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Penn State Field Hockey Upsets No. 10 Michigan In Big Ten Tournament Quarterfinals

In a rainy, freezing cold affair full of physicality and gritty defense, Penn State field hockey (7-11, 4-4 Big Ten) was able to seal the deal against No. 10 Michigan (13-6, 5-3 Big Ten) to move on to the semifinals.

Penn State had lost to Michigan earlier in the season 3-1 in Ann Arbor, with a disallowed Nittnay Lions goal serving as the big momentum shift in favor of the Wolverines. With Penn State serving as the hosts for this year’s Big Ten Field Hockey Tournament, the home team was able to out-grind the Wolverines thanks to strong defense and clutch goaltending from Brie Barraco.

How It Happened

Michigan got started early with two straight penalty corners, but superb defense and great netminding from Barraco stopped the Wolverines in their tracks. A lengthy video review gave Michigan another chance at goal with an outside corner, but this was once again stopped by Penn State.

The Nittany Lions tried desperately to get into Michigan’s solid with stubborn midfield play by the Wolverines making things difficult. But Penn State was able to keep possession and a steal by Paityn Wirth gave Penn State a close chance by Abby Myers, whose shot was stopped just before it could leave her stick.

The first quarter didn’t see much excitement besides those early chances, as both teams took a defensive mindset, trying to keep possession was counterattack when the chance was available. Penn State’s defense continued to be a wall, stopping the Wolverines from getting much of anything going and Barraco didn’t lose a step in goal, staying active and mindful.

A penalty corner gave Penn State another chance, but the team wasn’t able to make the most of it. The rain started coming down hard during the second quarter and conditions became tougher for ball control. Strokes were being whiffed and shots that might normally have been on the mark were flying past the net. Added slippage made the ball move quicker too, making some longer passes harder to connect.

The poor weather continued to make things tough. Not much action happened for the rest of the second quarter, much like the first, most of the big chances happened right out of the gate. With the rain coming hard and the cold not helping, the defensive slog had the perfect backdrop. It stayed 0-0 at the half, with Michigan up 6-1 on shots. While the Nittany Lions had plenty of opportunities by the Wolverine net, they weren’t always able to take advantage.

That deadlock would soon be broken in the Nittany Lion’s favor. Penn State started out the second half with two straight penalty corners. The first was whiffed, but on the next try Wirth was able to get a rebound shot to slot itself in and Penn State took a 1-0 lead.

No doubt used to Happy Valley’s near-constant stream of rainy weather, Penn State looked comfortable on its home turf. A third penalty corner resulted in yet another goal. Anna Simon found Meghan Reese off the stroke and the sophomore got her second goal of the season in the Penn State’s biggest game of the year.

Michigan would fight back, however, as that shutout wouldn’t be held for long. After fighting to get to Penn State’s goal for most of the quarter, a penalty corner halfway into the third quarter gave the Wolverines the chance they had been waiting for. The Penn State defense finally made a mistake, with lax coverage on the stroke giving Michigan plenty of room to shoot.

The fourth quarter was played at a rapid pace from both sides. The Nittany Lions desperately tried to defend their 2-1 lead while the Wolverines were on the prowl for an equalizer. Despite attempt after attempt, nothing was going right for Michigan as the stalwart Penn State defense frustrated them to no end. Barraco was phenomenal and that Penn State lead was maintained en route to a massive first-round upset.

Player Of The Game

Brie Barraco | Goalkeeper

She’s the next Jenny Rizzo alright! The freshman was fantastic, making the right decision every time and making eight saves on nine shots.

What’s Next?

Penn State moves on to the semifinals where it will take on the top-seeded No. 2 Maryland Terrapins, who had a first-round bye. The game will be at 4 p.m. on Friday, November 8 at the Penn State Field Hockey Complex.

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About the Author

Matt Paolizzi

Matt is a junior majoring in Secondary Education and minoring in Philosophy. He's a Philly sports fan, which causes him existential dread on the daily coupled with a deep distaste for the current state of Star Wars. Send him death threats at [email protected] and follow @m_paolizzi on Twitter for a near constant supply of second-hand embarrassment.

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