WHO: Penn State Nittany Lionss @ Maryland Terrapins
WHAT: Field hockey B1G Conference game
WHERE: Field Hockey and Lacrosse Complex, College Park, MD
WHEN: Friday, October 10, 2014 at 3:30 pm
On the heels of back to back wins against non-conference foes, the Penn State Nittany Lions return to conference play putting their five game winning streak on the line against the Maryland Terrapins at College Park's Field Hockey and Lacrosse Complex Friday afternoon. The Nittany Lions are ranked fifth in both RPI and the most recent NFHCA Coaches' Poll.
One might legitimately wonder if Maryland's move to the the Big Ten is causing a shift in power in NCAA field hockey. Last weekend, Ohio State dropped a 6-0 game at Maryland on Friday then traveled to Charlottesville to hand Virginia a 4-3 loss. Indiana, which had dropped three straight to B1G opponents hosted Duke and defeated the then fourth ranked Blue Devils by a 3-2 final score.
In the most recent RPI, the ACC holds seven spots (1, 3, 8, 11, 13, 16, 17) in the top twenty. The B1G occupies six (2, 4, 5, 12, 14, 18). Just some food for thought, field hockey fans,
Nittany Lions on the turf
Penn State finished its 2013 conference season with a 5-1 record which was good enough to claim its second consecutive Big Ten Championship though they were actually co-champions with Northwestern which finished with an identical 5-1 mark. The Nittany Lions were one of two B1G teams to reach the NCAA Tournament. They lost their first round game to Princeton by a 5-4 final score.
Despite losing four starters including three of their top four scorers from their 2013 squad, Penn State has barely missed a beat in 2014. They bring a record of 10-2 overall and 2-1 in conference play into Friday's game. Their losses have come at defending national champion UConn and they dropped a 3-2 decision when they hosted Michigan a team the Terps shutout 2-0 in Ann Arbor. The teams share four other common opponents - Michigan State, Ohio State, Temple, and Drexel. Penn State has defeated all four on the road picking up two shutouts in the process. Maryland has shut out three of those opponents but only one of the Terps' wins has come away from College Park.
In many statistical categories, the Nittany Lions are a shade better than the Terps. Penn State is second in the conference in scoring average and scoring margin while the Terps are third best in those categories. PSU tops the league in goals against average (GAA) and in penalty corners attempted just ahead of Maryland. However, the Terps convert nearly 15 percent of their penalty corners and are nearly three times more efficient in this critical aspect of the game than the Nittany Lions.
Players to watch
Taylor Herold, #8, senior, forward/midfielder. Herold led Penn State in scoring in 2013 with 13 goals and 30 points and was named second team All Big Ten. With the graduation of the next three best scorers from that 2013 squad, Herold has stepped up her game scoring 12 goals in the first 12 games and matching her total points from last season. Taking nearly one of every three Nittany Lions shots, she is clearly the focus of Penn State's offense.
Jenna Chrismer, #9, senior, forward/midfielder. With seven goal and four assists, Chrismer has also taken a more prominent role in Penn State's offense than she had in 2013. In just 12 games, she has matched her total goals scored and has surpassed her total points. Behind these two, the Nittany Lions have four players with four goals each.
Kylie Licata, #2, redshirt senior, goalkeeper. Licata, who is the reigning All Big Ten goalkeeper of the year, has elevated her play in 2014. She currently leads the conference in save percentage at .835 and in shutouts with four. She has played every minute in goal this season for the Nittany Lions and her 1.07 GAA is second only to the 1.04 GAA of Maryland's Brooke Cabrera. However, Licata has needed to make 66 saves compared to 23 for Cabrera.
The game looms large for both squads. With a second conference loss, the loser will likely be eliminated from contending for the conference championship. Northwestern leads the conference with a 4-0 mark but must play three of their remaining four games on the road including games at Michigan and at Penn State. One loss Iowa and Michigan also remain in the mix for the conference title.
Friday's meeting will be the 33rd all-time between the schools. Casual field hockey fans may be surprised to learn that Penn State not only holds the edge in the series but holds it by a rather decisive margin. The Nittany Lions have won 20 of the 32 previous games while the Terrapins have won only 11 with one game ending in a tie. Penn State's last won when they upset the Terps 1-0 in College Park in the first round of the 2007 NCAA Tournament. Maryland's last win came on the Nittany Lions' last visit to College Park in an 8-1 Terrapins rout in 2009.