2007 Field Hockey Season Outlook

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Aug. 14, 2007

Although not quite the record-breaking season of 2005 that saw Penn State win a Big Ten championship, the 2006 season saw the Nittany Lion field hockey team do more damage in the postseason than the previous year. Although not able to duplicate the Big Ten title of 2005, Penn State advanced to the championship game of the Big Ten Tournament and all the way to the second round of the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2003 while playing several exciting games during their season and on their way through the postseason.

With that valuable experience in close games and in postseason, Penn State will look to take it one step further in 2007 and it looks to have the experience to do just that. The Nittany Lions will return nine out of 11 starters from last year's team, which includes its top five scorers from last season. Also returning is three out of four starters from the defense as well as goalkeeper Jen Beaumont, who played every minute in goal for the Nittany Lions last year and along with the defense finished fifth in the country in goals against average and first in the Big Ten. All together, Penn State returns the players that were responsible for over 90 percent of the team's 54 goals (49) and for over 90 percent of the team's 152 points (139).

The Nittany Lions return a potent offensive attack up front led by senior Shaun Banta and junior Allison Scola, both of whom can also slide back to the midfield if necessary. Banta and Scola finished 1-2 on the team in both goals and points last year. Banta led the Big Ten in goals last year with 15 while Scola led the conference in game-winning goals with five. Both went on hot streaks at different points of the season last year, At least one of them scored a goal in 12 of Penn State's 22 games. Banta, a fifth-year senior, had a streak of seven straight games with a goal last year, which included a natural hat trick, while Scola had a string in which she scored all four of Penn State's goals over a two-game stretch, which included a natural hat trick of her own.

Mallory Weisen leads a defense that has topped the Big Ten in goals against average in each of the last two years and was fifth in the country last year.

Also up front is another pair of experienced players who also have the versatility to play midfield in junior Britney Long and senior Natalie Blasco. Long, a fourth-year junior, saw action in all 22 games last year, starting in 12 while Blasco, a fifth-year senior, played in 21 while also starting 12. Long and Blasco often platooned with one another last year with one starting and the other coming off the bench. Long showed a knack for scoring the timely goal last year, as of her four goals, two were game-winners and the other two were game-tying goals. Blasco, who entered last year with just one career goal, scored six goals, included three game-winners, and recorded 14 points on the year.

Returning to anchor the midfield are seniors Kiersten Wood and Mallory Weisen, making Penn State midfield one of the strongest in the country. Wood was a first team All-American last year, becoming Penn State's 47th first team All-American in program history. A two-time first team All-Big Ten and first team All-Mideast Region honoree, Wood often runs Penn State's offensive attack from the midfield, dishing out the ball to Penn State talented attackers for goals. She led the team in assists as a sophomore and did a little bit of everything last year, scoring seven goals and dishing out six assists. Her game-winner in overtime in the Big Ten semifinals sent the Nittany Lions on to the championship game last year. Wood also contributes to the strong Penn State defense.

Weisen, who is also a key component of Penn State's penalty corner attack, co-led the team with eight assists last year and also led the team in shots, with the majority of those coming off penalty corners. She has also third on the team in points and tied for third in goals and was a perfect 3-for-3 on penalty strokes. Weisen also provides a strong defensive presence in front of Penn State's outstanding defensive backfield.

In the backfield, junior Jen Long, a second-team All-American last year, as well as talented sophomores Laura Cahill and Bethany Marvel all return to lead a defense once again that led the Big Ten and finished in the top five in the country in goals against average for the second straight season last year. Long has started every game of her Penn State career in her first two years and along with Scola has played on the U.S. Under-21 National Team for each of the last two seasons, which included a trip to China last March to play a series of exhibitions. Both Cahill and Marvel played extensively as freshmen, with Cahill playing in 20 contests while starting 19 and Marvel playing all 22 while starting 21. Both played primarily on the ends of the field and proved to be outstanding at breaking up potential offensive attacks by opponents.

Kiersten Wood will look to become a three-time All-American this year in addition to leading the Nittany Lions far into the postseason.

Just over a handful of other returning players that saw limited playing time last year while playing behind the current veterans as well as the departed seniors will figure to have increased playing time this year. All are sophomores, either true or redshirted, and all gained valuable experience last year in their playing time as well as learning from the veterans. Midfielder Amy Bonenberger saw the most playing time out of this group last year, playing in 11 games. Fellow midfielder Christine Dudek played in six games last year while another midfielder in Brooke Hoffsmith, a high-school teammate of Bonenberger at prep power Palmyra High School, played in eight games. Sarah Dickens is also in the mix for playing time in the midfield. In the backfield, Jen Miller is a redshirt sophomore who will have an opportunity to earn more playing time while Gina Bartolacci is another option at forward.

Jen Beaumont played every minute in goal for the Nittany Lions last year and earned second-team All-American honors last year. She figures to have the inside track to the starting goalie position once again this year as a fourth-year junior, however she will be pushed for playing time by freshman Ali Meves, who was one of the top prep goaltenders in the state last year. Head coach Charlene Morett once again brought in an outstanding recruiting class. In addition to Meves, five other freshmen will compete for the Nittany Lions this year. Jenny Purvis is a versatile player who can play both forward and midfield and she will be a second-generation member of the field hockey team. Daneen Zug, who has an older brother, Graham who plays on the football team, is another versatile player who will provide depth to the defense and also had offensive skills. Jordan Petchel and Cindy Donald will add depth to the midfield position. The other signee, Lauren Alloway, who was a first team All-State pick as a senior, will unfortunately miss the 2007 season and will redshirt after sustaining a knee injury during the spring.

Penn State will once again play a very challenging scheduled designed to ready the Nittany Lions for postseason play. In addition to the always challenging Big Ten Conference games, two of which will be against NCAA tournament teams from last year in Ohio State and Iowa, the Lions will face six other teams that played in NCAAs last year, including in the first five games of the year.

Visits to Old Dominion and Virginia open up the season, followed by a home game against Connecticut, a game at Princeton and a home game against James Madison for the first five games of the season. A visit to North Carolina is the other NCAA opponent on the schedule in 2007 in addition to Ohio State and Iowa.

Penn State will play nine home games and nine away contests but will only have to leave Pennsylvania for seven games, with two road games against in-state opponents. Last year, the Nittany Lions finished fifth in the country in home attendance at AstroTurf Field, which was the first year that the NCAA kept track of attendance figures for field hockey.




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