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Nov. 4, 2010
EVANSTON, Ill. - Behind a dominating performance on both sides of the ball, the No. 8 ranked Penn State field hockey team cruised to a 4-0 victory over Indiana in the first round of the Big Ten Tournament at Northwestern's Lakeside Field on a chilly Thursday afternoon.
With the victory, Penn State advances to the semifinals on Friday at 2 p.m. when the team will battle No. 2 seed Michigan, who advanced following a 2-0 victory over Iowa earlier in the day.
Lauren Purvis and Kelsey Amy each scored in the first half and Jessica Longstreth added two insurance goals in the second to help Penn State ease into the victory. Once again, the defense was outstanding as well as the squad posted its sixth shutout of the season. Ayla Halus was a dominating presence, posting three saves for the Lions.
"We had a really strong start to the game," said head coach Charlene Morett. "We played very sharp in the first 15 minutes, and we were fortunate to get an early goal. Then, Jess put in those two big strokes at the end. She's money on those, and that's great to see."
Early in the game, Penn State was in control of the tempo. The Nittany Lions kept the ball in the Indiana zone and slowly wore down the Hoosier defense with crisp passing and a strong attack. Eventually, the effort paid off as Purvis tossed a shot on goal that Indiana's Becky Pany could not control as the ball found an opening and spun through the goalie to give the team an early 1-0 advantage.
Already holding a lead less than six minutes into the game, Penn State continued to press. After stifling Indiana's first shot of the game, PSU earned six straight penalty corners. Although their unit was held in-check by the Hoosier defense, the Lions remained unfazed. Eventually, the team's unrelenting attack broke through again.
In the waning moments of the first half, Amy made a spectacular play to pad Penn State's lead. In a one-on-one situation, she shook her defender with a quick cut back to her right. After settling in, she ripped a clean shot from the wing that rattled home and gave Penn State a 2-0 lead heading into halftime.
With momentum on their side, the Nittany Lions kept control in the early part of the second half. The two teams traded corners, and after Indiana appeared to find a groove, Penn State called a timeout to regroup.
The break worked as PSU came out reinvigorated down the stretch. Following a shot off a penalty corner that the Hoosiers mishandled, Penn State earned a stroke. As they had all year, the Lions turned to Longstreth, who blasted a shot into the lower left corner of the cage to give the team a 3-0 lead with less than 15 minutes remaining in regulation.
As Indiana slowly lost a grip on the game, the team pieced together one last-ditch effort. The Hoosiers fired back-to-back shots on goal in the span of 10 seconds, but the Nittany Lions stoned both attempts. Halus batted away the first shot, and after Indiana unloaded another one, Lauren Alloway was there to clean up with her first defensive save of the season.
Refusing to let Indiana back into the game, PSU iced the victory in the 63rd minute of action. Just a short time after their last stroke, the Lions earned another one following a second Indiana foul. Finding no need to alter what has worked throughout the year, Longstreth took the free shot and found another opening in the left corner to seal the 4-0 victory.
Penn State now looks forward to a rematch against Michigan with a ticket to the Big Ten finals at stake. Earlier in the year, the Wolverines topped the Lions, 2-0, during a bout at the PSU Field Hockey Complex on September 26.
"Playing Michigan is going to be a really tough game," said Morett. "I saw them play today, and they looked very sharp. They're very crisp in their passing and keep the field spread. They're very patient when they pass. We'll have to be on our toes, and we'll have to be smart with our positioning."
Penn State is looking to advance to the Big Ten finals for the seventh time in program history and the first since 2006. The Nittany Lions have now made it to the semifinals in each of the last six seasons.