Now, the tournament looms.
The No. 5 Penn State field hockey team finished up its regular season on a strong note Saturday, clinching the Big Ten regular season title by defeating No. 21 Michigan State, 6-1, on the road in East Lansing.
The victory ensures the Nittany Lions will earn the No. 1 seed in the upcoming Big Ten tournament, as the team had come into the contest tied with No. 8 Northwestern for first in the conference. Northwestern lost to No. 12 Iowa on Sunday, 3-2, in overtime.
The Lions’ victory and Northwestern’s subsequent loss was huge, as the Wildcats had owned a tie-breaker over Penn State, having previously defeated them 5-4 in overtime during the season.
“We played a great second half,” head coach Charlene Morett said. “We were able to get more shots on goal and control the circle. I think we just played really well as a team, and it was a great way to get the title.”
The Lions jumped out to an early 1-0 lead off a goal from sophomore midfielder Laura Gebhart, but the Spartans would tie the game up only minutes later off a goal from Abby Barker, who leads the Spartans with a team-high 17 goals.
But the Lions would get back in front before halftime, as sophomore Taylor Herold scored for the second consecutive game to break the deadlock and get the Lions offense going.
The Lions exploded for four goals in the second half to eventually rout the Spartans. Junior midfielders Whitney Reddig and Lauren Purvis each scored their fourth goal of the season early on in the half. Junior Brittany Grzywacz continued her season-long penalty stroke dominance, sending a shot flying past Spartan goalkeeper Molly Cassidy to make her a perfect 6-for-6 on the season in penalty stroke attempts.
Penn State outshot Michigan State by a combined 23-10 on the day, including 12-4 in the second half alone. The Lions also maintained a penalty corner advantage as they have in most games this year, earning eight total penalty corners to only three for Michigan State.
Goalkeeper Ayla Halus also performed well for the Lions, as she recorded seven total saves on the day to keep the Spartans offense at bay and off the scoreboard.
Herold scored for a second time to give the Lions the 6-1 final score and clinch the Big Ten title.
In terms of seeding for the Big Ten tournament, Northwestern’s loss to Iowa allows the Lions to grab the No. 1 seed and puts the Lions in the driver’s seat for the tournament.
The tournament will begin Nov. 1 at the University of Iowa and Penn State’s opponent is not yet known.
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