After an uneasy week, Penn State returns home to battle Iowa and Lafayette.
The Nittany Lions had a huge chance to make a statement against then-No. 2 Northwestern last week but came up short. Penn State was in control of most of the contest and seemingly on its way to its eighth consecutive victory — then Peyton Halsey took over and single handedly brought the Wildcats back.
Halsey scored twice at the end of the 4th then secured the game-winning goal on a penalty stroke with one second left.
The turning point was Penn State’s Elena Vos getting a yellow card in the fourth, forcing the Nittany Lions to go a player down for the remainder of the match.
Despite the loss, coach Charlene Morett-Curtiss was pleased with how her team carried itself Friday evening against one of the top teams in the nation.
“Just so proud of our performance,” Morett-Curtiss said. “I thought we just elevated our play on Friday from start to finish.”
Last week was the first time Penn State faced adversity this year. It’s been smooth sailing ever since the loss to Louisville in the second game of the season.
However, the blue and white took more good than bad from last weekend’s performance.
“I think that was some of the best field hockey we played all season,” graduate student Grace Wallis said. “I think it really showed the level we can play at.”
Morett-Curtiss had her team ready for the quick turnaround, and the Nittany Lions came out firing against Indiana the following Sunday. Penn State never gave Indiana a chance on its way to an easy 4-0 victory.
“We just kinda wanted to destroy them,” Wallis said. “Take out our anger on Indiana.”
After facing a top-five team, the schedule doesn’t get any easier this week. The Nittany Lions now look to start a new streak with Iowa and Lafayette on deck. Last weekend was emotionally and physically draining, but this weekend is setting up to be even bigger.
With Penn State approaching the meat of its Big Ten schedule, this stretch can make or break its season.
Iowa is currently the No. 4 team in the nation and sits within the top three of the Big Ten.
The Hawkeyes are 9-2 on the year and 3-1 in the Big Ten and have been inside of the top six nationally all year.
Iowa is a premier program that has had Penn State’s number, winning eight straight against the Nittany Lions dating back to 2018.
The key to Iowa’s success is defense.
Penn State has not only been winless, but it hasn’t found the back of the net against Iowa since October 2019, meaning the Nittany Lions are on a six-match scoreless streak against the squad.
However, it hasn’t just been Penn State that has struggled offensively against Iowa. The Hawkeyes have only allowed nine goals during the entire season thus far.
There is a ton of pressure on Penn State with a top-five team coming to town during alumni weekend. However, pressure is a privilege, and this marquee matchup can have a huge impact on the rest of the season, with potential to be a historic victory for the program.
The Nittany Lions then get a break from Big Ten play as they welcome the 4-8 Lafayette Leopards to town Sunday.
However, the Nittany Lions are not taking this below-.500 team lightly.
“Their record absolutely does not reflect the talent they have on that team,” Morett-Curtiss said.
Lafayette had a huge overtime win earlier this season against then-No. 7 Princeton, and the unit has the potential to take down any big opponent.
The Leopards’ main fault has been their offense, as they’re only averaging 1.58 goals per game.
Morrett-Curtiss has shifted her focus to her defense ahead of these two matchups, but facing an offensively challenged team should help.
“This week is a lot of defense,” Morett-Curtiss said. “We need to have a better presence.”
Friday and Sunday’s games at University Park will have a lot of buzz around them, and the Nittany Lions will have to find a way to block out the noise to keep their stellar season going.
MORE FIELD HOCKEY COVERAGE