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Sept. 23, 2012
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - The No. 6 Penn State field hockey team extended its winning streak to seven games with a 4-3 victory over No. 17 Michigan on Sunday afternoon. The Nittany Lions now move to 2-0 in the Big Ten with a 10-2 overall record, while the Wolverines sit at 0-1 and 6-4. The Coaches vs. Cancer contest began with a tribute to head coach Charlene Morett for her 400th Penn State win against Indiana on Friday, Sept. 21.
"I thought that our strikers did an amazing job," said Morett. "Especially in the first half, they put great pressure on. I think that that was one of the reasons we were able to come up with great scoring opportunities...I think we came away (from this weekend) with great confidence. I think we saw some great play from our team in terms of defense. And we need to just feel that confidence and build upon it."
The Big Ten matchup was marked by physical play and gritty battles for possession, with junior Ashtin Klingler (Selinsgrove, Pa.) recording her third game-winning goal of the season off of a scramble in front of the net. With Michigan trying to fend off senior Kelsey Amy (Sweet Valley, Pa.), the forward sent a sharp pass over to Klingler in front of the net. Klingler was then able to maneuver her way around several bodies and send a quick shot past goalkeeper Haley Jones.
Remaining consistent in their ability to draw first blood, the Lions got on the board first with a goal generated by pure team effort. Finding her way to the top of the box, fifth-year senior Hannah Allison (Mifflinburg, Pa.) was in a prime position for an open pathway to the net at the 3:57 mark of the game. Taking a strong shot, Allison sent the ball flying towards Jones, with Klingler edging her stick in to deflect the shot up into the net. It was the forwards sixth goal of the season and first of the game. Allison earned her third assist of the year.
Despite being down 1-0 early in the game, Michigan's defense came back strong to keep Penn State on its toes. On the first penalty corner of the game, Amy was able to fire a shot at Jones after a pass from junior Whitney Reddig (Lititz, Pa.). Showing tremendous skill, the netminder was able to kick up a leg on her side to deflect the ball away from the net, keeping the Wolverines' deficit at one goal.
"Michigan's skills are very sharp and right on," said Morett. "They hit the ball hard, they field it cleanly and they stay very structured. I think that we did a great job of keeping pressure on the ball. We tried to put a full press on so they that they couldn't transfer the ball and find their teammates."
A majority of Penn State's pressure was put on by sophomore Taylor Herold (Fredericksburg, Va.), who played a dynamic, hard-fought game, and sophomore Laura Gebhart (Mount Joy, Pa.). The duo set up a tremendous play at the 27:45 mark, with Gebhart driving to the net to gain a dangerous field position. Herold was then able to fire a shot off, but Jones was there to make yet another diving save.
Minutes later, Klingler extended the Lions' lead to 2-0. The advantages for Penn State kept coming, with the squad earning its fourth penalty corner of the game at the 18:31 mark. Reddig fed a smooth pass up to Amy at the top of the box, allowing the forward to send a rocket of a shot towards the net. The ball beat Jones to find the back of the net and put the Lions up 3-0. It was Amy's 15th goal of the season for her 36th point of the year.
In a jam-packed first period, Michigan soon stepped up to challenge Penn State's defense. As the Wolverine's regained possession, the squad earned a penalty corner after a great scoring chance by Rachael Mack. The junior kept driving to the net, sending another shot at goalkeeper Ayla Halus (Hershey, Pa.) before finally breaking through the line. Taking aim from the top of the box, Mack sent the ball directly at Halus, which took a strange bounce up and over the netminder to go high into the net. The score now sat at 3-1.
Penn State, however, did not wait long to respond. Forcing their way back into Michigan's zone, the Lions passed the ball beautifully up the field until it found sophomore Jenna Chrismer at the left of the net. Chrismer, not missing a beat, sent a quick, commanding shot into the right corner of the net to put the squad up 4-1 at the 22:13 mark. It was the forward's third goal of the season.
Not allowing the home team to keep the momentum, Michigan earned a late penalty corner to give the Wolverines a chance to cut Penn State's lead in half. With Leslie Smith setting up the play, the back found Liesl Morris at the top of the box. Morris then fed to Mack, who wound up and sent her shot flying past Halus to move the score to 4-2. It was her second of the game and her 10th goal of the season.
Entering the second period with a two-goal lead, Penn State continued to apply pressure and force Michigan to turn over the ball. Sophomore Katie Breneman had an outstanding second half, playing strong at back to protect Halus from the Wolverine's offense. Junior Brittany Grzywacz also remained solid for the Lions, producing reliable defense while also generating shots once deep into Michigan's zone. Tallying four shots each, Allison and Herold fueled scoring chances off of the seven Penn State penalty corners in the second half.
Although the Lions seemed to control the offense, with 17 shots in the final period, it would be Michigan who would score the next goal. After a physical sequence in Penn State's defensive zone, Smith was awarded a penalty stroke at the 69:45 mark. Taking her time with the shot, Smith wound back and angled the ball into the left corner of the net to beat Halus.
Penn State fought hard to keep the ball in Michigan territory, drawing two penalty corners as time began to expire. Jones came up with a big save on Amy in the closing minutes, but the Wolverines failed to regain the ball to generate a scoring opportunity. The contest concluded with the score at 4-3 in favor of the Lions.
Penn State outshot Michigan 30-12, with Amy producing nine shots alone. The Lions also held a 13-3 penalty corner advantage. Halus recorded nine saves to earn her 10th win of the season, while Jones tallied 14 saves.
The Lions return to action on Friday, Sept. 28, at 3 p.m. when they travel to No. 10 Northwestern for the third Big Ten contest of the season. The squad will return home in two weeks on Sunday, Oct. 7, to host California for the annual Pink Game.
Check back at GoPSUSports.com for continued updates during the 2012 season. Follow us on Twitter at twitter.com/PennStateFH and find us on Facebook at facebook.com/pennstatefieldhockey.
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