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Oct. 27, 2012
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - First the first time since 2008, the No. 5 Penn State field hockey team has clinched at least a share of the Big Ten regular season tile after the 6-1 defeat of No. 21 Michigan State (10-9, 2-4). The Nittany Lions end the 2012 regular season with a 15-3 overall record and a 5-1 mark in the Big Ten. The squad will earn no less than a Co-Big Ten Title with No.8 Northwestern, as the Wildcats conclude their season Sunday, Oct. 28, against No. 12 Iowa.
"I thought that they played a great second half," said head coach Charlene Morett. "We were able to get more shots on goal and control the circle. I just think that we really played as a team in that second half. It was a great way to win a Big Ten Title."
For the second consecutive game, sophomore Taylor Herold (Fredericksburg, Va.) notched the game-winning goal, forcing the ball into the net amidst a scramble in front of goalkeeper Molly Cassidy. After an initial shot off of a penalty corner by redshirt senior Hannah Allison (Mifflinburg, Pa.), Herold was able to give Penn State a 2-1 lead at the 14:57 mark of the game. It was the sophomore's sixth goal of the season and Allison's fifth assist for her 60th career point.
The Lions drew first blood, with sophomore Laura Gebhart (Mount Joy, Pa.) scoring just 4:44 into the game. The scrappy midfielder charged into the circle and banked a shot into the cage off of a Spartan defender. Gebhart's sixth goal of the season gave Penn State an early 1-0 lead.
Not backing down, Michigan State responded minutes later, with leading point scorer Abby Barker notching her 17th goal of the season. Goalkeeper Ayla Halus (Hershey, Pa.) moved over to deny Barker, but the ball deflected in off of the netminder's foot. With the game tied at 1-1, the Lions would steal back the momentum less than five minutes later on Herold's goal.
After three saves each for Halus and Cassidy in the first half, Penn State began to pull away in the final period of the contest. As the energy of the game escalated, Michigan State produced three answered shots, compelling Morett to call a time out at the 52:52 mark. The head coach's comments must have inspired Lauren Purvis (Maple Glen, Pa.), as the junior scored moments later for her fourth goal and 10th point of the season. Purvis dangled into the circle after a feed from Lauren Alwine (Elizabethtown, Pa.), and sent the ball flying behind Cassidy to take a 3-1 lead. It was Alwine's third assist of the season.
The floodgates began to open in the second half, with junior Whitney Reddig (Lititz, Pa.) scoring at the 57:04 mark. Gaining an offensive edge with three consecutive shots produced by Allison and Alwine, Reddig found the back of the cage through traffic in front of the net. It was her fourth goal of the season for her 22nd point. Just 42 seconds later, after a Michigan State time out, junior Brittany Grzywacz (Collegeville, Pa.) beat Cassidy on a penalty stroke to extend Penn State's lead to 5-1. It was Grzywacz's 12th goal for her 25th point of the season. The junior is now six-for-six on penalty strokes.
With less than ten minutes to play in the contest, Herold would notch her second goal of the game at the 60:30 mark. With a strong pass from Purvis at the left, the sophomore shot hard into the high left corner of the net from the right of the circle. Purvis' assist puts the junior at 11 points on the season, while Herold tallied her seventh goal of the season for her 15th point.
Time expired to give the Lions a 6-1 victory, with Penn State outshooting Michigan State 23-10 and holding an 8-3 penalty corner advantage. Halus had a strong showing in net, making seven saves to give the Lions a defensive edge. Cassidy notched eight saves, with Michelle Graham recording three defensive saves.
The 2012 Big Ten Tournament will be hosted by the University of Iowa at Grant Field in Iowa City, Iowa. The first two rounds will be held Nov. 1-2, while the championship game will be played on Nov. 4. Penn State's tournament seed will be determined following the Northwestern vs. Iowa contest.
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