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Penn State field hockey's offensive execution leads it to rainy-night win over Michigan

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Penn State Field Hockey vs. Bucknell

Midfielder Emma Spisak (4) contests Bucknell defender Erin Zielinski (28) for possession during the Penn State field hockey match against Bucknell University on Saturday, Oct. 9, 2021, at the Penn State Women's Field Hockey Complex. Penn State beat Bucknell 4-1.

Penn State concluded its regular season against No. 2 Michigan in a crucial game on a rainy Friday night in State College.

After a long and hard-fought game, the Nittany Lions came out on top after an overtime goal from junior midfielder Mackenzie Allessie resulting in a pivotal 3-2 victory.

Both teams battled throughout the game, but really turned up the scoring in the latter half of the contest.

The first half was a battle for possession in the midfield of the game, with just four total shots in the half.

Despite having fewer scoring chances than Michigan, Penn State was able to execute when it got a chance to score and the Nittany Lions took the lead in the third quarter on a goal from senior midfielder Emma Spisak.

“Throughout practice all week we’ve worked on connectivity from the backfield all the way up to the forward line and it really showed that not just the forwards were involved in the goals, but every line was involved in the goal,” Spisak said.

Spisak had a big day as she brought a lot of energy to the team and managed to pick up a goal and an assist in the Senior Day affair.

“I credit it all to my teammates,” Spisak said. “The freshmen, the juniors, the sophomores, they made our day so special and we just had an immense amount of energy in the locker room and it was all very special thanks to them.”

Despite the energy brought on by Senior Day, Penn State struggled to generate a ton of offensive chances.

Although her squad had the lead, and ultimately won the game, coach Char Morett-Curtiss wanted to see better passing from her team in order to create a higher volume of chances.

“I think we got a little disconnected between our lines today,” Morett-Curtiss said. “I think we really relied a lot on the dribbling aspect of the game where I would have liked to see more passing game.”

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The Wolverines responded in the fourth quarter, finally getting on the scoreboard and taking the lead with two goals with just under three minutes left in the game.

Penn State did not let up, though, eventually earning a penalty corner which resulted in a goal for sophomore forward Sophia Gladieux to force overtime.

The overtime period was tightly contested and both teams played tough through the rain and fatigue. Both sides had scoring chances, but the goalies did well to keep the game going.

Ultimately, Allessie’s shot through the legs of senior goalie Anna Spieker gave Penn State the crucial victory to end the regular season with a 13-4 record.

This win marked the third in a row for the blue and white, and it came against a team that Penn State can use to build on as the postseason looms.

“This is always an amazing rivalry,” Spisak said. “Michigan is a great team and going into the postseason it's just great to have such an incredible win from a great team.”

Overall, though, it was the Nittany Lions’ execution of their shots that won them the game in this matchup, as Penn State mustered just seven shots, while Michigan tallied 16.

Despite the Wolverines more-than doubling Penn State up in the shot column, the Nittany Lions came out on top where it mattered most — the scoreboard.

Morett-Curtiss was very pleased with how her team performed when the pressure was on to execute, especially with the harsh weather conditions that were present for most of the game.

“I just think we kept composure going into our 25 when there was that open play and Emma slipped that ball to Mack,” Morett-Curtiss said. “Mackenzie’s got a lot of skill that she can really work her way and that’s what she does best because she’s very composed.”

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