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By Mike Gilbert, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Head field hockey coach Charlene Morett-Curtiss and head men's basketball coach Pat Chambers go way back. In fact, they both hail from Delaware County, Pennsylvania. 

"He's my homeboy and I'm his homegirl," Morett-Curtiss joked.

"When we first did the coaches caravan with Bill O'Brien, the one stop was in Delaware County. So we'd be going by the Tower Theater and Upper Darby and pointing out different things, so we really have a good relationship.  I was really excited when he was hired, I love his high energy and I love the way his team plays."

What else do Coach Morett-Curtiss and coach Chambers also have in common?

They both coach a hard fighting team that is determined to go far in postseason.

Last season, Penn State basketball became a national rooting interest for many in its battle in the Big Ten Tournament, fighting for a spot in the NCAA Tournament.

Penn State field hockey also has one chance to get invited to the NCAA tournament.  The team must win the Big Ten tournament to get in.  They also have a very talented senior in Steph Hussey, who is the de facto leader of a young squad and wants to make the most out of her time left in Happy Valley.  Sound Familiar?

Hussey just hit the game-winning goal over the weekend against Rutgers that was described perfectly by Morett-Curtiss.

"It reminded me of Jose Bautista with the bat flip, and you know what's ironic is in our overtimes, Hussey plays back, so to be up there, she just snuck right in front of the six Rutgers players on that side of the field."

Hussey was out of position, and the coaching staff was wondering why she was sneaking up the field as the play developed.  But it's that same experience and will to win that D.J. Newbill had here that Hussey shares. 

Hussey will play her last game at home on senior day against Iowa, and that game will be televised on the Big Ten Network.  She and Haley Kerstetter will be taking their home field for the last time, but coach Morett-Curtiss likes to focus on the seniors more during the winter banquet in January.  There are still a lot of crucial field hockey games to be played in the mean time. 

Iowa is currently tied with Penn State in the Big Ten Standings, and the Nittany Lions want the best possible seed going into the Big Ten tournament.  The Rutgers win eliminated the Scarlet Knights from playing in the Big Ten tournament, as only the top eight teams in the conference advance, so that helps the Lions.

"That took a lot of pressure off of us [moving forward]," said Morett-Curtiss.

If Penn State can get past Iowa and beat Northwestern in Chicago, they can slide into the fifth spot in the Big Ten.  Also, Michigan still plays Michigan State, so the conference standings are very up in the air. 

 "Any team in our conference is capable of winning the tournament.  I think there's a lot of parity amongst all of us.  The way it's seeded right now, it could be all flipped up [by the end]," said Morett-Curtiss. 

When asked what the team's mentality is going into the all-important Big Ten Tournament, Morett-Curtiss made sure not to look past the game against Iowa first.

"It's the same mentality we're taking into Iowa.  It's not a nothing-to-lose attitude, but for us it's something to prove; it's to prove to ourselves how hard we've been working and how much we've improved, and we're a team that plays with a lot of pride and we want to improve our record.  So I think that's our mentality Friday; it'll certainly be out mentality for the rest of our season." 

Morett-Curtiss said the key to the rest of the games is simple.

"We can play so much faster.  We need to play an accelerated style."

They do that by getting good transition numbers, and by getting all the girls up-field attacking.

Morett-Curtiss is also using coach Franklin's football team as motivation.  The coaching staff put Carl Nassib's quote after the loss to Ohio State on the players' practice sheets, Tuesday.  The quote was simply 'Losses stink.  You learn from them and you get better.'

With only a few games remaining, the goal is simple: win the next few for seeding, then it's show time in the Big Ten tournament. 

"We're going to keep working hard to improve our chances," said Morett-Curtiss.

With a combination of Steph Hussey, an experienced coaching staff, and maybe some luck with how the dominos fall in the rest of the conference, we could be seeing a deep run in the Big Ten tournament like Pat Chambers' team last March. 

By Mike Gilbert, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Aurelia Meijer is someone that lights up the room, and coach Charlene Morett-Curtiss raves about her positive attitude and energy.  As a freshman from Holland, Meijer certainly deserves the praise for her statistics on the field, but she also is making an impression with her teammates and the coaching staff.

 

"[Meijer] contacted us by sending a video through an international recruiting service and we just loved her speed with the ball, we loved her feistiness and her skills and when we got to meet her we just fell in love with her personality," said Morett-Curtiss.

Meijer is fitting right in with American culture, and jumped at the chance to play her college hockey in the United States.

"I wanted to speak English, I wanted to experience a new culture and I love the United States.  Penn State is a really cool and well-known university, and everyone in Holland loves it," said Meijer.

The one thing she probably cannot get in the U.S. is her favorite food, hagelslag; a chocolate sprinkle that is put on toast or bread.  She did say she has a good substitute, as waffles are her favorite food in America.

On the field, she is putting up great numbers, with three goals and ten points.  Obviously Meijer loves to play the game, but she also enjoys other parts of being on the team.

"I love the spirit and the fans, there are so many people that care about the sport it's just a lot of fun."

Morett-Curtiss loves her competitive streak, which one wouldn't detect in her cheerful off-field demeanor.

"She is really our go-to player to get the ball in scoring position...She tackles back when she loses the ball right away and that's just instinctive for her.  She brings that great competitive spirit to the team," said Morett-Curtiss.

"When we brought her and her father in for a visit it was everything we saw on Skype; just very positive and very upbeat.  She just exudes energy and positivity and is very supporting and caring for her teammates."

Meijer has made an instant impact in a foreign place and is beloved by her coaches and teammates.  That is hard to do, but Meijer made it easy and will continue to be a go-to player for the Nittany Lions going forward.  

By Mike Gilbert, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - The Penn State field hockey demonstrated its growth and improvement in Friday night's matchup. Maryland entered the game ranked ninth in the nation in goals per game.  Against Penn State, they only scored one goal.  That is a testament to The Lions' defense, something head coach Charlene Morett-Curtiss and her staff wanted to work on during the week.

"We've been working this week on doing a better job getting the ball out of the backfield.  This week, we need to concentrate on improving our defense, that's been sort of an inconsistency," said Morett-Curtiss.

Of course, Morett-Curtiss said this before the game.  Once she saw the product her team put out against one of the top teams in the country, she was happy with the result.

"They fought hard all game long, I'm proud of them...I thought that every kid on that field competed today."

One of the reasons Penn State was so stout on defense was goalie Jenny Rizzo's solid play.  She saved seven shots, including what easily could have been a goal with nothing separating Maryland's Sarah Sprink and the net except for the freshman.  She made the save to keep her team in the game.

"Jenny Rizzo had some great saves," said Morett-Curtiss.

In addition, the defense, led by Steph Hussey in the backfield, limited Maryland to just 15 shots on goal, a number the Terrapins are used to surpassing.  Hussey is new to the position, as she usually plays near the net, but Morett-Curtiss wanted more power in the backfield. 

It was certainly a much cleaner game on Friday from a defensive standpoint, and with the defense stepping up at the right time, it should set shots up offensively down the stretch.  There are still plenty of opportunities to right the ship in the Big Ten before the Big Ten Tournament rolls around.  Charlene Morett-Curtiss knows that her team performed much better than in the previous game against Princeton.

"We have to get back on track, but (Maryland) is sitting at the top of the conference and I'd say we were right there with them today."

Penn State will travel to Lock Haven on Sunday, followed by another road with Rutgers next Friday.

 

By Mike Gilbert, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Penn State field hockey will host its first ever white out Friday in a showdown with top ten team Maryland.  The white out is something that head coach Charlene Morett-Curtiss is excited about.

 

"I think it's great that we can drum up that type of enthusiasm like what the football team obviously does, and I think it's great too that we've had different events like pink zone, so I think it just speaks a lot about the school spirit that Penn State has and how it's contagious from one sport to another," said Morett-Curtiss.

The game won't be without its challenges, as Maryland is a team that ranks ninth in goals scored, averaging 3.77 goals per game.

"They have great leadership, with a variety of seniors on the field in important positions; Sarah Sprink is their deep back and I would say she is really the backbone of the team, just sets the tone with great ball speed and vision out of the backfield," said Morett-Curtiss.

Morett-Curtiss certainly has a lot of respect for Maryland going in.

"Anna Dessoye, Alyssa Parker, some of their players just have a lot of quick stick skills and we're really going to have to be on our toes.  We have to focus on marking tightly this week in practice and hope that carries over into the game."

Marking tightly in practice is one of the keys to success, but getting better play in the backfield is also pivotal to knocking off Maryland, a team still undefeated in conference play.

Coach Morett-Curtiss is looking to move Steph Hussey to play the back position, to gain a little more power in the backfield.

"We feel like we need a little more punch out of the backfield.  Steph has a really hard hit and she's played back in her career, so we just think against Maryland were going to really look to be a little stronger with our outlet passing," said Morett-Curtiss.

Penn State's consistency looked a little better this weekend and, after the typical Friday win, the Lions came out Sunday and looked very strong in the first half against Princeton, something that made the coaching staff happy. 

The game was moved from six o'clock to 4 o'clock for fear of weather and so more fans will be able to attend before the homecoming parade. 

Penn State is currently ranked second in the nation in average attendance, averaging 600 fans per game.  After the bout with Maryland, the Lions travel to face Lock Haven on Sunday, as the Big Ten Tournament looms in the distance. 

 



By Mike Gilbert, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - In need of a momentum-building win, Penn State led Quinnipiac going into the second half on a very chilly Breast Cancer Awareness night.  Then, in the second half, Aurelia Meijer fired a strong pass inside the circle from right of the net.  Steph Hussey was in position to grab the rebound near the goal as Meijer's pass rattled off of a few sticks and finally past the goalkeeper after Hussey put the ball in the net.  Hussey would give her team a comfortable 4-1 lead, and it was the senior from Miami who shined in the cold weather.


For a team with such youth, having a senior leader like Hussey to turn to after a tough loss is crucial.

Hussey also had a goal to give her team a 2-1 lead with 23:09 remaining in the first half.  Hussey, again, was in great position in between the posts to wrangle in an assist from Brooke Birosik and knocked in her first goal of the evening.

Birosik netted a goal of her own on a penalty stroke, going top left to put her team up 3-1.  Gini Bramley opened up the scoring, connecting for a goal with the side of her stick from the outer-left portion of the circle to put her team up 1-0. 

We were definitely better defensively, low.  We just talked [this week] about getting people back so we can get more scoring chances," said coach Morett-Curtiss after the game.

Penn State certainly put themselves in good positions to score, as three of the four goals came in tight windows near the goal.  Morett-Curtiss mentioned the struggles with being in good position to find shots, but those struggles disappeared Friday night. 

"I feel that this team keeps growing, and I have to remind myself of their inexperience at times, but again we had a really good week of practice and tonight I really liked the energy," said Morett-Curtiss.

Having Hussey there, who has been a part of three NCAA Tournament appearances, certainly helps with the inexperience of a team with many freshman starters.  It is nights like Friday, where Hussey dominates a game after a gut-wrenching loss to Ohio State that provides a sense of levelheadedness and calmness to the players and coaches alike.  

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
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. -
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
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. -
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. 

 

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