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Penn State field hockey’s ‘connectedness’ carries Nittany Lions into Big Ten Tournament

Field Hockey vs Michigan, Vos (8)

Midfielder Elena Vos (8) runs with the ball during the game against Michigan at the Penn State Field Hockey Complex on Thursday, Nov. 7, 2019. Penn State defeated Michigan 2-1.

Penn State traveled to Piscataway on Wednesday in preparation for its first postseason matchup in the Big Ten Tournament with a quarterfinal game against Maryland looming on Thursday.

The Nittany Lions only fell to four opponents during 2021 regular-season play, finishing with an overall record of 13-4.

The blue and white has not come this close to a perfect season since 2016, where it finished with a 17-3 record.

The Nittany Lions also finished at No. 7 in the national rankings heading into the postseason, making them one of six Big Ten teams ranked within the top 10.

The final game of Penn State’s regular season spoke volumes to the growth of coach Char Morett-Curtiss’ squad throughout the season, clinching a 3-2 overtime win to upset No. 2 Michigan on Friday.

“Being strong outside of the defensive circle has been our biggest improvement all year,” Morrett-Curtiss said.

Keeping heavy-pressured offensive teams like Michigan away from the goal cage has been a strong suit for the Nittany Lions this season, and this team will need to continue this trend against Maryland for the blue and white to advance.

Junior midfielder Elena Vos has been a force in doing exactly that on the defensive end of the field, evidenced by her selection to the All-Big Ten second team.

“Vos has stepped up every game. She’s really that big wall in the middle of the field,” Morett-Curtiss said. “She can intercept and communicate from that vantage point.”

On the other side of the field, when speaking about the Nittany Lions’ opening goal against Michigan, Morrett-Curtiss pointed to how chemistry in her team led to finding the first goal.

“When you watch where the play started, it started back from our defensive 16 with the outlet in piece,” Morrett-Curtiss said. “How they managed to connect with each other and execute right into the circle was phenomenal.”

Earlier in the season, Morrett-Curtiss mentioned one of the improvements she wanted to see was the connectedness from the backfield to the midfield and into the circle, which was put into use in the final regular-season win on Friday.

“We talk to the players a lot about what's important sometimes isn’t what happens in front of the goal but what happens away from the goal,” Morrett-Curtiss said.

Maintaining offensive pressure against a team like Michigan is key in forcing scoring scenarios, and this was evident throughout the Nittany Lions’ regular season.

Morrett-Curtiss emphasized how her team has improved on taking advantage of offensive opportunities this season and how important moving the ball down the field effectively has been for this team.

“Our team has just had amazing energy all year,” Morrett-Curtiss said. “There’s always been this connectedness, they’re fun to be with. This energy, hopefully, will carry us into the tournament because you need every player on your team going into this type of format.”

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