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Big Ten Tournament quarterfinals: No. 6-seed Maryland field hockey vs. No. 3-seed Penn State preview

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Maryland’s first test in the postseason will come against Penn State.

Photo courtesy of Maryland Athletics

No. 6-seed Maryland field hockey will take on No. 3-seed Penn State on Thursday in the Big Ten Quarterfinals at Bauer Track and Field Hockey Complex at Rutgers University.

Maryland (13-5) finished its season with momentum heading toward the Big Ten Tournament, winning four consecutive games in the month of October. The Terps defeated three top-25 teams in their four-game winning streak, marked by an impressive 2-1 victory over then No. 2 Michigan on Oct. 24.

Maryland also defeated ranked opponents in then-No. 17 UConn and No. 24 Ohio State en route to its scorching run to end the season. Penn State (13-4) also had a remarkable season, starting its 2021 campaign off with six straight wins.

Maryland and Penn State gave fans a game to remember back on Sept. 18, in which the Nittany Lions defeated the Terps in overtime by a score of 3-2. If the tight September matchup between these two teams is any indication of what’s to come, then Thursday’s matchup is setting up to be another thrilling game.

Thursday’s quarterfinals meeting with the Nittany Lions will begin at 5 p.m. and will be aired on BTN Plus.

Now let’s look at the Penn State Nittany Lions.

Penn State Nittany Lions (13-4, 6-2 Big Ten)

2020-21 record: 7-7

Penn State is led by head coach Charlene Morett-Curtiss, who’s entering her 35th season as the leader of the Nittany Lions. Morett-Curtiss has guided Penn State to eight NCAA Tournament appearances during her time in Happy Valley.

The former All-American at Penn State has climbed the mountaintop in the Big Ten Tournament a handful of times with three Big Ten regular season championships and regular season titles apiece. The Nittany Lions have enjoyed great success under her leadership, amassing a 544-299-17 record in her 35 seasons.

The longest-tenured coach in the Big Ten has cemented Penn State as a perennial championship contender.

Players to know

Sophia Gladieux, sophomore midfielder, No. 3 — Gladieux is a scoring machine for the Nittany Lions, ranking third in the Big Ten in goals with 16 goals in her sophomore campaign. The Boyertown, Pennsylvania native brings the heat every time she steps on the field, leading the Big Ten with a total of 95 shots this season. Gladieux showed out this season, while also leading the Big Ten with 52 shots on goal.

Mackenzie Allessie, junior midfielder, No. 2 — Allessie finished the season with nine goals, placing her seventh in the Big Ten in goals scored. The junior is very generous with spreading the ball around, as she has recorded a Big Ten leading 11 assists this season. Allessie is a valued member of the Nittany Lions’ offensive attack as exemplified by her 38 shots recorded this season.

Anna Simon, senior defender, No. 17 — The versatile senior brings a wealth of experience and an offensive punch to Penn State, shown by her 11 goals. The German native applies pressure at opponents’ cage, ranking third in the Big Ten with 65 shots this season. Simon is clutch when the game is on the line, as she is tied for the lead in game-winning goals with five goals in crunch time.

Strength

Shots/penalty corners. Penn State is one of the most aggressive teams in the Big Ten when attacking the cage. The Nittany Lions average 15.2 shots per game, with their scoring-minded athletes looking to score early and often throughout the contest. The Nittany Lions are excellent in generating penalty corners, as they have outscored their opponents by a wide margin of 132 to 85.

Weakness

Losing on the road. For a team with just four losses on the season, it is difficult to identify a true weakness in their arsenal. However, the Nittany Lions have dropped just four games and three out of the four losses have been on the road. Although this game will be played at a neutral site at Rutgers, this may be something the Terps can use to their advantage.

Three things to watch

1. Will Maryland extend its recent streak? The Terps have won four consecutive games and have caught fire at the perfect time. In Maryland’s four-game winning streak, it has outscored its opponents with a solid 15-3 scoring advantage.

2. Can Maryland’s depth impose its will versus Penn State? Maryland is a team built on its strength in numbers. In the Terps’ recent 6-0 victory over then-No. 24 Ohio State, Maryland had six different scorers in its offensive explosive in the season finale in College Park.

3. Can the Terps right their wrongs in this rematch? It was a high-intensity game between these two teams on Sept. 18, when Penn State’s Gladieux scored the game-winning goal to give the Nittany Lions the 3-2 victory in overtime. The Terps got off to a hot start, then cooled off until tying the game in the fourth quarter. Maryland will look to extend its winning streak to five games with a complete effort for all four quarters.