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Katie DeSa Impresses As Penn State Women’s Hockey Competes For Championship

When a backup is tasked with stepping into a starting role due to an injury, it’s rarely a seamless transition for both the player and the team. Penn State women’s hockey has bucked this trend with Katie DeSa, who stepped in for an injured Josie Bothun and performed admirably. Thanks in large part to the play of DeSa, the Nittany Lions find themselves on the brink of their second consecutive CHA title.

Head coach Jeff Kampersal has continually praised DeSa since she took over the starting role and given credit to the team’s goalkeeping coach for DeSa’s performance.

“It’s not an easy situation, but for her to step in the last month and a half, to perform at a high level, it speaks volumes about her,” Kampersal said.

Before the injury to Bothun, DeSa started just one game during the 2023-24 season — a loss to Union in which she made 12 saves on 14 shots. In her first start after the injury, DeSa pitched a 12-save shutout against rival Syracuse

Including the shutout against Syracuse, DeSa surrendered just four goals in five starts and posted a second shutout against rival Mercyhurst featuring 22 saves. Penn State went 5-0 over this stretch and remained atop the CHA.

Having not started a postseason game at the collegiate level, DeSa was relatively unknown heading into Penn State’s semifinal matchup with RIT. There’s a stark difference between the regular season and the postseason, yet DeSa remained unfazed.

In game one, DeSa made a variety of stunning saves, including one in which she lunged across the crease to rob Nicole Ness with her glove. DeSa nearly secured the shutout in her first postseason start, but a late goal by RIT thwarted it. Despite the goal, DeSa was fantastic, posting 22 saves on 23 shots in a 2-1 win and putting Penn State in the driver’s seat.

Maggie MacEachern sang the praises of DeSa after game one, noting how the goalkeeper’s play allowed Penn State to play freer and be more willing to make the occasional risky play.

“Katie is a super solid goalie. She’s not going to let many soft goals in, and those goals that she does, there’s usually something that leads up to it,” MacEachern said.

DeSa avenged her failed shutout bid in game one and secured the shutout in game two, making all 23 saves en route to a series-clinching 4-0 win for the Nittany Lions. Over the two games, DeSa posted a .978 save percentage and continued to receive praise from the program.

“The games come down to goaltending,” Kampersal said. “She’s done her job which allows us and the players to do their job at the other end.”

“It’s great to have her back there to get her some experience. She’s been great for us and obviously solid today and continues to be good,” forward Tessa Janecke added.

As a showdown with Mercyhurst looms, Penn State will once again need the best out of DeSa if it intends to hoist another trophy and clinch a birth in the NCAA Tournament. The Nittany Lions were 2-0 against Mercyhurst in games started by DeSa, with the goalie posting a .952 save percentage over the two games. If Penn State gets a similar performance from DeSa, it will be in an outstanding position to secure the win.

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About the Author

Dennis Wilkins

Dennis is a third-year journalism major from Brick, New Jersey. He has a love-hate relationship with every team he roots for, especially the New York Giants. When he's not watching Jack Hughes highlights, he can be found playing golf or listening to music. Direct all complaints to him via email ([email protected]) or on Twitter (@denniswilkins27).

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