No. 1-seeded Penn State wins consecutive Big Ten Championship
IOWA CITY, Iowa -- No. 1-seeded Penn State claimed its consecutive Big Ten Tournament Championship on Sunday with the 2-0 defeat of No. 3-seeded Michigan. It is the sixth championship title for the Nittany Lions (17-3, 5-1 Big Ten), more than any other school in the history of the Big Ten. The Lions earn the Big Ten’s automatic berth to the NCAA Championship Tournament.
Senior Kelsey Amy, named the Big Ten Tournament MVP, recorded both goals for the Lions. Senior Ayla Halus and sophomore Laura Gebhart were named to the All-Tournament Team.
“I am just so thrilled for the girls,” head coach Charlene Morett said. “They showed great effort and poise throughout the 70 minutes. It was a tough game between two high-quality teams and it was a great accomplishment for them.”
In the first five minutes of play, Penn State began an offensive attack as netminder Haley Jones faced back-to-back shots from Amy and junior Ashtin Klingler. Trying to break down Michigan’s barrier, senior Hannah Allison fired a third shot at the goalkeeper, but was denied by the Wolverines’ defenders.
Michigan moved down the field into Penn State’s circle several times in the middle of the first half, but could not capitalize to get on the board. A major source of the Wolverines’ hindrance was junior Brittany Grzywacz, who constantly fended off forwards to help protect Halus.
Stepping up in the midfield, Gebhart stealthily stole the ball at the Michigan line and ran into the circle. She was then able to draw the first penalty corner of the game, giving the Lions a huge offensive advantage. Junior Whitney Reddig started the play, getting the ball to Gebhart, Allison and finally to Amy. The forward sent a shot barreling towards Jones, but the ball struck the post to keep the score knotted at zero.
As time began to expire in the first half, Penn State earned another penalty corner at the 2:20 mark. Reddig fed the ball to Amy, who made a shot into the back of the cage to give the Lions a 1-0 lead. It was Amy’s 23rd goal of the season and the 75th of her career. Reddig’s assist was her 16th of the season and her 24th point.
In the first half, only six shots were attempted with Penn State holding a 5-1 advantage. Both squads picked up the pace in the second half, starting with Klingler who sent a shot to Jones. Jones came up with the save, and Michigan regained possession to move down the field.
Drawing their first corner of the game, the Wolverines’ Rachael Mack tried to sneak a quick shot past Halus, but the netminder scooped up the ball for Grzywacz to clear. The Lions continued to hold a 1-0 lead.
Gaining momentum off of Halus’ play, Klingler regained possession and banked a shot off the goal post. Amy moved up instinctively and sent a shot past the netminder for her second goal of the contest. It was her 58th point of the season.
With a 2-0 lead in favor of the Lions, Michigan’s anxiousness began to show. With less than 20 minutes left, Aisling Naughton passed to Halus in the middle of the circle. Mack tried to tip the ball in off of a diving lunge, but the ball rolled out of play.
As the Wolverines regained possession, Shannon Scavelli almost scored, but Halus met Scavelli head-on and kicked the ball to a Penn State defender.
In the closing minute, the Lions held off a final Michigan penalty corner to earn a 2-0 shutout victory for the Championship Title. Penn State outshot the Wolverines 11-8 and held a 4-3 penalty corner advantage. Halus was an invaluable asset in net, making three huge saves to earn her fourth shutout of the season and the 15th of her career. Jones, named to the All-Tournament Team, made five saves.
The NCAA Championship Tournament Selection Show will take place on Tuesday, Nov. 6 at 8 p.m. ET.