Coverage:

3 p.m. - Student-Athletes Host Make-A-Wish Families
Several teams hosted THON Make-A-Wish families on Saturday afternoon as part of the THON 2014 festivities.

More than 50 members of the Nittany Lion football team welcomed nearly 40 THON Make-A-Wish children and their families to a special tour of the Lasch Football Building on Saturday afternoon.

The Make-A-Wish event is circled on the calendar for the Nittany Lions every year.  The THON families gathered inside the home of Penn State football to take photos, get autographs, tour the facility with the Nittany Lions, eat ice cream from the Penn State Creamery and take a group photo.

Head coach James Franklin greeted the group when it arrived at the facility tour before senior Miles Dieffenbach and sophomore Akeel Lynch led families on tours.  Take a look at the Make-A-Wish event at the Lasch Football Complex on Saturday.

Photo Gallery - THON Make-A-Wish Football Event

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5 p.m. - Student-Athletes Participate in Athlete Hour
Athletes from several teams on campus spent times with the THON Four Diamonds children inside the Bryce Jordan Center during athlete hour on Saturday.  Take a look.

9:45 p.m. - VIDEO: Pep Rally Dance Competition Highlights
One of the THON highlights every year comes on Saturday night when the teams of Penn State Athletics hop on stage and compete in a dancing competition during the annual pep rally.  In all, 12 different teams competed in the 2014 version of the dance-off.

With resounding approval from a packed house in the Bryce Jordan Center, the Nittany Lion men's swimming team was named champion of the team dancing competition for the second-straight year.  We have highlights of every team dancing on Saturday night at THON. 

Photo Gallery - THON 2014 Pep Rally

Team Dances
Men's Swimming (Champions) - Full Dance
Football - Full Dance
Men's Basketball - Full Dance
Women's Volleyball - Full Dance
Men's Gymnastics - Full Dance
Women's Tennis - Full Dance
Field Hockey - Full Dance
Fencing - Full Dance
Men's Soccer - Full Dance
Women's Lacrosse - Full Dance
Women's Soccer - Full Dance
Women's Golf - Full Dance

11:05 p.m. - Student-Athlete Dancer Interviews: Hour 30 talks with THON 2014 dancers Natalie Buttinger (field hockey) and Erin Kehoe (women's soccer) during the 30th hour of their 46-hour quest at THON.

Sunday Coverage:

12:55 p.m. - VIDEO: Coach Franklin Addresses THON 2014

Head coach James Franklin took the stage at THON on Sunday afternoon, urging the dancers to continuing working hard in their final push at the 46-hour marathon.  Franklin spoke before a capacity crowd inside the Bryce Jordan Center.  Take a look.

4:11 p.m. - THON 2014 Raises Record $13.3 Million
THON 2014 reached new heights on Sunday afternoon when it was revealed that this year's efforts raised $13,343,517.33 for fight against pediatric cancer.  Congratulations to everyone involved in THON 2014.  Here is a look at the reveal on the Rec Hall video board following Sunday's Penn State wrestling victory over Clarion.


Follow's Tony Mancuso on Twitter @GoPSUTony

VIDEO: Field Hockey THON 2014 Pep Rally Dance

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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Watch members of the Nittany Lion field hockey team show off their dance moves at the THON 2014 Pep Rally.

Follow's Tony Mancuso on Twitter @GoPSUTony

Wrapping Up the 2013 Field Hockey Season

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By Julie Bacanskas, Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - As the Nittany Lion field hockey team took the practice field back in August, the high expectations for success this season were made very clear.

9475329.jpegThe Lions began their season ranked No. 6, the highest preseason ranking the team had earned in five years.  Nevertheless, the Lions knew they had some work to do, especially after losing key seniors Kelsey Amy, Hannah Allison, and Ayla Halus.

"Honestly, it's one game at a time because of the personnel we lost last year," said Morett, at the start of the season.  "Whenever you have those major changes there's a little bit more work to do in the areas that are obviously significant to the outcome of the game."

Despite these losses, the Nittany Lions returned a core group of seniors, including captains Brittany Grzywacz and Whitney Reddig, as well as a strong group of juniors, one of which was captain Laura Gebhart.  Additionally, Grzywacz, Reddig, and Gebhart were all named Big Ten Players to Watch, demonstrating that the team was not lacking in experience.

Penn State began regular season play against then-No. 8 Old Dominion, defeating the Monarchs by a final score of 3-1.  While this win sparked excitement, the Lions dropped their next three matches against then-No. 7 Virginia, Temple, and then-No. 4 Connecticut.

"I think a lot of people had some doubts early on," said Morett.  "We started out 1-3, but I really wasn't worried because I knew we were playing some tough teams and that this team would get back on track."

As Morett had predicted, the Lions quickly bounced back from these losses, stringing together a 12-match win streak over the next month and a half.

A major turning point in the season came during the Lions' match against then-No. 3 Princeton, the NCAA defending national champions.  After a tough 70 minutes of play, Penn State emerged victoriously by a final score of 4-3, snapping the Tigers' previous 17-match winning streak.  This win also marked the first time the Lions had beaten the Tigers since the 2010 season, which dramatically boosted the squad's confidence.  Two of the Lions' four goals during the match came from junior Taylor Herold, who emerged as the Lions' leading goal scorer this season.

"We accomplished our goals today," said Herold following the Princeton game.  "Not only did we score and finish, but we also reached our goals of playing with discipline on defense and pressuring the ball.  Our future looks good if we keep playing how we played today."

As the Lions continued to improve both offensively and defensively, they continued to win.  Throughout the season, the Lions accumulated a total of seven shutouts, showcasing their defensive dominance.  The Big Ten also recognized this superior defensive play, as the Nittany Lions were awarded the Big Ten Defensive Player of the Week award for seven consecutive weeks.  Grzywacz collected the honor four times, while Gebhart, junior goaltender Kylie Licata, and senior defender Abby Fuhrman all earned the award once.

As the squad started conference play, they successfully defeated Indiana, then-No. 10 Northwestern, and Ohio State, allowing only one goal over the three matches.

"I think that we just try to take each game one at a time," said Morett of conference play.  "You try to be as sharp as you can on the road and hopefully you have more momentum playing at home, but you have to be on your toes all the time."

With a 3-0 conference record, the Lions were set to play Michigan State on Oct. 9.  Not only did the match determine a conference leader, but it also marked the Lions' final home game of the 2013 season, as well as senior day for the eight graduating student-athletes.

Late in the second half, the Lions trailed 3-1; however, two quick goals tied the game, forcing overtime.  After two scoreless overtime halves and incredible defensive plays by both Licata and Grzywacz, the game went to a shootout, where the Nittany Lions completed their comeback in dramatic fashion.  With the win, the Lions remained undefeated in the Big Ten.

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

The save Morett referenced came during the first overtime half as Grzywacz made a diving stick save to keep the ball out of the back of the Lion's cage.  Such strong efforts throughout the season helped the senior captain earned the award of Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year for the second consecutive season.

After 12-consecutive wins, Penn State was defeated by Michigan in the final regular season game.  The game was hard-fought, as the Lions took Michigan to overtime.  This defeat marked the team's only conference loss.  They finished with a regular season record of 13-4.

With a 5-1 Big Ten conference record, the Nittany Lions grabbed a share of the Big Ten Regular Season title for the second consecutive season and also earned the No. 1 seed in the Big Ten Tournament.  Additionally, the squad was granted a first round bye, allowing for some extra rest before the first match.

In the semi-finals of the Big Ten Tournament, Penn State took on Iowa, but was ultimately defeated in overtime by a final score of 4-3.

Even with the early exit from the Big Ten Tournament, the Nittany Lions were invited to the NCAA Tournament for the 29th time in program history and the fourth consecutive year.  The Lions faced off against Princeton for the second time this season and knew that match would be incredibly competitive.

"It's tournament time, so it kind of has a different element to it than it did back when we played them in September," said Morett leading up to the match.  "I think it's going to be a very competitive game for 70 minutes, and both teams are going to be fighting hard to play on Sunday."

Penn State was defeated in the back-and-forth thriller, as Princeton edged out the Lions in the 5-4 heartbreaker.

While the team is certainly disappointed by the loss and end to its season, the future of Penn State field hockey remains bright.  Next season, the Lions will return many key starters, including Licata, Herold, Gebhart, Katie Breneman, and Katie Andrews.  Although the losses of student-athletes such as Grzywacz and Reddig will be hard to adjust to, the expectations for Penn State field hockey will remain high, just as they have throughout the years.

Lions Excited to Take on Defending National Champions

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By Julie Bacanskas, Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - The Nittany Lions have been hard at work all week, practicing every day and remaining focused on the task at hand, defeating Princeton in the first round of the NCAA Tournament on Saturday.

9261611.jpeg"It's been such an exciting season," said head coach Char Morett.  "I think a lot of people had some doubts early on.  We started out 1-3, but I really wasn't worried because I knew we were playing some tough teams and that this team would get back on track.  Obviously we did.  It's been a little bit of a frustrating last two weeks, losing two games in overtime, but this is now like a whole new season.  The slate is clean.  All 19 teams feel the same way.  I've been coaching in Division I for 35 years, and I have to say that this is really a wide, wide, wide open field.  We're excited to be a part of it."

The Lions learned they were set to face the defending national champions this past Sunday during the NCAA Selection Show.  This match will mark the start of Penn State's 29th NCAA Tournament appearance in program history. 

"For me, I think you have a chance to play the national defending champions again," said Morett of playing Princeton.  "It's tournament time, so it kind of has a different element to it than it did back when we played them in September.  I think it's going to be a very competitive game for 70 minutes, and both teams are going to be fighting hard to play on Sunday."

Morett knows facing off against this Princeton squad will be no easy feat, as does her entire team, including senior captain and Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year Brittany Grzywacz (Collegeville, Pa.).  The two teams last faced off in September when the Nittany Lions defeated the Tigers by a score of 4-3.

"The familiarity with playing them is definitely a positive," Grzywacz said.  "We know who their best players are and what they have to bring.  It was a really good game last time.  We don't want to take them for granted at all.  It was only 4-3, and they came out really hard in the second half.  It's going to be a good game."

Goalkeeper Kylie Licata (Mountain Top, Pa.) expressed similar ideas to those of her captain and has been preparing for Princeton's offense and offensive corner unit.

"Personally, I'm just trying to be set for every shot," said Licata.  "I know they're going to be shooting from everywhere.  I'm also getting ready for their corners because their corners are really good."

While Licata believes the team's early season win against Princeton is a bit of a confidence booster, she is not relying on her past knowledge when preparing.

"That win was at the very beginning of the season," Licata said.  "They're a different team now and so are we.  I think we need to practice hard all week, and when we get into the game, we just need to stick to our plan and keep doing what we've been doing."

Morett also recognizes that both Penn State and Princeton have dramatically changed and improved since September, meaning she is making sure her team is prepared to face whatever is thrown its way.

"This day and age you can see a lot of film on teams," said Morett.  "There are times I watch my team play and think, 'That was great.  Wow.  Was that really us?'  So, I think we match up well against Princeton.  They're a very skillful team.  They have a lot of strength in their midfield.  They've got solid defenders, goalkeeping, and attackers that have some creative shooting skills.  I think it's going to be a great match-up."

Headed into this game, Penn State is looking to snap a two-game losing streak.  Both losses came in overtime, with the most recent loss to Iowa taking place in the semi-finals of the Big Ten Tournament.

While the loss was extremely disappointing, Morett believes it may have been a bit of a blessing in disguise, allowing the girls more rest before this national tournament.

"Going towards the end of the season, there's always that feeling that you're a little bit on the bubble," said Morett.  "It's a sense of relief knowing you're in the tournament, and that's been established.  We've had the chance Saturday and Sunday to get rested.  I think that helped us because I feel like if we were to come off Sunday, we'd have to probably take Monday and Tuesday off.  Then we'd have to cram for the weekend, whereas now, we can afford to practice an hour and a half a day and be ready on Saturday."

Even with the intense practices, the team is full of energy and excitement, ready to take the next step in the season.

"The whole team is really pumped up," said Grzywacz.  "We're coming off a tough loss from last weekend, but I think having a hard week of practice will really turn it around.  Hopefully, we'll come out with two wins this weekend."

Like Grzywacz, Licata's emotions are running high in anticipation of the match, but she still expects nothing less than her team to play its brand of field hockey, Penn State field hockey.

"I think we're going to come out really hard and just play Princeton the way we did at the beginning of the season," said Licata.  "We just have to take it one game at a time.  That's what the NCAA Tournament is all about."

The Lions will take on Princeton this Saturday at 2 p.m. in College Park, Md. in the first round of the NCAA Tournament.

Nittany Lions to Face Princeton in NCAA Tournament

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By Julie Bacanskas, 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, 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, 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, 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."