UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - For the first time since 1998, the Penn State field hockey team (16-5, 4-2) are the Big Ten Tournament champions, after defeating the Michigan Wolverines on Sunday, 3-2, in the tournament championship game.
With the score tied up at two, redshirt senior Hannah Allison (Mifflinburg, Pa.) netted the game-winning goal in the second half to seal the victory. Penn State wins its fifth-ever Big Ten Tournament title. The Nittany Lions' previous title came on November 8, 1998, in a 3-1 victory over Michigan.
"It really feels great," said head coach Charlene Morett. "It has been a while - I have been here for 25 years, so I have won a championship, but these girls have it and it was great to win it at home. We need to build on the momentum from this weekend and bring it to the NCAA tournament. We are ready to go."
After a quiet first five minutes, Penn State was rewarded a penalty corner at the 5:04 in mark. Sophomore Whitney Reddig (Lititz, Pa.) played the ball in to junior Kelsey Amy (Sweet Valley, Pa.), who crushed it right by the goalie for her 23rd goal of the season. The Nittany Lions had a 1-0 lead at that point.
Despite going down 1-0, the Wolverines would not give up, as they went on to score the next two goals. Kim Sheaffer rocketed a shot that went just wide of the goal. However, after earning a penalty corner, Michigan came through. Rachel Mack scored her 14th goal of the season to tie the game up at one.
Michigan kept up the pressure, as Sheaffer had another shot, this time stuffed by redshirt junior Ayla Halus (Hershey, Pa.). Sheaffer would not be denied for a third time though, as her ball went by Halus halfway into period to gain a two-goal advantage.
Things began to get a little physical afterwards. Halus made a nice save with under 13 minutes remaining in the first half. Sophomore defender Abby Fuhrman (Bainbridge, Pa.) was then hit up with a green card with under 12 minutes left. Penn State gained momentum off that, and Amy took control on the offensive end. With over six minutes left in the half, the junior showed off her incredible speed, sliding by two defenders and scoring at such a difficult angle. The goal was Amy's 24th of the season. Penn State and Michigan went into halftime tied at two. For her efforts, Amy was named Big Ten Tournament MVP.
"Kelsey did a great job," said Morett. "She played with such poise on the first and second goals."
The second half was thrilling, with so many opportunities and so many great plays on defense. Senior Lauren Alloway (Hummelstown, Pa.), who made the All-Tournament team, had an incredible weekend anchoring the defense. Alloway made great plays keeping the Wolverines out of the circle for most of the second half. In fact, Michigan did not record one shot on goal in the half.
Penn State had everything clicking in the second half offensively. Despite not finding the goal immediately, Amy and senior Casey McCartin (Horsham, Pa.) had shots that hit the post. The Lions were finally rewarded with an opportunity at the 60:32 mark. With Amy out of the game for rest, Reddig played a ball in to freshman Laura Gebhart (Mount Joy, Pa.), who set the ball up for Allison. She scorched a shot that deflected off the defender and found the back of the cage. Penn State would hang on for the 3-2 victory.
"It feels great to win the Big Ten Championship," said Allison. "I have been here for four years. We haven't won the title in 13 years, which makes it better to win it at home."
"There is nothing better than a big title before going into the big tournament," Amy stated. "We are going to take this confidence to the NCAA Tournament."
Penn State now awaits its draw for the NCAA Field Hockey Tournament. The brackets will be announced on Tuesday at 8 p.m.
--PSU Sports Information--