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Nov. 2, 2012
IOWA CITY, Iowa - After a 3-2 victory over No. 4 seeded Iowa on Friday afternoon, the No. 1 seeded Penn State field hockey team (16-3, 5-1 Big Ten) will advance to the Big Ten Tournament Championship for the second consecutive year. The Nittany Lions, who are ranked No. 4 in the NFHCA Poll, will take on the winner of the No. 3 seed Michigan-No. 7 seed Indiana semifinal contest. The Championship game will take place on Sunday, Nov. 4 at 2:30 p.m. ET and will be aired by the Big Ten Network.
"I thought that it was a great game by both teams," said Big Ten Coach of the Year Charlene Morett. "It was a real defensive battle at some times. I felt that our attack just persevered and persevered, and we were able to knock some goals in. Especially after missing the stroke...that's sort of tough mentally on a team. But I loved the way that they came back and regrouped."
Senior Kelsey Amy (Sweet Valley, Pa.) notched the game-winning goal at the 53:24 mark of the game, breaking a 2-2 tie and recording her 22nd goal of the season. On Penn State's fifth and final corner of the contest, junior Whitney Reddig (Lititz, Pa.) fed directly up to Amy on the insert, allowing the forward to rocket a shot past netminder Kathleen McGraw. The goal gave Amy her 170th career point and Reddig notched her 15th assist of the season.
The semifinal battle proved to be a Big Ten rematch, with the Lions defeating the Hawkeyes during the regular season 5-1. In the opening five minutes, there was a back-and-forth fight for possession in each team's corners, with the defenders beginning a strenuous, game-long campaign. Penn State would gain the first scoring chance, drawing a penalty stroke at the 4:01 mark. Junior Brittany Grzywacz (Collegeville, Pa.) lined up to take the shot, but missed her first stroke of the season on her seventh total endeavor.
Rallying quickly, the Lions would be the first on the board with a goal by sophomore Taylor Herold (Fredericksburg, Va.). The play was set up by Amy, who drove the ball into the circle through several defensemen. Unable to produce a shot, the senior fed up to Herold from the right of the net, and the sophomore tapped the ball in past McGraw for a 1-0 lead. It was Herold's eighth goal of the season for her 17th point. Amy's assist was her 10th of the season.
As the contest grew more heated, junior Abby Fuhrman (Bainbridge, Pa.) and Reddig stepped up in the mid- and backfield, frustrating the Iowa offense with consistent clearing and tackles. Sophomore Laura Gebhart (Mount Joy, Pa.) proved to be a force on defense, blocking a shot from Dani Hemeon after an Iowa corner.
However, the Hawkeyes would finally respond at the 24:03 mark. Sending a shot from well above the circle, Marike Stribos found Hemeon at the front of the net. The sophomore was able to get her stick down and deflected the ball in past goalkeeper Ayla Halus (Hershey, Pa.). It was Hemeon's 10th goal of the season.
Iowa would continue to build off of that momentum, drawing several corners to control the offense. Grzywacz came up with a defensive save to deny Hemeon on the final corner of the half, and time expired with junior Ashtin Klingler (Selinsgrove, Pa.) blocking and clearing the ball. It was one of few instances that Penn State held a disadvantage in penalty corners, only drawing three in the first half to Iowa's four.
Entering the second half, the action continued to be contained in the midfield. With several Lions getting scraped up in battles, nearly 10 minutes went by before Penn State drew a penalty corner at the 43:20 mark. Iowa's defense stepped up and blocked a commanding shot from redshirt senior Hannah Allison (Mifflinburg, Pa.), leaving the score knotted at one.
Two minutes later, Herold would record her second of the game off of an initial shot from Grzywacz. Firing the ball towards McGraw on a Penn State penalty corner, Grzywacz's shot would find Herold's stick at the front of the net, deflecting in to give Penn State a 2-1 lead. It was Grzywacz's second assist of the season for her 55th career point and Herold's ninth goal of the season.
Iowa would answer moments later, however, with Jessica Barnett tying the game at 2-2. After a huge save from Halus on Hemeon, Barnett scooped up the rebound and fired the ball just above the netminder for her ninth goal of the season.
Amy, the Big Ten Offensive Player of the year, would break the tie at the 53:24 mark, after five minutes of rough midfield battles. Both squads' defenses refused to let up, with only nine shots produced in the second half. Fuhrman and sophomore Katie Breneman (Washington Boro, Pa.) continued to sacrifice their bodies to make tackles, giving zero slack to the Hawkeye offense. Allison and Grzywacz were unrelenting with stealing the ball, with junior Lauren Purvis (Maple Glen, Pa.) attacking along the sidelines for possession.
With a final penalty corner for Iowa in the closing two minutes, Gebhart and Allison controlled the ball to hold off the Hawkeyes. Time expired to give Penn State a 3-2 victory and a spot in the Big Ten Championship game on Sunday.
Proving how defense-minded the contest was, only 19 shots were produced in 70 minutes of action. Penn State outshot Iowa 10-9, with the Hawkeyes holding a 6-5 penalty corner advantage. Halus was tremendous in net, making two saves and fending off five corners. McGraw, named to the All-Big Ten First Team, made one save.
The Lions will take to Grant Field on Sunday, Nov. 4 at 2:30 p.m. in hopes of gaining their sixth Big Ten Tournament Title.
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