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Penn State field hockey season ends, Nittany Lions fall in 1st round of NCAA Tournament

Penn State Field Hockey vs. Michigan_02.jpg

Defender Anna Simon (17) breaks past Michigan midfielder Anouk Veen (23) towards the goal during the Penn State Women's Field Hockey vs. Michigan match on Friday, Oct. 29, 2021, at the Penn State Field Hockey complex in University Park, Pa. Penn State won 3-2 in overtime against the visiting team.  

Penn State’s season came to an end after losing in the first round of the NCAA Tournament

The Nittany Lions struggled to find the cage and ultimately lost to Syracuse 4-1.

The blue and white fired out of the gates on Friday utilizing its passing skills, as well as focusing on the defensive strengths by double-teaming and forcing Syracuse out of bounds.

Nittany Lion junior goalie Brie Barracco made an important save in the first quarter, also saving the rebound shot before clearing the ball out of the circle and ending the play.

Leaving gaps in the defense, Syracuse found the back of the cage three minutes into the second quarter.

However, Penn State used this as motivation instead of taking it as a negative, and immediately earned its first two corners of the game.

Getting shots off on both plays, the Nittany Lions were unable to answer Syracuse’s goal and went into the second half down 1-0.

Around the seven minute mark of the third quarter, the blue and white earned three corners in a row but were unable to score on any of them.

Syracuse scored its second goal of the game with six minutes left, and then its third a minute later, bringing the score to 3-0 going into the final quarter of the game.

The Nittany Lions finally broke the looming shutout a minute into the fourth quarter when sophomore forward Sophia Gladieux awarded Penn State with its first goal of the game.

The momentum didn’t last long as Syracuse scored its fourth goal just two minutes later.

Penn State clawed back a bit, scoring one goal, but it was too little too late as the blue and white fell 4-1.

Power of speed

Senior forward Emma Spisak and junior midfielder Jemma Punch often use their speed to psych out the defense.

Spisak puts pressure on the ball during backfield passes while Punch intercepts passes in the midfield by beating Syracuse to the ball.

This has proven to be helpful to the Nittany Lions and helped break up plays and stopped Syracuse’s momentum in key moments.

Punch got in front of Syracuse players on multiple occasions which made it easier to regain possession.

Spisak was able to run from defender to defender, following the passes and taking an immediate shot when she would get the ball back from Syracuse.

Giving up the first goal

Penn State has given away the first goal of the game to the opposing team in its last three games.

The first goal in the last three games has also been scored in the first half, as Syracuse took the goal in the second quarter.

This provides the Nittany Lions with a catch-up game and they are given the pressure of having to score two goals early on in the game.

Being a defensively strong team, the blue and white can not afford to give up the lead.

Penn State has struggled in many games to find the back of the cage, so giving up that first goal can cause a problem for the offense.

The Nittany Lion defense also seemed to break down whenever Syracuse would reach the circle, which is where the first goal came from.

Outside of the circles, the blue and white played tight defense and got in front of the opposing players. However, as soon as Syracuse would get into the circle, Penn State was scrambling to mark up players and leaving shots open in the circle.

Barracco was also not making the saves that she has been providing all season.

So many shots, not enough goals

Penn State earned 11 shots but was unable to turn any of them into goals.

The problem is accuracy considering that out of these 11 shots, only six were on goal.

Another issue regarding shots is the consistency.

The Nittany Lions had three shots in the opening quarter, then zero shots in the second quarter, followed by zero shots to open up the second half, and then three attempted goals to conclude the game.

Penn State’s offense could have been more aggressive in the circle against Syracuse and worked to get more rebounds off of original shots.

Also struggling on corners, the blue and white earned eight, but was unable to utilize the penalties and turn them into goals.

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