Penn State Hosts Villanova in Field Hockey Exhibition on Wednesday
Aug. 18, 2009
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - The Penn State field hockey team opens its 2009 season on Wednesday, hosting intrastate rival Villanova in a home exhibition. Gametime is set for 2 p.m. at the Penn State Field Hockey Complex.
IMPORTANT PARKING DETAILS
Fans can park for an hourly rate in the east parking deck, located across from East Halls and accessed off of Bigler Road.
Or fans can purchase a one-day visitor's permit valid for parking lot 44, located on the east side of the Bryce Jordan Center and accessed off of Curtin Road.
For more information, please visit the visitor's center on the other side of Beaver Stadium on Porter Road or call the parking office at 814-865-1436.
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The 2009 season marks the beginning of a new era for Penn State Field Hockey. Not only are the Nittany Lions moving forward without the services of All-Americans Jen Beaumont, Jen Long, and Allison Scola, who graduated after stellar four-year careers, but they do so in a season that debuts major rule changes which should drastically alter the pace of the game.
Head Coach Charlene Morett explained the first change, a self-start rule. "On a free hit, you no longer have to stop the ball and pass it; you can quickly stop the ball and take it yourself," she said. "That will add a quickness and speed to the game that we haven't seen in a while."
The other change is when there is a foul inside the slash marks leading up to the circle; the ball will have to be pulled back and restarted.
"That rule will slow down the game a little bit, but I think you're going to see the game of field hockey changing in a different dimension with regard to the speed of the self-start rule and you're going to see plays being set up from inside the 25 that you haven't seen in the past," Morett said. "This will give both offenses and defenses time to organize a potential set formation."
Regardless of the rule changes, the Nittany Lions have a tall task trying to continue their recent success, which includes a Big Ten Championship and a National Championship Game appearance for a program that has reached the NCAA Tournament in 25 of the last 27 years with its 25 overall appearances good for second most all-time.
In 2007, the squad made a magical run to the title game defeating three ACC powers - Virginia, Maryland, and Wake Forest. Penn State followed that season with the Big Ten Regular Season Championship in 2008, its first since 2005 and fifth overall. One highlight came at home on Oct. 10, defeating No. 5 Iowa by a 2-1 final in front of a television audience on the Big Ten Network. Despite being upset by Ohio State in the Big Ten Tournament, the Nittany Lions received an at-large bid into the NCAA Tournament.
That sets the stage for 2009, which features a young team looking to create an identity and make its mark.
As Morett said, "This team has to play very balanced and we have to use our bench to make a significant difference. Because of this new rule, it's going to be a fast-paced game and if we can show depth, it will help us be successful. It will be difficult for any team to run the field for 70 minutes. We will need all 20 players ready and fit come preseason camp in August."
With strong leadership from veteran players led by senior captains Amy Bonenberger, Laura Cahill, and Bethany Marvel to go along with a plethora of young talent, the pieces are in place to make 2009 a memorable year.
The Lions' biggest strength at the forward position is speed, an asset that should be enhanced by the rule change.
"We've got a lot of speed on our line in [sophomore] Jessica Longstreth, [freshman] Kelsey Amy, and [senior] Gina Bartolacci, so we feel that those players will be able to get the ball downfield themselves with this new restart rule," Morett said.
Longstreth, last season's Big Ten Freshman of the Year, is the team's top returning point-scorer at forward with 17 (7g, 3a). Another player who will be counted on is redshirt senior Christine Dudek, who had five goals last season and does a nice job of creating scoring opportunities through the circle.
Other players who could see time at forward are redshirt freshman Hannah Allison and junior Jenny Purvis. Purvis, who can also play midfield, is one of the veterans on a very young squad and will be counted on for her energy and spark that she brings to the field.
A very deep midfield unit is highlighted by seniors Brooke Hoffsmith and Marvel along with junior Daneen Zug. Perhaps the deepest and most balanced position on the team, Hoffsmith, Marvel, and Zug bring experience and leadership while young players look to keep improving under their tutelage.
"I would say that Marvel and Zug are going to be two players that we'll look to penetrating the attacking end, as well as [sophomore] Casey McCartin and [redshirt freshman] Arielle Spadea," Morett said.
Hoffsmith had a breakout year in 2008, being named to the Big Ten All-Tournament Team, and looks to continue the success in her final season in Happy Valley. Meanwhile, Marvel followed up an impressive sophomore season (11 pts: 5g, 1a) with a 10-point (4g, 2a) 2008 campaign which saw her selection to the All-Big Ten Second Team.
Zug's hard shot led to a team-leading 10 goals, many coming off penalty corners. Her 23 points were easily second best on the squad, six points ahead of Longstreth and only four behind All-American Scola. Like Marvel, she was also named a Second Team All-Big Ten performer.
Another player who could see time is freshman Laura Kassab, who can play either in the midfield or at forward quite effectively.
Coach Morett sees the potential for flexibility on the field. "I think our system will change throughout the season and within the game, instead of it being a traditional formation," she said. "I see our team and a lot of teams changing their systems not only throughout the game, but with consideration from opponent to opponent."
One position greatly affected by the new rule is the backfield. As Morett said, the backs will need to be on their toes and alert to transition from zone-to-zone to man-to-man defense.
"It's going to be a quicker situation coming inside the 25. The quickness of our backs will have to change significantly; their thinking will have to be much quicker. Their heads will be swiveling side to side to see where players are because it's going to be a much faster game. Communication will be a necessity by our goalkeeper and deep backs"
The one player who is most likely to step up as the voice on defense is Cahill.
"That's something coming out of spring that we talked to Laura about - being that leader back there and organizing the defenders," Morett said. "Losing Long, Scola, and Beaumont are three significant losses for us. With Bonenberger and [redshirt senior] Jen Miller, two side backs, and a couple of redshirt freshmen, we think that they can come in and give us that defensive strength. Brooke Hoffsmith could also be an integral player in our center back position"
Cahill has been a mainstay ever since she stepped foot on the Penn State campus, playing in 20 games (starting 19) as a freshman in 2006, starting all 24 during the team's run to the National Title game in 2007, and starting all 20 in 2008.
Miller also started every game in 2008 and will also be counted on to lead a young and transitioning defensive unit. Redshirt sophomore Lauren Alloway and redshirt freshmen Kristen Schaefer and Alex Schlener are defenders who could compete for significant playing time as well.
"Our defense is going to be young without having that leadership from Beaumont and Long from last year," Morett said. "That will be the piece we'll have to see develop and develop rather quickly."
Beaumont's shoes won't be easy to fill, but the Nittany Lions have two young goalkeepers who are eager to make an impact. Junior Ali Meves and redshirt freshman Ayla Halus are set to compete for the position.
Meves has impressed in limited action in her career; she hasn't allowed a goal in 80:44 while making four saves. Both Meves and Halus have learned under the tutelage of goalie coach Annie Zinkavich and look to shine in the fall.
Who will ultimately grab the starting spot? It will be a tough decision in choosing between two highly capable keepers.
"Meves had the edge coming out of the spring, but Ali and Ayla are very, very close as far as who will grab that position," Morett said.
The Penn State field hockey team has released its 2009 schedule which features games against eight NCAA Tournament teams from 2008, including National Champion Maryland and National Semifinalist Iowa. The Nittany Lions will play 18 regular season games, eight at home, eight on the road, and two neutral site games. The squad is looking to defend its Big Ten Regular Season Title which was its fifth overall and first since 2005.
"Our schedule has always been tough," Morett said. "We consistently rank year-to-year as one of the top schedules in the country. We're certainly not going to back down at this point."
After an Aug. 19 home exhibition against Villanova, the regular season opens at Old Dominion on Aug. 28 and Virginia on Aug. 30.
"Both teams are going to be very strong that weekend," Morett said. "Opening at Old Dominion and Virginia will be a very tough task."
Last season, the Nittany Lions dominated nine-time national champion Old Dominion in holding the No. 8 Lady Monarchs shotless in a 2-0 victory. The squad also defeated the then 10th ranked Cavaliers at home as one of its four wins over ranked foes.
The home opener is set for Sept. 4 at 6 p.m. against local rival Lock Haven. Penn State looks to even the all-time series at 14-14-1 with a win on that Friday evening. The Nittany Lions remain home for a noon contest on Sunday, Sept. 6 against national powerhouse Connecticut.
The following weekend features a pair of games against NCAA Tournament teams on consecutive days (Sept. 12, 13), at Maryland and against American. After two more games against intrastate rivals Lafayette and West Chester on Sept. 16 and 20, Penn State will head to New Jersey for a rematch at Princeton, the team that knocked the Lions out of the NCAA Tournament last year. That game is set for 6 p.m. on Sept. 23 at the Class of 1952 Stadium.
"Our nonconference schedule is very, very difficult, but at the same time, it prepares us for the conference," Morett said.
The Big Ten opener sees Penn State travel to Ann Arbor to face the Michigan Wolverines on Sept. 27. The following Friday, Oct. 2 features the first home conference game as the Ohio State Buckeyes travel to University Park for a 5 p.m. tilt.
Sprinkled between the remaining conference games are nonconference clashes versus Stanford (Oct. 5), Bucknell (Oct. 13), and a neutral site game against Pacific (Oct. 24). Key Big Ten games are set for at Iowa (Oct. 18) and home vs. Michigan State on Oct. 31. It will mark the second consecutive season that the Nittany Lions and Spartans face each other on Halloween day.
The schedule is demanding, which is something that Morett is used to.
"We don't really have a week where we can take a breather," she said. "Once we start training in August, it will be pedal to the medal until November."
The Nittany Lions hope they are playing deep into November as the Big Ten Tournament is slated to begin on Nov. 5 at East Lansing, Michigan while the NCAA First Round and Quarterfinals are set for Nov. 14 and 15. The National Semifinals and Finals are the following weekend, Nov. 20 and 22 at Wake Forest.