‘Built On Hard Work’: Penn State Field Hockey To Sustain Perennial Success Under Lisa Bervinchak Love
Coming off of an appearance in last year’s NCAA Tournament Final Four, Penn State field hockey is not only a conference powerhouse, but a National Championship contender. The Nittany Lions ranked high in the National Field Hockey Coaches Association’s preseason poll at No. 5, a significant boost from their No. 11 landing spot in 2022.
Penn State has fallen within the top 15 of Division I teams nationally for every preseason poll since 2018, which unmistakably identifies the success entering the blue and white’s program year after year.
However, this season will not be like any of the previous 35.
For the first time in nearly 40 years, Penn State will be without head coach Char Morett-Curtiss, who announced her retirement from the position in February.
Taking over is longtime assistant and Penn State field hockey alumna Lisa Bervinchak Love, a loyal member of Morett-Curtiss’ staff since 1994.
“I was just fortunate to be along [Morett-Curtiss’] side and just learn so much from her,” Bervinchak Love said. “I’m gonna take what I’ve learned from her and just, you know, keep those traditions and hopefully make her proud as we move forward.”
With a new face at the top, the Nittany Lions’ goal remains the same: win a National Championship. Though talent will always flow into Happy Valley field hockey, it’s leadership that defines a team and its success.
“We really rely on our seniors. We’d like to see them step up a little bit more and hear their voice a little bit more,” Bervinchak Love said.
The Nittany Lions should have no problem falling into place and into a rhythm for the 2023 season as they return lethal attackers Sophia Gladieux and Mackenzie Allessie, alongside goaltender Brie Barraco.
Gladieux, the reigning Big Ten Player of the Year and Big Ten Offensive Player of the Year, is fresh off an incredible season featured by 23 goals through 49 points en route to being named Penn State’s Female Athlete of the Year.
On top of trying to lead the team back to the Final Four from the field, Gladieux is also tasked leadership in the locker room.
“I think the biggest thing that coach has talked to me about is just building everyone’s confidence and having that more of that leadership role,” Gladieux said. “Leading by example of what the standard is.”
Though the Nittany Lions are at a good starting point for success, it’s no secret that the Big Ten is a women’s lacrosse battlefield. Three of last year’s four NCAA Tournament Final Four teams were Big Ten-based, further demonstrating the competition at the highest level.
“I always say how much I love the Big Ten because I think it’s the most competitive,” Gladieux said. “It’s just super gritty. When we go into Big Ten games, no matter who it is, what their rank is, it’s always going to be competitive.”
The Nittany Lions seemingly have all of the pieces to make a run at a Big Ten title and National Championship by way of new leadership with strong Penn State roots, a fierce roster, and a slate of locker room leaders.
“We’re coming off a really successful season last year and we’re just going to build on that success,” Bervinchak Love said. “Penn State field hockey really is built on hard work and challenging each other.”
The Nittany Lions open their season on the road against Virginia at 6 p.m. on Friday, August 25, in Charlottesville, Virginia. The team will open its home slate against Kent State at 6 p.m. on Friday, September 8.
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