As No. 7 Penn State prepares for the opening of its Big Ten schedule this Sunday against Wisconsin, they may be missing an important defensive starter.
Junior Bri Hovington injured her back and neck Aug. 31 against West Virginia while going for a ball in the air. She did not return to the match and has not played since, missing matches against Pittsburgh and BYU. After the initial diagnosis it was discovered that Hovington was also suffering from concussion like symptoms.
Though mystery surrounds the extent of her injuries, Hovington believes she is on a good track with recovery. She has met with the Nittany Lions’ team doctor, Dr. Roberta Millard, three times since the Pittsburgh match and believes her health has progressed each time.
“Our medical staff is exceptional, our trainer Kelly was right there when I got hurt,” Hovington said. “Dr. Millard here on the home front calling West Virginia pharmacies to get me medicine, you really can’t ask for anything else.”
The coaching staff is not rushing Hovington’s return, even though the defender has been a starter in every game she has played in so far this season. Head coach Erica Walsh has been satisfied with Hovington’s progression but has been focused on a full recovery for the junior.
“She is significantly better and we’re hoping to have her for Wisconsin,” Walsh said. “They’ve been doing a lot of work on her and there’s nothing to keep her from playing other than discomfort at this point.”
The Lions’ depth has been a factor for the team early in the season, especially with Hovington’s absence. Sophomores Kori Chapic and Whitney Church were starting alongside Hovington all season to form an effective three-back line for the Lions that has allowed eight goals in seven matches this season.
“She is a major piece of our back line and being able to play with her is an honor,” Church said. “I think we’ve been able to deal with injuries well. We’ve had many players go down but with each new player that comes into the back line we haven’t seen a decrease.”
Freshman Corey Persson has been the latest to step up for the Lions with Hovington out. The Lions are 1-1 with Persson as a starter, having shut out Pitt 3-0 last week. And though the team was defeated by BYU 3-1 this past weekend, Persson has been a help to the defense.
“As far as Corey Persson she has stepped up, especially being a freshman,” Hovington said. “She’s always open to criticism and is asking one million and one questions to learn all she can with her having to step up in that starting position.”
Though both Hovington and Walsh have seen progress in the junior’s health, her playing status for the weekend match against Wisconsin is not clear. She will take a concussion test on Wednesday, and the test results as well as Hovington’s own feelings will be the deciding factors on whether she will play.
“Right now it’s looking hit or miss, today I woke up feeling the best I’ve felt, but I can’t say yes or no,” Hovington said. “Obviously I’ll go with whatever [the medical staff] thinks is right.”
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