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By Zach Reagan, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. -- The fifth-ranked Penn State field hockey team's comeback fell just short against sixth-ranked Maryland, 5-4, in front of the largest crowd ever at the Penn State Field Hockey Complex Sunday.
With nearly 12 minutes left in the game, the Nittany Lions (12-2, 4-2 Big Ten) found themselves down 5-2 to the Terrapins (12-3, 6-1 Big Ten). Penn State didn't give in. They remained hungry and competed until the final horn in front of a record crowd on an unseasonal October 72-degree day.
Penn State midfielder Katie Dembrowski blasted a long-distance goal which stood after an official review to cut the deficit to two with less than eight minutes to go. Dembrowski's goal gave the Penn State crowd something to get excited about. The packed stands and folks along the fence with shakers and posters gradually got louder and started to pick up energy as the team built momentum.
The Nittany Lions responded once again almost a minute and a half later to make it 5-4. A Penn State penalty corner was awarded and Aurelia Meijer capitalized with a shot that found the back of the cage.
"I thought Aurelia played really hard today," Penn State head coach Char Morett-Curtiss said. "She kept the engine going for the team.
Meijer, a sophomore from The Netherlands, said she never played in front of a crowd like that and it definitely helped the team gain energy as the game grew on. In the end, she felt disappointed that the team couldn't get the Penn State fans in attendance a victory after starting the game slowly.
"I think we battled hard but we didn't start from the beginning and when all of the goals came we started to get a little bit angrier," Meijer said. "We played better but we didn't start like we're able to."
With less than a minute remaining, a Penn State penalty corner was awarded originally but then was reversed by an official review that ruled a Maryland defender didn't kick the ball in the circle. Maryland then proceeded to run the clock out with possession in their offensive end. Penn State's comeback effort just couldn't get over the deficit it faced late in the second half.
The Nittany Lions came out a bit flat and made a few costly errors offensively in the first half. Maryland played a possession style of game and pressured in the Penn State defensive end much of the first half.
"I thought Maryland played a nice possession game," Morett-Curtiss said. "We were disconnected as forwards today. We made some really bad decisions in our attacking end in the first half. We can't throw those opportunities away against a team like Maryland."
The game was knotted 2-2 at halftime but Morett-Curtiss thought Penn State dodged a bullet. Penn State made adjustments to pressure the ball better but it just wasn't enough.
"We played a fall away press the first half and we gave them too much time to make passes," Morett-Curtiss said. "We probably should have gone into a full press earlier. I thought 2-2 at halftime, we just survived a bad half. Let's come out and play a little bit more aggressively with our press in the second half which we did but we gave up goals off of counterattacks."
Maryland clinched a share of the Big Ten regular season title with a solid 70 minutes of play. The loss for Penn State marked its first home setback of the season.