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  The Digital Collegian - Published independently by students at Penn State
[ Tuesday, Sept. 7, 1999 ]

Stickwomen beat nemesis UNC

Collegian Staff Writer

The Penn State field hockey team began its season in typical Lady Lion fashion — with a win.

But what happened in its second game of the season was quite atypical.

The Lions, No. 6 in Sports Illustrated's preseason poll, began their 36th season and 4th season at Bigler Athletic Complex by sweeping their two opening games, including a heart-stopping victory against non-conference rival North Carolina.

The Lions (2-0) opened the year with a dominating 5-2 victory against Ohio Friday night. Two days later, they pulled out a 1-0 win against the No. 3 Tar Heels, snapping a losing streak of four straight to North Carolina (2-1, 1-0 ACC).

Outlined by a dark and windy Sunday afternoon, the crowd came out en-masse, doubling Friday's attendance and bringing the Nittany Lion mascot to lead the cheer.

The game began as both teams fought for an advantage, with neither defense giving an inch. About six and a half minutes into the game, a Tar Heels' shot was denied by the post, although it was ruled too high to have been a goal.

"That got me jumpstarted," goalkeeper Heidi Leuchte said. "Got the juice flowing."

PHOTO: Corinne Coulter
PHOTO: Corinne Coulter
Penn State’s Mandy Robinson takes a swing during the Lady Lions contest with UNC. The Lions won 1-0, beating their arch rivals.

The Lions lost a big chance to score a first-half goal when Tar Heels goalkeeper Nicole Frey stopped a shot by Lions' Maegan Galie. Frey was supposed to be the goalkeeper Amy Tran's backup, but she missed the bus to Happy Valley.

The game was a defensive battle throughout, as the Lions would take only four penalty corners against North Carolina, in comparison to 19 corners against Ohio.

With a little more than four minutes left, the Lions were awarded their 23rd penalty corner of the weekend.

Galie pushed the ball out to senior co-captain Tracey Larson, who stopped the ball and passed to junior midfielder Traci Anselmo. Anselmo sent the ball back to Larson, who returned a great pass to Anselmo.

"It was great," Anselmo said. "She set me up . . . beautiful. I just closed my eyes and I shot and was like 'I hope that goes in.' "

With 4:06 remaining in the contest, Anselmo's shot slipped past the goalkeeper. The familiar sound of the ball hitting the wooden board in the goal rang throughout the field. The Lions were up, 1-0.

"I don't think Traci got the whole ball," North Carolina field hockey coach Karen Shelton said, "but it was enough that it went in. It was like a changeup. You see that big backswing, and we know she can hit it a ton. And so when it didn't come quite as hard, (Frey) was thrown off a little bit."

North Carolina responded by pulling its goalie and sending in Abby Martin as an extra attacker. The Tar Heels would threaten just once on a penalty corner, but that was as close as they would get.

When time expired, the Lions ran onto the field to celebrate their win. They would later take a victory lap across the field.

"We really had nothing to lose at that point in time," Shelton said, "so we threw Abby in there and tried to get something. We got a corner out of it. Ironically, our corners had been outstanding, last weekend and all week in practice. So that was very disappointing to us to get six corners and we really did not get one shot on goal off those six corners."

The win was Penn State's 200th home victory since the program began in 1964. It also was the 24th straight win at Bigler.

"It was so neat to hear 'We are. . .Penn State!' coming across the field," Larson said. "It makes me think I'm in a football game, 'cause that's when you hear it. To hear it coming on the field hockey field, it just shows you what this sport has become and what we can do here."

Two days before facing North Carolina, Penn State dominated Ohio (2-2) from the start, as sophomore Kiley Kulina opened the game's scoring just seven minutes in.

The Lions would score three more goals in the 35-minute half, including two by Anselmo and one by sophomore Meredith Shulzitski. Larson added assists on both Anselmo goals and Shulzitski's goal.

Larson's assists tied a Bigler record for most assists by a Penn State player. Larson shares the record with former Lions Kim Hicks and Dawn Lammey.

Sophomore Sara Kasper would add a fourth goal with 4:22 left in the game, and the defense would break down twice in the second half, resulting in two Ohio goals. Bobcats forward Jen Watt scored on a penalty corner kick as time expired.

"I think in the second half," Larson said, "it kinda broke down a little bit. They scored two goals on the corners. So that's something we need to work on. But I think, overall, we did a pretty good job and it's just a stepping stone for the rest of the season."

The next task will be to focus on next weekend's games against defending NCAA champion Old Dominion and NCAA Tournament-qualifier Northeastern. Both games will be at Old Dominion, in Norfolk, Va.

But for now, the Lions can bask in the glory of beating North Carolina.

"I'd say it's up there," Larson said. "No. 1 or 2 as my best moments at Penn State. This is a win, this is great. But now we hafta leave that here and go to the next level."

Field hockey

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Updated 1999-9-7  0:22:28   -4
Requested 2000-8-17  5:53:14   -4