No. 11 Field Hockey Takes Down No. 5 Princeton, 1-0
Oct. 24, 2010
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Behind an outstanding defensive effort led by Ayla Halus, the No. 11 ranked Penn State field hockey team defeated No. 5 Princeton, 1-0, on a second-half goal by Jessica Longstreth to capture a crucial non-conference battle at the PSU Field Hockey Complex on a beautiful Sunday afternoon.
With the victory, Penn State improves to 12-4 on the season after recording its second straight win against a ranked opponent following a 2-1 victory over No. 17 Duke on Saturday. The loss drops Princeton to 11-4 on the year.
"It was a great performance today by our team, both team attack and team defense," said head coach Charlene Morett. "That's what I'm most proud of. We played a tough game yesterday against Duke and won it under very challenging conditions, and to come out here today and be ready to compete again, I think our team really stuck together. I think it was very clear that we wanted this win today."
Throughout the game, the Nittany Lion defense was simply outstanding. For the second time in as many days, the team played shorthanded for 15 minutes after a pair of infractions drew yellow cards in the first half. Despite the disadvantage, Penn State fought through the adversity and refused to break. The defensive unit was sensational with its pressure throughout the game, especially when faced with a man-down situation.
Halus was rock solid in the cage again as she pieced together her fifth shutout of the season after posting four saves. She has allowed one goal or less in 10 contests this season, including each of the last three games.
Princeton came into the match with a potent offensive attack, headlined by Kathleen Sharkey, who leads the nation with 26 goals. Despite their high-scoring resume, the Tigers were blanked by the Nittany Lion defense and suffered their first shutout of the season.
"We had great team defense going and we obviously have outstanding goaltending," said Morett. "I think we kept our composure, and that was key. The defense was really helping each other out with double-teaming and different things like that which helped us come up with the ball and take a little time off the clock."
Early in the contest, Penn State came roaring out of the gate. The hosts earned four penalty corners and unloaded four shots in the first 25 minutes of action, but Princeton held strong. Later, after Penn State went a man-down, the Tigers pieced together a response. With their first true offensive surge of the game, Princeton fired back-to-back shots on goal, but Halus stoned both attempts.
With time running down in the first half, both teams picked up the pace. Princeton nearly broke free with a 2-on-1 situation on the Penn State side of the field, but Daneen Zug made a sensational play to strip the ball and clear the zone. The Lions shot right back as Kelsey Amy broke loose down the sidelines. The sophomore speedster found a little space to maneuver, but Princeton's Christina Maida came out of the cage to stifle the attack and keep the game scoreless entering halftime.
The second half played much like the first as the Nittany Lions made their presence felt early and often. PSU earned three straight penalty corners, but the shots that followed were set aside by Princeton.
Reeling from Penn State's offensive showing, the Tigers retaliated. Princeton earned a penalty corner and fired a pair of tracers on goal. Despite the attack, Halus stepped up again. The sophomore goalkeeper faced the surge head-on and made two exceptional saves to keep the game scoreless.
As time slowly whittled down, Penn State picked up the pace. Lauren Purvis got a clean look at the cage, but Princeton's Amy Donovan swatted away the attempt. Later, Maida sent back a pair of rockets by Brittany Grzywacz and Daneen Zug. With the tempo at a torrid pace, the Lions recorded three consecutive corners with 15 minutes remaining. Finally, after the third attempt, PSU earned a penalty stroke.
With a perfect opportunity to break the scoreless tie and light up the scoreboard, Penn State turned to the always-reliable Jessica Longstreth. Staring at her fourth stroke of the season, and second in as many days, she launched a blistering shot into the bottom left corner of the cage to open the scoring at the 56:48 mark.
After the Nittany Lions broke through, Princeton fired right back. With just under 10 minutes remaining in regulation, the squad earned back-to-back penalty corners. Now on the defensive end, Longstreth came through again. On the Tigers' first attempt, she swooped in, broke up the play, and cleared the zone. Later, Princeton's second shot found an opening but sailed high to keep the squad off the board.
With time becoming a factor, the Tigers were saddled with a yellow card and played shorthanded until the final few ticks. After Penn State handled the man-up situation, Princeton pieced together one last-ditch effort when the squad returned to full strength. As the clock expired, the visitors earned a penalty corner. Refusing to relax after 70 outstanding minutes of defense, Penn State stood up one final time and blocked the Tigers' shot to secure the thrilling 1-0 victory.
During the contest, Penn State held an 18-7 advantage in shots and a 12-5 lead in penalty corners.
The Nittany Lions will return to the road for their regular season finale on Friday when the squad travels to Northwestern for a 4 p.m. battle against the Wildcats. The Big Ten tournament will kick off the following week with the first round of action starting on November 4 in Evanston, Illinois.