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Penn State field hockey did its best to try to expose any weakness they could find in Northwestern’s lines Friday, but to little avail.
The Big Ten Conference matchup took place at Penn State on Friday. No. 1 Northwestern left Happy Valley still undefeated (6-0) in the conference and with a 2-0 shutout.
Points were on the board in the first and fourth quarters. Both goals, punched in on corners, were scored by Lauren Wadas.
“All the Big Ten games are really physical, especially Penn State,” Wadas said after the game. “They have really, good flat tacklers. Today was a little bit of a rough game for us. It wasn’t our best. But, we came out with the win and that’s all that matters at the end. So, ya, it was a great game.”
Up next for Northwestern is No. 4 Rutgers. The Scarlet Knights also haven’t lost a conference game this season.
Penn State withstood all the fire power that the Cats carry, which was a good-timed test for both squads before Sunday’s next round of conference games. For Penn State, it’s No. 5 Iowa on Sunday.
“I feel like we weren’t connecting that well in our attacking 25,” Wadas said. “We had good counterattacks but then it was just once and done. But, I feel like we could have possessed it a little better in our 25 and below the 50. Other than that, in our huddles, we really talked about it, and we were able to generate a lot of attacks.”
Northwestern’s head coach Tracey Fuchs said they practiced taking Penn State’s Phia Gladieux’s shot away from her.
“Penn State really outplayed us for most of the game,” Fuchs said. “We were really, fortunate. We were 50 percent on our corners today and ya know our defense really held Phia, who I think is the best forward in the country; really shut her down today. She had her chances, but our goalie really came up big. I can’t complain, I think they played a fantastic game. I’m really happy to get the win.”
She continued: “We know how her reverse shot is. We worked on it all week. We usually pressure people to that side. With (Phia), you want to pressure her to the opposite side. We know she’s going to get a few off. I thought we really were brave and put pressure on her.”
When Northwestern had possession, Fuchs said she was pleased to see Wadas step up as a big hitter on corners.
“She’s really been turning it on the last few games,” Fuchs said. “Ya know I wouldn’t want to be standing on the endline on those. Our corner percentage is going up. This is the time of year you want that to be happening.”
Penn State’s head coach Lisa Bervinchak-Love didn’t have a lot of criticism for her athletes. It came down to taking advantage of opportunities, which the Nittany Lions weren’t able to do.
“We possessed the ball really well,” said Bervinchak-Love. “I thought it was one of our better possession games. We outplayed them in the second half. We just need to recognize when we need to push; break their lines and attack with speed.”
The passing game has taken a step forward, but now it’s a matter of executing corners, pushing with speed when they have the ball, and moving up the field with confidence, Bervinchak-Love said.
“When we get inside the 25 we’ve just got to fight for position a little bit more,” she said. “A couple times they pushed us off the ball. And, we’ve just got to be stronger in those situations. Or even just like execute our last pass going into the circle. So that we can connect on that pass and get a good shot off.”
Penn State was roaring after halftime, landing its first corner in under a minute. There was a lot of passing and attempts to get Northwestern’s Annabel Skubisz slightly off her angle, but the shot wasn’t fired in time.
“I definitely think this team put more pressure on us than any team we’ve faced so far,” Skubisz said. “There was one moment where I came out really high kind of anticipating [Mackenzie Allessie] would break through. She’s got pretty decent hands, but my defenders were able to keep their composure and keep their feet in the game. I had to sprint back to goal; a lot of dedication in tackle backs on defense. I think my height definitely helps, but I think for me my focus is on my footwork and moving laterally.”
Photo: Northwestern at Penn State, Jana Benscoter