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May 23, 2014
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - The Penn State field hockey program announced its schedule on Thursday, and the 2014 schedule appears to be one of, if not the, toughest the team has ever faced. After winning the Big Ten regular season title for the second-straight season and earning a trip to the NCAA Tournament for the 29th time out of a possible 32 seasons, Head coach Charlene Morett and the squad will have their work cut out for them.
Seven of the Blue and White's 18 regular season matches feature teams that qualified for last year's 18-team NCAA Tournament field, including Old Dominion, Virginia, Connecticut, Quinnipiac, Princeton, Michigan State and Maryland. Five of the aforementioned squads finished in the top-10 in the final regular season poll in 2013.
A major positive for the Nittany Lions in 2014 is the amount of home games they are scheduled to play. 10 of the team's 18 games are slated for home contests compared to just six last season.
Penn State opens the 2014 season with a tough test during the opening weekend, as the Blue and White hosts Old Dominion and Virginia to Happy Valley on Friday, August 29 at 5 p.m. and Sunday, August 31 at noon. The Monarchs finished last season ranked sixth with the Cavaliers just behind in seventh.
The schedule does not get any easier after the opening weekend, as Penn State then travels to Storrs, Connecticut on Saturday, September 6 to face the defending national champions in the UConn Huskies at noon. Last season the Nittany Lions dropped a heartbreaker to UConn, losing in overtime. After the Saturday showdown, PSU faces Quinnipiac on Sunday at 1 p.m.
Upon returning from the Connecticut road trip, Penn State plays four-straight home games, its longest stretch of the season. The Lions open up the home stand by welcoming Princeton to town, the 2012 national champions and the team that knocked out Penn State last season in the round of 16 in a thrilling 5-4 contest. The two sides are scheduled to play on Friday, September 12 at 6 p.m. After the clash with Princeton the Blue and White wrap up the weekend against Lafayette on Sunday in a 1 p.m. match.
The Nittany Lions begin the defense of their 2013 Big Ten regular season title on Friday, September 19, as the squad hosts Michigan at 4 p.m. The Wolverines defeated the Blue and White in the final regular season game of the season a year ago, marking the Lions' lone conference loss. After taking on Michigan, Lock Haven will travel to University Park for a midweek match on Tuesday, September 23 at 7 p.m.
Penn State then hits the road for the remainder of September and the first half of October, playing five consecutive away matches in three states. The first road trip in the stretch is to Michigan and Ohio, as the Nittany Lions have two Big Ten road tests against Michigan State and Ohio State on September 26 and 28. The following weekend the squad travels to Philadelphia to play at Drexel and Temple on October 3 and 5 before wrapping up the run of away matches the next weekend with a showdown against Big Ten newcomer and field hockey powerhouse Maryland. The match is slated for Saturday, October 11 at noon.
After the grueling five-game road swing, the Blue and White return to Happy Valley to play intrastate rival Bucknell on Tuesday, October 14, before hosting two Big Ten clashes over the weekend against first-year conference member Rutgers on October 17 followed by Indiana on October 19.
The team will then fly out to Iowa for its final regular season road match of the season for a match against the Hawkeyes on Saturday, October 25 before returning home to close out the 18-game regular season schedule against Northwestern on Friday, October 31 at 3 p.m. The Big Ten Tournament is set for Thursday 6-9 and will be hosted by Michigan in Ann Arbor, Mich. The 2014 conference tourney will expand from seven teams to nine teams due to the inclusion of Maryland and Rutgers.
Besides defending its Big Ten regular season title, the Penn State field hockey team and Morett will look to make their 30th program appearance at the NCAA Tournament. Penn State has advanced to the NCAA Tournament in 10 of the past 12 years, making five quarterfinal appearances, one semifinals appearance and one appearance as a NCAA Finalist in 2007. In the history of the field hockey program, the Lions have made seven semifinal appearances and two Championship game appearances.