As September begins to slowly creep up, so does the 2019 season for the Penn State field hockey team.
Coach Char Morett-Curtiss and the Nittany Lions had another terrific regular season in 2018, going 12-4 with a tough non-conference schedule combined with the talent and grit which makes up the Big Ten.
But ultimately Penn State would fall short of expectations, dropping both of its postseason contests last year with tough defeats to Iowa in the Big Ten tournament and Harvard in the first round of the NCAA’s.
But with 2019 brings a fresh new look to the Nittany Lions, as eight seniors, including first team All-Big Ten honorees Gini Bramley and Cori Conley and former All-Americans Moira Putsch and Jenny Rizzo, will no longer make up the core.
With the team’s best goalie, defender and scorer all changing this season, it will be interesting to see who of the talented young Nittany Lions will run with these roles once play begins against Duke on Aug. 30.
Look for veteran leaders such as Abby Myers and Madison Morano, as well as natural scoring junior Lexi Horst, to fill some of the holes left from the departing seniors.
And in net, expect senior Colleen Conway to start the season between the pipes after backing up Rizzo, who capped off her career with an excellent senior season.
But what can push Penn State over the top and carry the team to a postseason run is the talented Germany native, Anna Simon. After her breakout campaign in her freshman season, in which she scored 13 goals as part of a 28 point freshman year, Simon has to be considered not only one of the best sophomores in the conference but in the entire nation.
Watching Simon lead the team in scoring last season, while being a rock on defense next to Cori Conley was eye opening for the entire team and coaching staff. Plus, she will only get better with age as she combines her unique European skillset, with her toughness from the American game.
If Simon and the rest of the Nittany Lions want to get back to the postseason they will first have to get through another difficult regular season schedule, facing Duke and Virginia on the road before even playing their first home game.
And once again the Big Ten will be as competitive as ever with multiple teams like Maryland, Michigan and Iowa expected to be back in the top 25.
Penn State is less than one month from the ball dropping in Durham and we’ll soon find out if the Nittany Lions can capture their first Big Ten title since 2016.