Bell, GoPSUSports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - With a No. 2 seed in this weekend's Big Ten Field Hockey Tournament, the Nittany Lions will kick off the event against a familiar face Thursday afternoon.
Penn State (14-2, 6-2 B1G) finished its regular season last week against Indiana, claiming a close 3-2 victory. On Thursday, the Nittany Lions are set to face the Hoosiers (8-11, 3-5 B1G) once again to begin the 2016 playoffs.
"I do think there's a little bit of an advantage because it is someone you are so familiar with," Penn State head coach Char Morett-Curtiss said. "It's not like you have to re-invent practices. It is something we have been doing the past week for our game, so it's something they are familiar with."
Last time, the Nittany Lions relied on Brooke Birosik's strong offensive outing to carry the team to victory. The senior is trying to approach her final Big Ten Tournament like any other game.
"I think I try to play hard in every game," Birosik said. "I don't want to leave any regrets on the field and think I could've run harder on a certain play. I always try to play like I'll never play again. This is a little more because it's my last one, but it honestly makes it more exciting knowing it's your last. You don't want to regret anything. I just want to win with my team."
With last week's strong offensive showing, the Nittany Lions will be looking to improve their defense in their second chance against the Hoosiers.
"We have definitely been focusing on corner defense and definitely our in-line defense and defense in the circle," Morett-Curtiss said. "I just thought we needed a little bit more of a presence."
Not only did Penn State play Indiana last week, the Nittany Lions also competed against the Hoosiers in the first round of the 2015 Big Ten Tournament.
"It's funny," Morett-Curtiss said. "I think that within our conference there are just so many strong opponents that you just have to take what you get and not over think it. You have to be prepared for each Big Ten opponent and not look beyond it."
The freshmen that did not experience last year's tournament are going into this weekend's tournament with a blank slate.
"I am super excited," freshman Maddie Morano said. "Everything is so new to me right now. I have never experienced anything like college field hockey. I have already had so much fun in the regular season, I can't imagine how exciting playoffs will be. The girls are such great leaders. They are so supportive. I am so excited to take on this tournament with them."
Morano has looked to her older sister Kasey for advice all season and will continue to do so during playoffs.
"[Kasey] said the Big Ten Tournament is fast and tense and that I need to be physical and tough out there," Morano said. "I just love having her here. She's my best friend. To have your best friend here, it's just another support that's really nice to have."
After defeating Indiana in the first round of the Big Ten Tournament last year, the Nittany Lions came up just short in a 2-1 overtime loss to Michigan in the second round.
"The feeling of losing to Michigan last year just stinks and no one wants to go home," Birosik said. "Being a senior leader, you don't want that feeling and don't want that to happen again. You can't take anything for granted. You need to leave it out there because you never know if that's your last game. We've seen comebacks with a couple minutes left in the game and that's how we lost. You have to come to this tournament ready to play. Play like it's your last one."
The Nittany Lions will travel to College Park, Maryland at 12:30 p.m. Thursday to take on the Hoosiers in opening outing of the Big Ten Tournament.