Season Preview: No. 7 Penn State Field Hockey Works Toward Defending Big Ten Title
Penn State field hockey opens its 2017 campaign on August 25 with an away game against No. 23 Old Dominion, followed quickly by another away game and top-ten matchup against No. 10 Virginia. While the team does return some key players from last year’s roster, defending the Big Ten crown will not be easy, but the team is prepared to get the season underway.
“We had an outstanding preseason. I thought our student-athletes came back ready,” coach Char Morett-Curtiss said. “We’ve implemented a different style this season, where we’re really trying to play up-tempo hockey. We limited our time on the field and spent a lot of time with video and working on a really aggressive style of play to get the season started.”
Carly Celkos, Emilee Ehret, Brooke Birosik, and Kirsten Gochnauer were all regular starters and key contributors to the team last season, but their graduation leaves four starting spots up for grabs.
Regular starters returning to Penn State’s roster this year include junior attackers Moira Putsch and Aurelia Meijer — the top two scorers on the team last year with 52 and 34 points, respectively.
“Moira Putsch and Aurelia Meijer had tremendous years last year,” Morett-Curtiss said. “They did a nice job in previous scrimmages of putting the ball around the goal, but not in the goal.”
“We’re going to work a little bit more this week on honing out [penalty] corner. Our corner is a big piece of scoring where [Putsch] led the country in assists. So, hopefully we can get that piece a little bit more efficient.”
Celkos’ departure leaves a hole in the team’s midfield; however, juniors Gini Bramley and Katie Dembrowski both return and will likely start every game again this year. Bramley’s contributions in attack (12 goals, four assists in 20 games) were a big part of the Big Ten title run.
Jenny Rizzo is back for her third starting season in the cage. The junior is fresh off a couple appearances with the U.S. U21 national team and hopes to build on an impressive year where recorded 16 wins for the Nittany Lions.
— Penn State Field Hockey (@PennStateFH) August 22, 2017
The NFHCA Preseason Coaches’ Poll ranked the Nittany Lions at No. 7 in the nation. Despite the talent lost to graduation, the rest of the coaches in the NCAA seem to have faith in Penn State’s team and expect them to do relatively well.
Following the Big Ten Championship, last season ended in a disappointing first-round exit from the NCAA Tournament against Princeton. If Penn State qualifies for the NCAA Tournament again, it will try to best that and make a real push for the national championship — the first in program history at the NCAA level.