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Nov. 10, 2012
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Advancing to the NCAA Quarterfinals for the fifth time in the past 10 years, the No. 4 seeded Penn State field hockey team recorded a 2-1 victory over Albany (13-8) on Saturday afternoon in the first round of the 2012 NCAA Tournament. The Nittany Lions (18-3), ranked No. 3 in the NFHCA Poll, will face Syracuse (18-2) on Sunday, Nov. 10 at 2 p.m. at the Field Hockey Complex.
In honor of the Lions hosting the NCAA Tournament, the first 150 students will gain free admission to tomorrow's contest. Tickets for the First and Second Round games are $8 for adults and $5 for youth and students with valid college or university IDs. Tickets will be sold at the gate on the day of the game only.
Sophomore Taylor Herold (Fredericksburg, Va.) notched both goals for the Lions, scoring the game-winner with less than 10 minutes to play in the contest. Forcing her way down the right wing into Albany's defensive zone, senior Kelsey Amy (Sweet Valley, Pa.) fed Herold a centering pass directly in the middle of the circle. The forward then chipped the ball high above goalkeeper Kristi Troch into the right corner of the net to give Penn State a 2-1 lead over the Great Danes. It was Herold's 11th goal of the season for her 23rd point and her third game-winning goal.
"It was a huge relief," said Herold. "We just kept pushing and pushing, but we weren't finishing. So to finally finish was awesome. Their goalie had a great game; lots of good saves. [Albany] had a great game, too; it was really physical. But in the end, we came out with the win."
Prepared for a challenging opponent, Penn State took the field with a defensive mindset and an aggressive approach. Goals would not come easy for either squad, as a majority of the battles took place in the midfield and along the sidelines. Sophomore Laura Gebhart (Mount Joy, Pa.) and junior Lauren Purvis (Maple Glen, Pa.) were sources of energy for the Lions, overwhelming the Great Danes to steal away opportunities. Gebhart's tenacity would build enough momentum to break into Albany's defensive zone and eventually lead to a much-needed goal.
At the 14 minute mark of the first half, Amy would gain possession from Gebhart and drive into Albany's circle. With a hard shot aimed at Troch, the goalkeeper would make an initial save on the senior, but was forced to give up the rebound. Herold instinctively move in for the ball, hammering a shot into a wide open net for a 1-0 lead. It was the sophomore's 10th goal of the season and the 20th of her career.
Drawing first blood was vital for Penn State, as Albany took advantage of any mistake and any turnover by the Lions. Goalkeeper Ayla Halus (Hershey, Pa.), however, seemed to always be one step ahead. The redshirt senior had already made one extraordinary split save on Daphne Voormolen by Penn State's first goal, and went on to fend off a penalty corner with a sidekick save.
"Ayla [Halus] was phenomenal," said head coach Charlene Morett. "Ayla was the MVP. With those saves at the end, I thought that she was just outstanding."
The Great Danes would put themselves back in the game with less than a minute remaining in the half. After an initial save on Voormolen on another Albany penalty corner, Halus was beat by Echo Bretz on a quick deflection into the net at the 34:25 mark. Echo positioned herself perfectly in front of Kelly Bonner's rebound shot, getting her stick down in time to find the back of the cage and tie the contest 1-1. It was her third goal of the season.
An offensive, frustrating stalemate would plague the majority of the second half, with six cards being handed out in the final 35 minutes alone. Redshirt senior and Co-captain Hannah Allison (Mifflinburg, Pa.) managed to pull her squad together on an official timeout, and then reenergized the Lions with strong play in the midfield and along Albany's circle. Penn State would go on to produce six unanswered shots before the Great Danes finally earned a penalty corner, seemingly stifling the momentum gained on the late first-period goal. Halus continued to deny Albany, making an astounding low save on Laura Page immediately after Bonner banked a shot on the goal post at the 53:03 mark.
Penn State finally pulled ahead at the 60:02 mark, with Herold's chip-shot goal moving the score to 2-1 in favor of the Lions. In the closing minutes, Halus made three huge saves on two Albany penalty corners to maintain the lead for the victory. The Great Danes outshot the Lions 15-13 and held a 7-6 penalty corner advantage, which is a rarity for the Lions. Halus was tremendous in net, making seven saves on the day, while Troch recorded five saves with two goals against.
The Lions will face the Orange, who currently sit at No. 5 in the NFHCA Poll, at 2 p.m. on Sunday. Syracuse topped Massachusetts 4-2 today in the opening round of tournament play.
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