Last week, goalie Jenny Rizzo said it was both good and bad to play the same team twice in one season. Good, Rizzo said, because they already know how they play, and bad, Rizzo said, because it’s hard to beat them twice.
The first time the Penn State field hockey team played Princeton (11-7), the Nittany Lions walked away with a victory.
When the two teams faced each other again in the first round of the NCAA tournament Saturday, the Tigers edged Penn State 2-1.
“I think they definitely came out stronger,” Rizzo said. “Like (coach Charlene Morett-Curtiss) said, I think their defense was phenomenal today and I feel like they read our corners better than they did the first time. I think they did a really good job of stopping us.”
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The Tigers’ defense stayed strong between the first and second half, stopping the Nittany Lions from reaching the inside of the circle. Tigers’ goalie Grace Baylis had six saves, while Rizzo made three saves.
The two goals Rizzo gave up occurred late in the second half.
Striker Ryan McCarthy scored to give the Tigers a 1-0 lead at 45:45. Midfielder Cat Caro, who assisted on McCarthy’s goal, scored for the Tigers to make it 2-0 with just 10 minutes to spare.
At 66:32, Penn State midfielder Aurelia Meijer notched a goal off the corner to close the gap to one, pushing the ball past Baylis and receiving assistance from forwards Kirsten Gochnauer and Moira Putsch.
Tigers coach Carla Tagliente said her team’s defense played “more cerebral” in this game than they did in the last game against Penn State. Morett-Curtiss said because the Tigers defense took away attacking lanes, her team could not break into the circle.
Morett-Curtiss said the season would not have been as successful — the team finished with a 17-3 record — without the seniors on the team.
She said when they started in the spring, the seniors were committed, passionate and wanted to get back to playing “successful Penn State field hockey.”
“What I loved about this team is that they had a lot of fun,” Morett-Curtiss said. “They were fun to be around, they competed every game. They, to me, always found a way to put the ball in the net.”
Senior forward Brooke Birosik said, through tears, it hadn’t hit her that this was her last game.
“I wouldn’t want to go to any other school,” Birosik said. “I really love Penn State.”