Sports » Field Hockey | Sept. 17
After an unprecedented winning streak which saw the field hockey team win its first-ever national championship, the No. 3 Tigers (3-1) finally gave in Sunday when No. 13 Penn State bested them 4-3 on the strength of two early goals.
“Penn State is always a great matchup for us for us. They’re a very skilled and athletic team. I’m expecting a very high-paced game,” senior midfielder Julia Reinprecht said before the game.
Reinprecht got what she was expecting, as the Nittany Lions (3-3) hit the ground running, getting two shots past junior goalkeeper Christina Maida in the the first 15 minutes. Reinprecht’s goal got the Tigers on the board, but Penn State answered back with alacrity, increasing its lead to 4-1 in the first five minutes of the second half.
From that point on, the Tigers played catch-up. Sophomore midfielder Teresa Benvenuti assisted sophomore striker Maddie Copeland, who narrowed the deficit to 4-2, and a short time later senior midfielder/striker Michelle Cesan fed junior striker Allison Evans on a penalty corner, making it a one-point contest.
Goalkeeper Kylie Licata and her defense held on, however, as Licata notched seven saves on the day and the Nittany Lions held on to upset the Tigers on their home turf.
The loss, Princeton’s first in 17 games, came as a surprise Sunday after Princeton took down Michigan State Friday. In that game, the Tigers came out on top despite a late goal from the Spartans which sent the game into overtime.
With the clock reading 7:53 in the first period Friday, Cesan converted a pass from senior back Amanda Bird’s penalty corner. Yet, despite the huge disparity in shots and penalty corners, the State fans were rewarded for their trek with a Spartan goal with 10 seconds left in regulation. The stunning equalizer sent the game into a 15-minute overtime period.
Princeton continued to hold the edge after a close call stemming from a Michigan State transition. Three shot attempts from the Tigers resulted in Benvenuti finding the back of the cage on a pass from Cesan. The goal was Benvenuti’s third of the year.
“I thought, ‘You’ve got to be kidding me!’ ” Benvenuti said of the Spartan’s tying goal. “I was just focused on the game almost being over, and I was relieved that we had won. And all of a sudden they scored a goal. I guess it kind of served me right for not staying focused. But I had a lot of confidence in our overtime team.”
Reinprecht explained that the squad expected to face a competitive Spartan team.
“I knew that Michigan State was going to come out hard and come out with a good game plan,” she said. “And I think the longer we let them hang in it, the more energy they were able to gain.”
The disparity in shots and penalty corners of the previous match against Fairfield (22 to 6 and 9 to 2) was echoed against the Spartans. The Tigers outshot the Spartans 19 to 5 with a 13 to 0 penalty corner advantage.
Benvenuti highlighted her team’s clutch overtime performance, but pointed to room for improved execution.
“We were able to regroup really quickly and come together in a situation we don’t really practice that much,” she noted. “But we’re still trying to figure where we expect each other to be on the field. Having freshmen play such a large role, we’re not quite used to them yet. And on attack penalty corners, we didn’t convert as many as we would have liked to. But we’ll just look to clean up the details.”
Penn State took advantage of the early-season kinks in Princeton’s game last season, taking the Tigers to overtime before ultimately losing, but Princeton did lose a game before beginning the streak which saw it win the 2012 national championship. Next weekend will see the Tigers begin to defend their Ivy title and seek a repeat national championship as they face off against Dartmouth in Hanover on Saturday.
Correction: Due to a reporting error, an earlier version of this article incorrectly stated the class year of Teresa Benvenuti. She is a sophomore. The ‘Prince’ regrets the error.