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By Mike Gilbert, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Penn State's Schreyer Honors College is certainly preparing students for successful careers after graduation.  But the Honors College is also a big draw for girls looking to come and play field hockey while receiving a top-notch education. 


There are a lot of smart girls on coach Charlene Morett-Curtiss' field hockey squad.  After all, the team did take home a prestigious academic distinction a year ago.

"Let's not forget that our team won the women's highest GPA last spring," said Morett-Curtiss. 

Three girls on this year's team are currently in the Schreyer Honors College at Penn State, including Kirsten Gochnauer, Lisa Winters and Colleen Conway.  All three student-athletes are reaping the benefits of being involved with such a prestigious academic institution.

Freshman goalkeeper Colleen Conway was drawn to Penn State because of the rare combination of academics and a first-rate field hockey program.

"I definitely feel like I get to represent the school for academics and athletics, and it just makes the experience so much better.  That was one of the biggest reasons I came here, actually," said Conway.

Conway drew interest from a few Ivy League schools, including the Princeton Tigers, a team Penn State faced earlier in October.  Yet, Conway chose Penn State, and enrolled in Schreyer's.  Assistant coach Stuart Smith is proud of the education Penn State can provide his players.

"Not to say we swooped under the radar and took her from an Ivy [League school], but she came in and met with Dean Brady and the Schreyer Honors College people and made a decision not just for the hockey, she's a great goaltender, but also what we can provide with Schreyer's and beyond college.  She has a 4.0 GPA.  She's killing college, smashing it," said Smith.

Freshman Lisa Winters is enjoying her time in the Schreyer Honors College, as well. 

"I like to focus on academics and athletics so to be able to do both is awesome," said Winters. 

But Winters agreed with the other girls in the Honors College - the time management aspect of balancing a Division I sport with the Honors College is a challenge.

"It definitely teaches a lot about time management because there's a lot to do for both!  That's definitely the most challenging part," said Winters. 

Junior Kirsten Gochnauer thinks it is all about finding a balance.

"Knowing you have to study and you also have to get to practice, just finding that balance [helps], it's different for everyone," said Gochnauer.

Gochnauer does love the way Schreyer Honors College is set up.

"Especially with the smaller classes with such great professors here and getting the solo attention from those professors is a great thing," said Gochnauer.

Coach Morett-Curtiss is thrilled that Schreyer's is such a big draw for recruits, and with the program itself.

"Schreyer's is tremendous.  First of all, Dean Brady and his staff just do an outstanding job every time we bring players in because a lot of the time, we're looking to recruit against universities like Duke, Virginia and Princeton.  So that gives us an edge in recruiting."

"We're proud of our academic record at Penn State, and we really look to recruit players that are committed both academically and athletically," added Morett-Curtiss. 

Cori Conley is Bright Spot in Tough Loss

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11357432.jpegBy Mike Gilbert, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
Whenever Penn State was in trouble on an Ohio State attack, Cori Conley was there to keep things under control.

Conley was a major part of a dominant defensive effort by Penn State, despite heartbreaking the 2-1 defeat in the second overtime period to the Buckeyes. One thing head coach Charlene Morett-Curtiss noticed was the strength of her defense, including Conley.

"The backs just did a good job, especially Cori," said Morett-Curtiss.

Conley seemed to serve as an excellent safety net on dangerous-looking attacks. She had many timely tackles, knocking balls loose and clearing the ball away from danger when the Buckeyes had possession in the attacking circle.

The defensive statistics were solid, as Ohio State's first penalty corner did not occur until overtime.

"It was good we only allowed six shots. We played really tough defense and we didn't even allow them a corner at all, except for overtime. We played really well defensively and were able to tackle outside the circle...I feel like we played a really good defensive game," said Conley.

Not one to talk about herself, Conley stressed the importance of freshman goalie Jenny Rizzo in helping send the game to overtime.

"We reacted well to the good shots. Jenny reacted well saving them, and our defense and breaking out we did a really good job with," said Conley.

The frustrating part for the Lions is they showed they are capable of going off on offense, as they scored six goals on Friday night against Michigan State. The offensive statistics from Sunday's game, though, will be something the team learns from.

The Lions had 21 shots on goal and 14 penalty corners against the Buckeyes.

Penn State did score a goal on a penalty stroke, as Brooke Birosik went top shelf and put it past Buckeye goalkeeper Liz Tamburro.

Conley explained the team's faith in Birosik's ability to knock in goals.

"She [coach Morett-Curtiss] has really good trust in Brooke with her shot," said Conley.

The defense sparkled Sunday, led by Conley, and that is something that can be built upon going into next weekend. 

Two Freshmen Net First Career Goals in Win

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11351703.jpegBy Mike Gilbert, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
Michigan State goalie Sierra Patton made a full-length dive to block a shot with just over 16 minutes remaining in the first half, but Mary Nell Smith was ready.

The freshman posted up on the left side of the goal and banged the ricochet into the bottom left of the net, giving her team a 1-0 lead. Penn State never looked back.

Smith was a key part of the victory, flying around the field and making key plays in a 6-1 triumph over the Spartans in the Big Ten home opener.

"She just had a spark that we saw last week in Michigan and she just loves to attack and she was right there to finish up," said a happy coach Charlene Morett-Curtiss after the game.

Smith couldn't have been happier to knock in the first goal of her career.

"I was so excited. At first I thought 'oh I should have got that rebound' but I looked down and the ball was right in front of me so I put it in," said Smith.

Smith reflected on her first goal and it took a minute for her to realize the significance of what she accomplished.

"Everybody started screaming and it didn't really hit me at first until Gini [Bramley] put her hands up and screamed and I was so excited."

Bramley also netted her first goal as a Nittany Lion with 20 seconds remaining in the game to put the icing on the cake for Penn State.

A tougher week of practice than usual led to the domination of Michigan State. Shay Cannon attributed a hard week of practice after the loss to Michigan for the stellar performance and her goal; a laser from just inside the circle that found the middle portion of the goal.

"We work hard and were very competitive and it showed tonight," said Cannon. "I've been practicing that shot and those are the shots I always try to get, but I couldn't have done it without the help of my teammates."

Smith also praised the week of practice the team had.

"We work hard at practice and it shows in the games. We're back. That's what we wanted."

Steph Hussey added a goal, with Aurelia Meijer and Brooke Birosek netting two more, showed that whether it be freshman or senior, any Lion on the field can get the job done.

"Our freshman stood out across all levels, sophomores did a great job, juniors did a really good job inside and controlling the midfield...Once Haley [Kerstetter] got in she started a spark but it was really good to see. The girls just did a great job," said assistant coach Stuart Smith.

"It's a Big Ten game, so I think after what we had with Michigan they weren't going to let the Spartans come in to Happy Valley and walk all over us," Smith said.

Morett-Curtiss was relieved to see such a dominant performance on the field.

"1-1 [in the Big Ten] feels a lot better," said Morett-Curtiss.

With two freshmen netting their first goals and an overall dominant performance, the Lions took a big step forward just in time for the meat of the Big Ten portion of their schedule. 

By Maria Canales, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - In what was a dramatic second half at the Penn State field hockey complex on Friday night, two true freshmen forwards netted their first career goals for the Nittany Lions. Despite the stellar performance by the class of 2019, Penn State (2-3, 0-0 Big Ten) fell to California (4-2, 0-0 America East) in overtime, 3-2.

In goal, freshman Jenny Rizzo fought off shot after shot, keeping California scoreless in the first half. Penn State returned to the second half with new strength and determination, which led to the Lions getting on the scoreboard first.

Freshman Aurelia Meijer found the back of the net first during the second half. 

"When I scored I was happy," said the Netherlands native.

Just minutes later, her fellow freshman teammate Gini Bramley would net the second and final goal of the night for Penn State. 

For Meijer and Bramley, both goals were the first of their collegiate careers. 

Head coach Charlene Morett-Curtiss was pleased with the two players' performances, but thought more could have been done to prevent the final outcome of the game.

"I love that [they got their first collegiate goals], but we should have had more goals," said Morett-Curtiss. "[We can't] outshoot a team and not score more. 

Morett-Curtiss believes her team has what it takes to prevent such overtime losses from happening again. She was determined to walk away from Friday night's win with a new perspective on how the team must come together during games.

"We need to have leadership on the field," said Morett-Curtiss. "We need to have savvy and intensity and desire not to lose the game and that's what I said to them."

California scored twice within the last five minutes to tie Penn State and force sudden death overtime. Bramley explained the team needed to be as strong at the end of games as they were in the beginning, that to her is a winning recipe for future games. 

"Keeping possession at the end, marking up, communicating to whoever's girl's open and tell them to get on ball faster," said Bramley.

Morett-Curtiss explained that this coming week of practice leading up to their road game at Michigan will be challenging for the girls, to get them back in the winning mindset. Weeks like these are a critical time to mold the program into a productive and goal-producing masterpiece.

Bramley summed up what must happen in order to move on from Friday night's game.

"We need to have a good week of practice, intense practice just to get us going," said Bramley. "Just move on and learn from this." 

By Mike Gilbert, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - After losing so many experienced players, the next era of Nittany Lions are stepping up to continue the program's winning ways. Stephanie Hussey is doing that, whether she wants to admit it or not. 


Hussey has always been one of the younger players since her youth playing on various teams in Florida.  Her high school, Ronal Reagan High School, did not even have a field hockey program.  She had to find other ways to hone her skills.


Between eating empanadas, watching basketball and soccer and sailing, Hussey played for many travel field hockey teams, including the Surf Miami Field Hockey Club and the Miami Field Hockey Flamingos.


Current assistant coach Stuart Smith coached Hussey on one of her teams in Florida.  Even more ironically, coach Charlene Morett-Curtiss led the U-19 team Hussey played on, a team she suited up for when she was only seventeen years old. 


The National team Hussey played for traveled to her home country, Argentina, where many family members and friends were able to see her play.   


"Playing for the U-19 Team was a dream come true," said Hussey.


After her decorated pre-college career, Hussey decided to take the next step and play her college field hockey at Syracuse University, but after two years she decided she wouldn't continue her career wearing Orange. 


"There's a fit for everyone and sometimes it just doesn't fit for you...when it feels right, it feels right," said the senior.


Coach Morett-Curtiss didn't even have to recruit the talented forward/midfielder to her program.  Because of the former relationships with the head coach and Stuart Smith, it was an easy call for Hussey to move to Happy Valley.


'"I knew the people I needed to work with," said Hussey.


It certainly was the right decision.  She has enjoyed a Big Ten tournament championship and has been a goal scoring machine, notching two already this early in the campaign. 


Hussey has always been one of the younger players on all her stops on different teams because of her talent even saying this is one of the weird times she is actually one of the oldest on a team.


With her age and experience, it would only be natural that she would be a captain on a team that starts four freshmen. 


Before the games, she always has something to say to the team to get them ready for play.


"I'll say before the game after we finish pregame warmups and stretching and grab our sticks with about 13 minutes left before the game, that's when I get [the team] together and tell them to just focus on their skills," said Hussey who needs to set an example for all the younger players on the team.


"I think she and Haley [Kerstetter] do an equal job [leading], I'd like to see Hussey play with a little more confidence because she has high quality skills, but I think sometimes she overthinks the game.  You just want to just go out and enjoy the game, because she does have that passion and is doing an incredible job," said coach Morett-Curtiss.

The media certainly has a lot to do with the team's motivation this year.


"One of the things I told the team before the UVA game was there's a ton of articles [about] what we used to be, but there's not a ton of articles about us now.  They're all about the players we lost so we need to make them write articles about who we are now," Hussey said after Thursday's practice.


Hussey will be trying to join former teammate Amanda Dinunzio in a quest to play for the U.S. National Team, and there is one x-factor that could help her not only lead this year's Penn State team but land her on the U.S. Team - her ankle bracelet.


"I wear a little bracelet on my right ankle since I was four years old; I haven't missed a game without it," said Hussey.


Maybe it will be the ankle bracelet that leads the Blue and White to the promised land this season. 


By Mike Gilbert, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Jenny Rizzo started the day out like most other freshmen at Penn State; she went to class.  But she ended her Friday in a way not many students are capable of, by leading her field hockey team to its first victory of the season.


As a true freshman, starting at goalie can be an intimidating task.  But Rizzo was poised all night, making three clutch saves and holding Temple to a shutout to capture the win.


"You get into the zone when you get out here," said the freshman from Hershey, PA. 


"I'm nervous before I put my pads on but once they're on, it's game time."


Rizzo did not look nervous tonight, even as Temple got off 11 shots.  Rizzo made a beautiful save on a high-lofting shot midway through the second half, reaching up with her glove and tapping it away from the goal. 


The freshman's talent is certainly why she was able to come in and start in net in her first season.  But the way the team interacts and includes the freshmen has a big part in their early success.  And the freshmen are certainly having success early on in the year.


"We have a [pregame] dance party in the locker room," Rizzo said with a laugh.


"We just kind of put on some pump up music and it's a good bonding experience and gets the freshmen involved," she continued.


The other freshman having tremendous early season success is Katie Dembrowski, who knocked in the first goal of the game early on that set the tone for the night. 


"Before the game we just jam to music, everyone goes in and does a dance move, it's a lot of fun," said Dembrowski who scored her first goal as a Nittany Lion Friday.


So does pregame dancing fuel the team to wins?  Maybe.  But it might have more to do with the sense of inclusion for the freshmen and how they are welcomed with open arms by teammates and coaches. 


Rizzo got some lunch after class, eating only what the coaching staff deems ok to eat for peak performance, and came to the locker room early to get ready and warm up with the other goalkeepers.  Then coach Morett-Curtiss had some words for the team.


"Coach will just talk to us and get us hype for the game," said Rizzo.


Morett-Curtiss had some praise about her goalie after the game.


"I thought that she was calm, I thought that she was just on her angles which is really important...She was right behind the defense which is what we want."


Penn State controlled the tempo of the game, and seemed to be on offense the majority of the time.  The team scored twice on 18 shots, including Dembrowski's early goal and a goal with 8:38 remaining in the first half by Brooke Birosik.  The Lions also had five penalty corners. 


The win was a major relief for many of the players, as now they can focus on simply playing, not getting their first win of the season.


"Especially having [the game] on our home turf, there's definitely a monkey off our backs.  It's really special," Birosik said after the contest.


Much of the win had to do with the levelheaded play of the team's true freshman goalie.  

Lucky 33 for the Lions

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By Mike Gilbert, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Jersey numbers always have a certain element of superstition and lore to athletes.  The numbers on athlete's backs provide comfort, familiarity or serve as a reminder of past success.  For three members of the field hockey squad during fall practice, that number is 33. 


Associate Head Coach Lisa Bervinchak-Love, entering her 22nd season coaching the team, is all too familiar with the number 33.


"Thirty-three was my dad's number in high school and it's just a great number, Larry Bird [wore 33]," said the former 1988 co-captain.


"It's exciting to see the number 33 because you don't see it much anymore.  It's not as popular in field hockey where the numbers are usually lower, said Bervinchak-Love.


After Bervinchak-Love, Stacy Gilberg and Amanda Eckert were both among those to wear the number.

Gilberg and Eckert were both All-Americans. Bervinchak-Love is an All-American and Pennsylvania State Hall of Famer.  Is the success of players wearing number 33 still a coincidence?   

"High standards out here, that's my number," she said only half-jokingly. 


Amanda Dinunzio had a decorated career as a Nittany Lion, earning NFHCA Division I All-Mideast First Team in her senior season.  She is looking forward to playing in Rotterdam, a city in South Holland for the upcoming fall and spring seasons.  Dinunzio also told GoPSUSports.com that she is planning on doing something big in the future.


"It's a great opportunity I was given to join the club there and then I'm going to look to maybe do other things like try out for the U.S. National team," Dinunzio said.


So, how did a potential Team U.S.A. player start her journey that took her through State College?  She started with the number 33. 


"My sister had that number in high school and she got me into the game of field hockey," explained Dinunzio.


"She was always someone I looked up to," she continued. 


Dinuzio served as a grad assistant until last week, when she left to pursue her opportunities in the Netherlands.  Now, a freshman is looking to carry on the legacy of the number 33. 


The number will live on through highly recruited freshman Katie Dembrowski and coach Bervinchak-Love is excited to see what she can do.


"She has speed and great vision," said the coach who cares about the number that used to belong to her but more about wins.


Dembrowski, from Palmyra, Pa., is the next Lion to wear the number, and she sees herself as a similar player to the three-time Academic All-Big Ten player, Dinunzio. 


"It's pretty cool [following Amanda], because she was a really fast player and speed is something that is a big part of my game, so it's cool to be following her with her number," said the District 3-AA high school champion. 


Dembrowski is used to the number three, but since Grace Nissi is donning that number this fall, she resorted to the familiar 33.


"Three has always been my favorite number, but since that wasn't available I picked 33 because it had a three in it and on my old indoor team I used to be number 33," explained Dembrowski. 


Dembrowski started the first two games of the year as a true freshman, so the number 33 appears to be in good hands after the transition. 


The Lions had a tough opening weekend in Virginia, dropping back-to-back games against Old Dominion and Virginia. The Old Dominion game was a 2-1 loss, while the UVA game was lost in overtime.  Penn State had a last second chance against the Lady Monarchs until keeper Kelly Weaver made a great save with a few seconds left to preserve the victory for her team.


In Charlottesville, the Blue and White led 3-2 in the second half, coming back from a two-goal deficit as Stephanie Hussey scored the team's go-ahead goal in the second half.  In overtime, Virginia scored almost three minutes into the period, claiming the heartbreaking victory. 


Penn State looks to bounce back over the weekend, as Temple comes to town Friday, followed by a trip to Lewisburg to take on Bucknell Sunday afternoon.     




By Mike Gilbert, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - When a former captain of the Nittany Lions' football team has something to say about teamwork and winning, it's best to listen.  That is why Head Coach Charlene Morett-Curtiss was thrilled when the Penn State standout turned motivational speaker Lee Rubin was able to talk to her team.

"He was clear and concise and gave us some great takeaways, including the five components of success for an extraordinary team," said Morett-Curtiss during Tuesday's media day at the Bryce Jordan Center.

Lee was dropping his daughter off at Penn State, and the head coach entering her 29th year seized the moment.  Coming off an NCAA quarterfinal appearance a year ago, the squad sat down and listened to the former star defensive back.

Rubin, who played in three bowl games in three seasons while roaming the defensive backfield, listed the five "C's" of success in athletics.  The first "C" is competing, and as coach Morett-Curtiss was explaining what that meant outside the green room, both her and senior Haley Kerstetter looked at each other and said "loving to win and hating to lose" in unison, with smiles on their faces. 

The second "C" stood for common goal, and the third was communicating on and off the field. 

"That's something very important to this team, especially building team chemistry off the field," Kerstetter said. 

The fifth "C" was consistency, and as the word came out of Morett-Curtiss's mouth, her smile dissipated, her eyes became locked in, and she went into full-on coach mode. 

"We have to be consistent during every rep in every practice," said the fifth all-time win leader in Division I history. 

Clearly, as the head coach believes and Lee Rubin reinforced, consistency and good reps in practice are the keys to success this season.

As for the offseason practices so far, Morett-Curtiss mentioned connecting better on possession passes during the scrimmage against Drexel as something that needs improvement.  In addition, the defense will need a little more of a spark, but it is much too early to worry about that.    

"I think our challenge right now is to get our defense to play as a unit," said Morett-Curtiss.

With so many new faces vying for spots, it will take a little time in order for the team to gel.  Losing eight starters from a year ago will challenge any team's resiliency and ability to come together.  With that being said, the team is still ranked at No. 7 in the preseason polls and expectations are high.

There are still key players on this team that can provide leadership.  Carly Celkos can play middie and back this season and has been named to the B1G Players to Watch List.  Cori Conley and Stephanie Hussey also made the list, and Morett-Curtiss announced Hussey will play center striker this season.

The team heads to Virginia to start the season, playing at Old Dominion on Friday, then will travel to Charlottesville to face off against Virginia, a team coming off a disappointing season.  The Blue and White will then come home to play Temple on September 4th.   

"It's refreshing and exciting to see what they can do," said the coach about her new-look 2015-16 team.

Time to see what the hype is all about. 

VIDEO: 2015 Season Preview - Field Hockey

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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - The Nittany Lion field hockey team begins its fall season on Friday with a trip to Old Dominion (6 p.m.). The Lions will cap off the opening weekend with a contest at Virginia on Sunday (12 p.m.).

After qualifying for the NCAA Tournament for 30th time in 33 seasons in 2014, Penn State heads into the season with a number of new faces.

GoPSUsports.com paid a visit to pre-season practice to talk with head coach Charlene Morett-Curtiss, junior Kirsten Gochnauer and sophomore Emily Bruggemeier. Take a look.

Follow GoPSUsports.com's Tony Mancuso on Twitter @GoPSUTony

VIDEO: 2014-15 Year in Review with Sandy Barbour

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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - GoPSUsports.com talks with Director of Athletics Sandy Barbour to review a superb 2014-15 season for Penn State Athletics.

Follow GoPSUsports.com's Tony Mancuso on Twitter @GoPSUTony