Field hockey clinches share of Big Ten title

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. -- The Penn State field hockey program grabbed at least a share of the Big Ten regular season championship on Friday afternoon for the second-straight season, prevailing in a tough 2-1 road win over No. 19 Iowa. The win moves Penn State's Big Ten record to 5-0 on the year.

"It's a great tribute to this team that has worked so hard this season," said head coach Charlene Morett. "They keep getting better and improving as the year moves along. Coming out to Iowa and trailing in the second half and battling back for the win shows the toughness of this team. Clinching at least a share of the Big Ten title shows the strength and confidence this team has."

The Lions prevailed by using two second half goals within four minutes of each other to get past the Hawkeyes. Jenna Chrismer (Mountain Top, Pa.) scored the first to tie the match before Brittany Grzywacz (Collegeville, Pa.) gave the Lions the lead for good off a penalty corner.

Early in the match, Iowa controlled much of the ball and had a number of scoring opportunities. The Hawkeyes caught the PSU defense off guard in the second minute with a quick counterattack but Iowa's Stephanie Norlander fired wide and the match remained scoreless.

After the Hawkeyes managed to record the first three shots in the match, Penn State started to find its footing. Chrismer and Laura Gebhart (Mount Joy, Pa.) both had scoring chances within five seconds of each other but neither could find the back of the cage.

Both sides had opportunities in the remainder of the half but neither team could come up with the breakthrough goal and the match was scoreless going into the halftime break.

"I thought the first 20 minutes was a great battle," stated Morett. "Neither defense wanted to give up the opening goal. I though Kylie Licata did a great job of keeping her composure and knowing when to be aggressive. I thought she played really well."

To open the second stanza, Iowa jumped on top early in the half. The Hawkeyes' and Big Ten's leading goal scorer, Natalie Cafone, played a perfect pass to Stephanie Norlander who turned and fired past the Nittany Lion defense to give the hosts a 1-0 advantage.

The goal seemed to spark the Blue and White, as PSU started attacking with more urgency. Eight minutes after Iowa took the lead, Penn State equalized. Chrismer collected the ball in the circle and hit an off-balance backhanded shot that rocketed into the bottom left corner of the cage to tie the match at 1-1. The goal marks the junior's sixth of the season, ranking fourth on the team.

Just four minutes after Chrismer knotted the match up at 1-1, Grzywacz put the Lions on top. On Penn State's fifth penalty corner opportunity of the match, the Nittany Lions ran a play where Grzywacz passed to Gebhart who gave the ball right back to the senior defender. With space Grzywacz executed a perfect drag flick that sent the ball into the top of the net to give the Blue and White a 2-1 lead. The goal gives the defending Big Ten Defensive Player of the Week a team-leading 11 goals on the season.

"On the opening goal, Jenna [Chrismer] ripped her backhand shot that she is very strong with and that we see all the time in practice," said Morett. "Then on the Brittany's [Grzywacz] goal, I thought Laura Gebhart and Brittany scanned Iowa's corner defense very well and made the correct decision and then Brittany had a great shot for the goal."

With the lead in hand, Penn State dominated the remaining 17 minutes of play. The Nittany Lions recorded four penalty corners and four shots, while the defense did not allow the Hawkeyes to get off a shot or attempt a penalty corner on the way to the 2-1 win.

The defense continued its streak of great play in the winning effort. In the last 11 matches, Penn State has allowed one or fewer goals in eight of the contests. The backline did not allow a single penalty corner in the entire match against an Iowa team that averages over 5.5 per match.

The Lions wrap up the regular season at Michigan, as the team looks to win the Big Ten title outright for the sixth time in school history. The match is scheduled for Friday, Nov. 1 at 4 p.m.

MATCH NOTES: The Lions clinched at least a share of their seventh Big Ten Title ... The team has now won back-to-back Big Ten championships twice in program history, the other time occurred in 1997-98 ... The Blue and White will be the top seed in the Big Ten Tournament for the sixth time in program history ... The wins moves Penn State's record to 26-20-1 against Iowa in the all-time series ... Penn State is now 5-0 in conference play, the best start since the 2008 season ... The win pushes Penn State's winning streak to 11 consecutive matches, the longest active streak in the country ... The 11-match win streak is tied for the fifth longest in program history ... The last time the Nittany Lions recorded a win streak of 11 or more matches was the 2005 season when the team won 17 consecutive matches ... Grzywacz's game-winning goal was her seventh of the season, the most in the Big Ten ... Gebhart's assist on the second goal gives the junior 12 on the season, the most in the Big Ten ... PSU is now 4-1 when playing on Friday's this season ... The Nittany Lions are 8-1 away from Happy Valley this season ... The title marks the university's 82nd Big Ten championship.  

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Last Updated October 28, 2013