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.