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.