No. 6 might not be high enough.
The Penn State field hockey team stormed through its opening weekend of Big Ten play, knocking off No. 24 Indiana, 7-1, on Friday and No. 17 Michigan, 4-3, on Sunday to complete a weekend sweep of two big time conference rivals.
With its two victories over top 25 teams, the Nittany Lions are likely to move up in the polls and enter the top five once the new rankings are released.
The Lions’ dismantling victory of Indiana on Friday was also Coach Charlene Morett’s 400th victory at Penn State, a tremendous milestone for the long-time head coach.
The Lions came out in roaring fashion to begin the game against the Hoosiers, scoring the opening goal only 21 seconds into the match, which set the tone for what would become a dominant performance.
“Our passing was awesome,” senior forward Kelsey Amy said. “It was something we had definitely put a priority on in practice and something we’ve focused on the most.”
The Lions utilized that tremendous passing to score four first half goals to pace the rout and knock Indiana out from the start.
Creative passing play also led to consistent scoring opportunities and corner chances for the Lions, who scored four of their seven goals off of penalty corners.
But with emotions running high on getting Morett her 400th victory, the Lions had to reload and prepare themselves for a quick turn-around game against No. 17 Michigan on Sunday.
The Lions opened things up against Michigan by keeping a full press on their defense, attempting to overwhelm the Wolverine defenders with several players heading forward offensively, searching for a goal.
It seemed to work, as the Lions’ wave of offensive players scored the first three goals of the contest to put themselves in command early on.
“We just did a great job of getting pressure on the ball and making it difficult for them to transfer out and find their teammates,” Morett said. “I thought our strikers had an amazing game putting pressure on. I think that’s one of the reasons we were able to come up with those scoring opportunities.”
Junior Ashtin Klinger scored the opening two goals for the Lions, followed by Amy blasting home a goal off a penalty corner to make the score 3-0.
But the Wolverines stuck around, battling with the Lions for every ball even while down early on in the game, in stark contrast to the Indiana game two days before.
“That’s just a typical Penn State-Michigan game,” Morett said. “We take great pride in playing in the Big Ten and so do they.”
Michigan’s toughness was evident as they searched for a comeback. Several players got into rough, physical battles with the Lions while fighting for the ball, and it led to more than one instance of emotions boiling over.
Two Michigan players were cited for penalty cards and found themselves sitting on the sidelines for a few minutes each.
“I think we were just a little jumpy, because they were making some good passes and had some good shots,” midfielder Hannah Allison said. “But we knew coming in that they were a tough team, and we just had to keep the pressure on as they kept the pressure on us.”
The Lions would hold on for a one-goal victory, with the Wolverines scoring their third goal off a penalty stroke just before time expired.