UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — The No. 1 seeded Penn State field hockey team claimed its second consecutive Big Ten Tournament Championships Sunday afternoon with the 2-0 defeat of No. 3 seed Michigan. It is the sixth Championship Title for the Nittany Lions (17-3, 5-1 Big Ten), more than any other school in the history of the Big Ten. The Lions earn the Big Ten’s automatic berth to the NCAA Championship Tournament.
Senior Kelsey Amy (Sweet Valley, Pa.), named the Big Ten Tournament MVP, recorded both goals for the Lions. Redshirt senior Ayla Halus (Hershey, Pa.) and sophomore Laura Gebhart (Mount Joy, Pa.) were named to the All-Tournament Team.
“I am just so thrilled for the girls,” said head coach Charlene Morett. “They showed great effort and poise throughout the 70 minutes. It was a tough game between two high-quality teams and it was a great accomplishment for them.”
The Big Ten Championship rematch began as an extremely defensive battle, with possession exchanging between the two squads in the midfield in the opening five minutes. Penn State would soon begin an offensive campaign as netminder Haley Jones faced back-to-back shots from Amy and junior Ashtin Klingler (Selinsgrove, Pa.). Trying to break down Michigan’s barrier, redshirt senior Hannah Allison (Mifflinburg, Pa.) fired a third shot at the goalkeeper, but was denied by the Wolverines’ defenders.
Switching gears, Michigan moved down the field into Penn State’s circle several times in the middle of the first half, but could not capitalize to get on the board. A major source of the Wolverines’ hindrance was junior Brittany Grzywacz (Collegeville, Pa.), who constantly fended off forwards one-on-one to help protect Halus.
Stepping up in the midfield, Gebhart stealthily stole the ball at the Michigan line and drove into the circle through several bodies. The sophomore was then able to draw the first penalty corner of the game, giving the Lions a huge offensive advantage. With junior Whitney Reddig (Lititz, Pa.) kicking off the play on the insert, the ball found its way to Gebhart, Allison and finally to Amy. The forward sent a shot barreling towards Jones, but the ball struck the post to keep the score knotted at zero.
As time began to expire in the first half, Penn State earned another penalty corner at the 2:20 mark. As Reddig fed the ball directly to Amy on the insert, the Offensive Player of the Year sent a rocket of a shot into the back of the cage to give the Lions a 1-0 lead. It was Amy’s 23rd goal of the season and the 75th of her career. Reddig’s assist was her 16th of the season and her 24th point.
At the start of the second period, only six shots had been produced with Penn State holding a 5-1 advantage. Both squads’ began to pick up the pace, as Klingler sent a commanding shot at Jones moments into the final frame. Jones came up with the save, and Michigan regained possession to move down the field. Drawing their first corner of the game, the Wolverines’ Rachael Mack tried to sneak a quick shot past Halus, but the netminder scooped up the ball for Grzywacz to clear. Halus came up with the save of the game moments later, as Mack sent a sharp angled shot towards the left of the net. The redshirt senior dove and just got her stick down in time to deflect the ball out of play. The Lions continued to hold a 1-0 lead.
Gaining momentum off of Halus’ game-changing play, Klingler regained possession and flew down the far right wing at the 46:50 mark. Beating several Wolverines into the circle, the junior banked a shot off of the goal post, which ricocheted out in front of Jones. Amy moved up instinctively and sent a diving shot in past the netminder for her second goal of the contest. It was her 58th point of the season.
With a 2-0 lead in favor of the Lions, the game grew more animated and Michigan’s anxiousness began to show. With less than 20 minutes to play, Aisling Naughton sent a centering pass towards Halus in the middle of the circle. Mack tried to tip the ball in off of a diving lunge, but the ball rolled out of play too quickly for the leading point scorer to gain an edge. As the Wolverines regained possession, Shannon Scavelli nearly put her squad on the board with a hard shot, but Halus met Scavelli head-on and kicked the ball to a Penn State defender.
Trading corners in the final 15 minutes without any gain, the Lions switched to defense mode while the Wolverine’s continued to look for a weakness in Penn State. Sophomore Katie Breneman (Washington Boro, Pa.) and junior Abby Fuhrman (Bainbridge, Pa.) proved to be unstoppable in the back- and midfield, playing tremendously throughout the entire contest. Gritty play from Reddig, Gebhart, Allison and sophomore Taylor Herold (Fredericksburgh, Va.) gave Penn State the edge, while junior Lauren Purvis (Maple Glen, Pa.), graduate student Lauren Alwine (Elizabethtown, Pa.), sophomore Jenna Chrismer (Moutain Top, Pa.) and sophomore Katie Andrews (Lancaster, Pa.) rounded out the complete team effort.
In the closing minute, the Lions held off a final Michigan penalty corner to earn a 2-0 shutout victory for the Championship Title. Penn State outshot the Wolverines 11-8 and held a 4-3 penalty corner advantage. Halus was an invaluable asset in net, making three huge saves to earn her fourth shutout of the season and the 15th of her career. Jones, named to the All-Tournament Team, made five saves.