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Nov. 3, 2010
EVANSTON, Ill. - The No. 8 ranked Penn State field hockey team will travel to Northwestern for the first round of the Big Ten Tournament as the Nittany Lions prepare to face Indiana on Thursday at 3:30 p.m. ET.
Penn State enters the tournament as the No. 3 seed after posting a 13-4 record during the regular season with a 4-2 mark in Big Ten action. The Lions enter postseason play riding a four-game winning streak, highlighted by a pair of victories over top-20 teams.
PSU has a long and successful history in the Big Ten Tournament dating back to 1994. Over the last 16 years, the squad has advanced to the semifinals 13 times. Of those trips, the team continued on to the finals seven times and captured four postseason championships.
AMONG THE ELITE
Penn State ranks among the top teams in the country in a pair of national polls. In the National Field Hockey Coaches Association poll, the Nittany Lions stand eighth in Division I after moving up a spot from last week's poll. The squad also ranks eighth in the NCAA RPI standings, which places them second among teams from the Big Ten.
STRIKING A BALANCE
Penn State's offense has been a well-balanced attack throughout the 2010 season. Although Kelsey Amy has accounted for the lion's share of goals with 17, five other players have at least four. Jessica Longstreth has eight on the season, while Hannah Allison is close behind with six. Brittany Grzywacz, Lauren Purvis, and Daneen Zug round out the top scorers with four apiece.
TURNING A CORNER
Penn State has used an exceptionally successful penalty corner combination to stabilize one of the top attacks in the country. Entering the week, the Nittany Lions ranked 10th in the nation averaging 8.59 corners-per-game. Jessica Longstreth and Kristen Schaefer have been at the forefront of the team's success as the two have combined for 22 assists and helped convert 15 corners this season.
FINISHING ON TIME
In 2010, the Penn State field hockey team has not played a single overtime game. The Nittany Lions are the only team in the Big Ten that has not yet faced a sudden death situation. Should the 2010 squad remain as efficient in the postseason, it would mark only the third time since 1980 that PSU has gone an entire year without an overtime game. Currently, the 1998 and 1981 teams are the only ones to have accomplished that feat.
ALL HAIL HALUS
During her first season as Penn State's full-time starter in goal, sophomore Ayla Halus has been simply phenomenal for the Nittany Lions. In the regular season, she posted a stellar .827 save percentage, which ranks second in the nation. A dominant force in the cage, she has also posted 91 saves and allowed only 19 goals. Currently, she is the only goalie in the nation who has posted at least 90 saves and allowed fewer than 20 goals. Overall, her 1.20 goals-against-average stands 12th in the nation.
A TRIPLE THREAT
Freshman Brittany Grzywacz has made an immediate impact during her first season in Happy Valley. A truly versatile competitor, she has four goals, two assists, and a pair of defensive saves. In the Big Ten, she is one of only five players who have at least two goals, assists, and defensive saves during the year. She is also the only underclassman to accomplish the feat.
THE FINE NINE
During the team's 17 games entering this weekend, nine Nittany Lions have started every contest. In the Big Ten, only Ohio State has had even eight different players start each game. Along with the nine stable starters, Kelsey Amy has also cracked the lineup in 16 of the team's games, while Kristen Schaefer has started 14 contests.
IN A LEAGUE OF THEIR OWN
The Penn State field hockey team has squared off with teams from eight different leagues around the country. During the year, the Nittany Lions have faced squads from the ACC, Atlantic 10, Big East, Big Ten, Colonial Athletic Association, Ivy League, Northeast Conference, and Patriot League. Overall, the Lions have defeated a team from seven different conferences, including multiple squads from the A-10, Big Ten, and Patriot League.
A STROKE OF GENIUS
The Nittany Lions have been especially productive at earning penalty strokes this season, and Jessica Longstreth has been simply masterful at converting them. So far this year, Longstreth has gone 4-for-4 on strokes. In that category, she currently ranks second in the nation behind only Hofstra's Arielle Williams, who is 6-for-6. In comparison, every other player in the Big Ten has combined to convert 6-of-9 strokes this year.
In addition to its outstanding collegiate field hockey teams, Pennsylvania has long been recognized as the home of top-notch high school programs. Fittingly, Penn State has made excellent use of its in-state recruiting advantage. On the team's roster, there are 19 players for the 2010 season. Of those, 18 hail from the Keystone State. No other program in the Big Ten has recruited as effectively in any one state as PSU has in Pennsylvania. Ohio State is the next closest with eight players hailing from the same state - also, ironically, Pennsylvania. However, in comparison, the Buckeyes have players from five different states and six different countries on their current roster.
ON THE REBOUND
Although Penn State has proven itself to be one of the most consistently strong programs in the nation, the Nittany Lions had a minor stumble in 2009 when the squad finished 7-13. Needing little to bounce back, the squad currently sits at 13-4 entering postseason play. Penn State's six-win jump since last season is tied for the largest in Division I field hockey. Only Rutgers, who improved from 2-16 to 8-11, can boast a similarly impressive turnaround.
SEE YOU NEXT YEAR
Although Penn State still has much to look forward to during the 2010 season, the Nittany Lions can rest assured that much of their roster will be back next year. Entering postseason play, only two seniors are currently in the starting lineup. With a possible 187 starts during the year, seniors have accounted for only 34 of them. Much of the playing time has been assumed by underclassmen as seven freshmen and sophomores have appeared in the starting lineup at least 14 times during the year.
A LITTLE GIVE AND TAKE
Jessica Longstreth has been a dual threat at the center of Penn State's offense throughout the season. One of the top goal producers in the country, she has had a hand in 23 of the team's goals during the 2010 campaign. Currently, she leads the team with 15 assists and ranks second with eight goals. In all of Division I field hockey, she is one of only seven players who have recorded at least 15 assists and five goals during the year. She is also the only player from the Big Ten to have reached both of those benchmarks.
After piecing together an outstanding freshman season in 2009, Kelsey Amy has managed to exceed all expectations as a sophomore with the Nittany Lions. During her second season in Happy Valley, she leads Penn State and stands third in the Big Ten with 17 goals. Her offensive output currently ranks among the finest in the nation. Her one-goal-per-game average is the ninth-highest in the NCAA and the second finest among underclassmen. Among freshmen and sophomores, only Northwestern's Chelsea Armstrong has scored more often than Amy has.
Penn State has had a pattern of strong first-half play throughout the 2010 campaign. During the first 35 minutes of action, the Nittany Lions have outscored their opponents by a whopping 26-9 margin. In comparison, the squad holds just a 20-13 lead against their counterparts in the second half of contests. During league play, the differential is even greater. In Big Ten action, PSU has outscored its opposition by four goals in the first half but trails by one after the intermission.
Sisters Jenny and Lauren Purvis have been at the forefront of the Penn State field hockey team throughout the 2010 season. Jenny, a fourth-year member of the team, has two goals and an assist while anchoring the team's midfield unit. Lauren, a freshman on this year's squad, has been an excellent addition to the forward line with four goals and two assists during the regular season. The Maple Glen, Pa. natives have both started every one of the team's 17 games this year. Indiana is the only other team in the Big Ten to have sisters on its roster as Lena and Mariella Grote both compete for the Hoosiers.
The Penn State field hockey team has become a form of must-see entertainment in Happy Valley. During the 2010 season, the Nittany Lions had 11 home dates and welcomed 4,493 people to their cozy confines at the PSU Field Hockey Complex. The team was one of only two teams in the Big Ten to average over 400 fans per game.
NO NEUTRAL GAMES
During the regular season, Penn State played 17 games. Eleven contests came at home and six were on the road. The Nittany Lions were the only team in the Big Ten not to have played a single neutral-site game during the year. At the very least, the team's streak will come to an end during the first round of the Big Ten Tournament when PSU faces Indiana at Northwestern's Lakeside Field.
SPREADING THE WEALTH
During the regular season, Penn State captured 13 victories and received game-winning goals from eight different players. Every Lion who found the back of the cage during the year also clinched at least one contest. Kelsey Amy and Jessica Longstreth led the way with three game-winners apiece, while Hannah Allison added two. Brittany Grzywacz, Lauren Purvis, Daneen Zug, Jenny Purvis, and Whitney Reddig also capped off one victory apiece. Reddig performed the most impressive feat as the freshman forward scored one goal during the regular season and that score proved to be the winner in Charlene Morett's historic 400th career victory on September 18 at Temple.
SAVING THE DAY
Among active goalies with at least 1200 career minutes, Ayla Halus ranks second with an .810 save percentage during her two seasons in Happy Valley. Currently, only Syracuse's Leann Stiver has posted a higher career save percentage after recording an .831 mark for the Orange.
A LEGEND IN THE FALL
In Division I field hockey, few coaches are as widely respected as Penn State's Charlene Morett. Entering the Big Ten Tournament, she has posted a career 409-162-17 record. Her 409 wins rank fifth among active coaches. In addition to that, her 588 career games are the sixth most among active coaches, while her .710 winning percentage is the seventh best among coaches with at least 40 games on the sidelines.
The Hoosiers are looking to duplicate their 2009 run that saw the squad advance to the Big Ten Championship game and earn a berth in the NCAA Tournament. In 2010, Indiana has been led by goalie Becky Pany, who leads the conference with a 5.80 saves-per-game average. Her .777 save percentage is also the second-highest in the league. Brenna Moeljadi leads the offensive attack with six goals to go along with four assists.
SERIES AT A GLANCE
Penn State has dominated the series against Indiana, 12-3, since its launch in 1978. Earlier this year, PSU captured a hard-fought 1-0 victory over the Hoosiers at the PSU Field Hockey Complex. The last time the teams met in the playoffs was during the 2009 Big Ten semifinals when the Hoosiers defeated the Lions in a 3-1 decision.