There’s never a good time for a hurricane, much less a Superstorm like Sandy, and the No. 4 Penn State field hockey team has had its preparations for the upcoming Big Ten tournament completely altered by the storm.
Practice was canceled on Monday and limited to indoor duties on Tuesday, with the team then having to fly out to Iowa on Wednesday, where the tournament will take place.
In their limited time, the Nittany Lions have worked mostly on their fundamentals — especially possession and passing, to stay in shape.
With the conditions however, coach Charlene Morett said she knows her team has to deal with whatever kind of adversity comes its way and isn’t looking for excuses.
“I was just talking to some players, and we realized we don’t have a choice,” Morett said. “We’re going to practice early Thursday morning and see what we can get out of it.”
In order to clinch the Big Ten regular season title last weekend, Penn State needed a victory over Michigan State and a loss from No. 9 Northwestern, as the Wildcats owned a tie-breaker over the Nittany Lions.
They got just that, defeating then-No. 21 Michigan State, 6-1, while Northwestern fell to No. 11 Iowa, 3-2, in overtime.
The title clinches a No. 1 seed for Penn State in the tournament, giving the team a first round bye.
The Lions will play the winner of Iowa-Michigan State in the second round on Friday. Although Penn State defeated both teams this season, Morett isn’t taking any opponent lightly.
“The Big Ten was very, very close [in quality] this year,” Morett said. “There have been a lot of close games. You can’t just choose one team as dangerous.”
“Even though we’ve been fortunate for some big conference victories, all these tournament games are unpredictable,” Morett said.
The Lions won this tournament last year, defeating No. 1-seeded Michigan in a come-from-behind, 3-2 victory.
While two consecutive Big Ten tournament championships would be ideal, the Lions are more focused on what winning the tournament guarantees — an automatic bid into the NCAA National tournament.
While the Lions are probably safe to make it into the tournament regardless with an at-large bid, Morett wants to ensure their place.
“We’d like to have the bid locked up,” Morett said. “That way we’re not waiting until Tuesday to see if we get an at-large bid.”
Morett said if the team does manage to win the tournament, it will look to regroup back home and get back to practice first, before worrying about whom they’ll play in the national tournament.