UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa.; October 29, 2021 – The Penn State Nittany Lion field hockey team (13-4, 6-2 B1G), ranked No. 7 in the NFHCA Coaches Poll, took down No. 2 Michigan (13-3, 5-3 B1G) in a Big Ten field hockey showdown. Head coach Char Morett-Curtiss' squad scored late in overtime to post a 3-2 (OT) win over the Wolverines at the Penn State Field Hockey Complex on Senior Night.
The win over the second-ranked Wolverines capped off Senior Night and helped Penn State finish the regular season with a 13-4 record, 6-2 in the Big Ten and tied for second place in the final regular season standings. All the scoring in the rain-soaked affair came in the second half and overtime.
The game was played in a driving rain throughout, and scoring was hard to come by early in the game. The first period was dominated by midfield play with each team mustering a lone shot, neither of which were on goal. Penn State's best chance in the opening period was a late penalty corner with just 0:43 on the clock. But the shot of the set was just wide, and the first period ended in a 0-0 tie.
Michigan began to press the Penn State defense in the second period while the Nittany Lions worked to get its offense on track. The Wolverines notched the second period's only two shots and Penn State keeper Brie Barraco (Allentown, Pa.) made an outstanding save on the second. The UM shot came off the team's first penalty corner, just 2:44 into the second period. Penn State did not muster a shot or corner in the second, but Barraco's save kept the game scoreless and the game moved to halftime still tied 0-0.
Michigan outshot Penn State 3-1 in the opening half and had a 2-1 corner edge. Barraco had one save for the Nittany Lions while Michigan's Anna Spieker had none.
The third period began with Michigan working the ball quickly into Penn State's circle and forcing a penalty corner with 14:22 on the clock. But the ensuing Wolverine shot was wide, and Penn State went to work. The Nittany Lions worked the ball down the field, led by junior Jemma Punch (McDowall, Australia). Punch led the fast break down the far sideline and fed classmate Anna Simon (Hanau, Germany) at the top of the circle. Simon passed the ball deftly across to senior Emma Spisak (Boiling Springs, Pa.), who knocked the ball past Spieker for the game's first goal. Spisak's effort put Penn State up 1-0 at the 13:21 mark. Penn State continued to keep the offensive pressure on, forcing a corner a couple of minutes later. Sophia Gladieux (Boyertown, Pa.) got off a hard shot that the Michigan defense blocked to keep the game close. The team's traded barbs for the bulk of the third period after that and Penn State carried the 1-0 lead into the fourth period. Barraco had four saves in the third period alone.
The Nittany Lion defense was tested during the fourth period. Michigan forced a penalty corner at the 8:38 mark. Barraco made a great save on the original shot, but Michigan's Alana Richardson scored unassisted off the rebound with 8:28 left to play to tie the game up at 1-1. The Wolverines were energized by the goal, controlling the action over the next five minutes. Barraco made another save off another Michigan corner with under 4:00 to play. Michigan was awarded a corner after the save and connected on the set. Sofia Southam scored with an assist from Anouk Veen with just 2:53 left to give UM a 2-1 lead. But the Nittany Lions did not panic. Penn State regained possession and moved into the Michigan circle where the Lions picked up a penalty corner with 1:54 left. Gladieux tied the game up, scoring off the corner sett with assists from Mackenzie Allessie (Mount Joy, Pa.) and Elena Vos (Grave, The Netherlands). The goal came at the 1:45 mark and tied the game at 2-2. Barraco made one last, late save in regulation to send the contest into overtime tied 2-2.
The extra period began with Penn State picking up a quick green card, forcing the team to play an early two-minute stint a player down. Barraco made a superb save on an early Michigan shot after the card and the Nittany Lion defense killed the corner. Midway through the overtime period, Michigan picked up a penalty corner. Penn State's defense blocked the first shot off the corner and Barraco made a save on the second. The Nittany Lions moved the ball into the Wolverine circle and found the back of the cage with just over 2:00 to play. Simon took a hard shot that Spieker made a save on. The Nittany Lions regained possession. Spisak got control of the ball and made a slick pass to Allessie who made a quick move and sent the ball past the UM goalie for the game-winning goal at the 2:20 mark. Allessie's goal lifted Penn State to the 3-2 (OT) win.
"This was a great Big Ten battle against an outstanding Michigan team," said Morett-Curtiss. "I thought our girls were so resilient tonight. They did not miss a beat when Michigan took the lead late and we really did make the most of our opportunities in the second half and overtime. Our defense played great, and Bree (Barraco) was just outstanding tonight. This is a great win for us, giving us momentum heading into the post-season."
Michigan outshot Penn State 16-7 and had a 7-3 edge in penalty corners. But Barraco's eight saves helped spur Penn State on to victory. Spieker had one for Michigan.
Penn State is now 13-4 overall, 6-2 in the Big Ten. Michigan falls to 13-3, 5-3 B1G. The Nittany Lions will head to Rutgers University for the 2021 Big Ten Field Hockey Tournament in Piscataway, N.J. next week. The tournament winner will receive the Big Ten's automatic bid to the 2021 NCAA Championship Tournament. The full field for the 2021 NCAA tournament will be announced on Sunday, Nov. 7, at 10 p.m. on NCAA.com.