Gebhart's goal puts Penn State past Spartans in Big Ten first round

ANN ARBOR, Mich. -- In the opening round of the Big Ten Tournament, the fourth-seeded Penn State field hockey team held off fifth-seeded Michigan State, 1-0, at Phyllis Ocker Field on Thursday afternoon. Senior Laura Gebhart (Mount Joy, Pa.) scored the goal for the Nittany Lions.

"I thought we played a great first half and just had some great opportunities to score where we didn't knock it in to get a bigger lead," said head coach Charlene Morett-Curtiss. "I thought Michigan State played a very strong second half. I thought we just needed to play with a little bit more poise."

Penn State improved to 15-4 on the season, while Michigan State moved to 10-9. The Nittany Lions held a 16-8 advantage in shots and a 6-4 lead in penalty corners and pitched their sixth shutout of the season. Seniors Jenna Chrismer (Mountain Top, Pa.), Gebhart and Taylor Herold (Fredericksburg, Va.) recorded five shots apiece.

Penn State received an early penalty corner about three minutes into the game, but senior Taylor Herold's (Fredericksburg, Va.) shot was stopped by Michigan State goalkeeper Sierra Patton.

The Nittany Lions again generated opportunities just more than 15 minutes into the contest. On another penalty corner, Gebhart recorded two shots, including one on goal, but couldn't capitalize.

Defensively, Penn State didn't surrender a shot to Michigan State until there was just 5:41 left in the opening period. The Nittany Lions led the Spartans in shots, 9-1, and corners, 5-0, in the half.

Just 2:31 into the second half, Gebhart broke the scoreless tie. She took the ball at the 25-yard line and drove it into the circle. After finding her way past a Michigan State defender, she fired the ball into the cage to put Penn State up 1-0.

Not long after, the Spartans received two corners, but the Nittany Lions' defense held strong.

Junior Bethany Mink (Allentown, Pa.) had a breakaway opportunity with 16:44 to go in regulation, but Patton, who pulled out towards Mink, made the save.

The Nittany Lions continued to pressure the Spartans through the remainder of the game. With about 3:30 to play, Penn State received another corner attempt and Chrismer nearly put one in the net.

In the final minute, Michigan State put on pressure, including two penalty corner attempts with no time remaining, but the Penn State defense held on as senior goalkeeper Kylie Licata (Mountain Top, Pa.) made key saves.

Penn State is next in action Friday, taking on No. 1 seed Maryland at 1 p.m. in a semifinal matchup at Phyllis Ocker Field in Ann Arbor, Mich. 

Last Updated November 06, 2014