Penn State’s field hockey team is off to its best start since going 17-1 in 2005.
The fifth-ranked Nittany Lions are 12-2 (4-2 Big Ten) after a 2015 season in which they finished 9-10 (4-4).
“Our mentality shifted when we started our practices in the spring,” head coach Charlene Morett-Curtiss said. “We put 2015 behind us. Developing a competitive spirit was the focus.
“When we finished our spring we went to a tournament in Holland. That really challenged us competitively and helped us bond as a team. It was really a positive experience for us.”
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Penn State suffered its first loss to Northwestern before falling 5-4 to No. 6 Maryland on Sunday. Penn State is now tied for second in the Big Ten with Northwestern at 4-2. Maryland sits in first place with a 6-1 record.
Junior Moira Putsch has been a big part of the Nittany Lions’ success. She leads the team in goals, assists and points.
“Moira has been a great addition to our team,” Morett-Curtiss said. “She was out all of last year with a torn ACL. Her experience with the U.S. under-21 team gave her a great knack for scoring and setting up her teammates.”
A defining moment this season was when the Nittany Lions traveled to Iowa City to play Iowa on Sept. 16. Penn State fell behind 3-0 early but clawed back in the second half to win 4-3.
“Coming back from a three-goal deficit on the road was huge,” Morett-Curtiss said. “It was our first Big Ten game and any time you play at Iowa it is very competitive.”
The first loss came the following weekend against Northwestern. The script was reversed as the Nittany Lions jumped out to an early lead but saw their defense break down. They gave up five goals in the second half and lost 5-3.
“We experienced the ecstasy of winning and the agony of defeat in a seven-day span,” said Morett-Curtiss.
Penn State has two remaining opponents this season, facing Rutgers on Oct. 21 and Indiana on Oct. 28.
The Big Ten tournament begins on Nov. 3 in College Park, Md.
“You always want to win a Big Ten championship, so we put that as our long-term goal,” said Morett-Curtiss.
Matt Castle is a Penn State journalism student.