Oct. 23, 2010

Courtesy of Penn State Athletics

The No. 11 ranked Penn State field hockey team played two players down for five minutes in the second half but overcame the adversity and held on for a thrilling 2-1 victory over No. 17 Duke at the PSU Field Hockey Complex on Saturday afternoon.

Despite receiving three yellow cards in the second half, including a pair of overlapping penalties, the Nittany Lions showed true resolve and put on a defensive clinic to keep their lead and pull out the victory. With the win, Penn State improves to 11-4 on the season, while Duke falls to 8-9.

After mounting infractions made Penn State short-handed with just under 12 minutes remaining in regulation, the Lions faced the adversity head-on. With Duke entrenched in the PSU zone, the hosts refused to let their 2-1 lead slip away. On a penalty corner, Caashia Karringten uncorked a blast from the top of the arc, but Ayla Halus batted away the shot with a wonderful glove-hand stop.

Penn State's airtight defense kept the pressure on, and after allowing only a pair of off-the-mark shots to the Blue Devils, the squad returned to full capacity for the final minute of the game. Although Duke earned a penalty corner with time running out, the Nittany Lions held strong for one final play. The visitors briefly appeared to have a clean look off the corner, but Jessica Longstreth came flying in and made an outstanding play to strip the ball and seal the victory.

Although Duke held an 8-3 edge in corners and played with at least a man advantage for nearly 15 minutes of action, Penn State came out on top. Ayla Halus was a force in the cage again as she allowed just one goal and kicked aside three shots to earn the victory.

Before the waning moments of the second half turned into an 11-on-9 battle, the two squads fought back-and-forth throughout the contest. The Nittany Lions struck first just eight minutes into the game after Jenny Purvis took control of an initial attempt by Kelsey Amy and launched a rocket into the cage to secure the 1-0 lead.

Following the early score, Penn State continued to find opportunities in the Duke zone during the first half. The squad earned three penalty corners and unloaded five shots, but the Blue Devil's Samantha Nelson kept the team at bay with a pair of saves.

Following halftime, Lauren Purvis nearly punched home a goal after breaking free from the Duke defense. On the play, she took control of a beautiful feed, found a little room to maneuver, and charged towards the cage. Unfortunately, Nelson was up to the challenge again as the goalkeeper came out to defend the break and made a great diving play to stifle the attack and keep the score at 1-0.

Not deterred by the Duke defense, the Nittany Lions came back again. Following a yellow card on the Blue Devils, Penn State took advantage of the man-up situation. The squad immediately went hard towards the cage, and after an overaggressive Duke defense committed a foul, the Lions earned a penalty stroke.

As the team has all season, Penn State turned to Longstreth for the free shot. With her third stroke of the year, the junior standout ripped a shot to the left that rattled into the back of the cage and gave the team a 2-0 advantage at the 43:31 mark.

From there, the momentum slowly shifted towards the Blue Devils. Following the first yellow card on Penn State just 28 seconds after the goal, the visitors picked up the attack. Eventually, Duke found some room on the far side of the field. After an initial attack, Devon Gagliardi pushed the ball to Emmie Le Marchand who quickly found an opening and converted her team-leading eighth goal of the year with 16 minutes remaining in the game.

Although Duke kept attacking and played with an advantage for nearly the remainder of the contest, Penn State refused to relinquish its lead. Holding a slim 2-1 edge, the Nittany Lions fought hard and held on for the thrilling victory.

PSU will be back in action tomorrow for the team's final regular season home game as the Lions host No. 5 Princeton at 3 p.m.