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  The Digital Collegian - Published independently by students at Penn State
[ Friday, Sept. 3, 1999 ]

Stickwomen have first challenge against 'Heels

Collegian Staff Writer

The Penn State field hockey team always has been dominant at home.

The Lady Lions have won more than 80 percent of their home games, and that includes a 23-3 record since Bigler Athletic Complex opened in 1996. It won its last eight home games, dating back to Sept. 8 of that year.

That streak will be put to the test this weekend as the Penn State opens its 36th season of competition.

This weekend, the Lions host Ohio at 6 p.m. Friday and North Carolina at noon Sunday, both on the artificial turf of Bigler Athletic Complex.

"We're comfortable here," Penn State field hockey coach Char Morett said. "We have a strong following. Our kids love playing in front of big crowds."

The Lions should have no problem getting a big field hockey crowd, especially for Sunday's game. The Penn State — North Carolina game has become somewhat of a rivalry in the past few years. The Tar Heels have faced the Lions eight times in the '90s, winning six of those match-ups, including four straight.

As for the Lions home-field advantage, they lost their first ever game at Bigler — to North Carolina.

"We're really excited to play North Carolina," junior Irene Kofroth said. "The enthusiasm is at a different level."

North Carolina (2-0, 1-0 ACC) looks to rebound from last season's lackluster end, which saw the Tar Heels lose seven of their last 11 games. They have looked impressive thus far, defeating Michigan 4-1 on August 28 and conference opponent Duke 4-0 on August 29. They are ranked No. 3 by Sports Illustrated for Women.

A key contributor to the Tar Heels' success this season has been Jana Toepel, who managed to score 12 goals and net 30 points last season at a defender.

After spending last spring and summer with the U.S. National Team, she returns to the Tar Heels as a midfielder. She finished the first game of the '99 season with one goal and two assists.

One of the newcomers to the starting lineup is Abby Martin. Martin already has scored three goals this season, a third of what she scored all last year.

The Tar Heels are a relatively young team, with only one senior on the roster. That person is Nicole Frey, the team's starting goalkeeper since last season. She started all but one of the Tar Heels' games last season, finishing the year with a 1.81 goals-against-average.

"The potential is certainly there," North Carolina field hockey coach Karen Shelton said in an interview on the official UNC Internet site. "I'm looking forward to seeing how this season unfolds."

But before the Lions can look forward to their battle against North Carolina, they have to face Ohio. Morett insists no one is looking past the Bobcats.

"We're not looking ahead," Morett said, "because we're looking forward to the opening game. It's gonna be a competitive game."

Said Kofroth: "We take it one game at a time."

Ohio (1-1, 0-0 MAC) comes into Happy Valley a week after splitting its games at the Iowa Invitational. The Bobcats beat Maine 3-0 on August 29, then lost to host Iowa 5-1 on the following day.

Holding the Bobcats' leash this season will be new head coach Shelly Morris. Morris was officially named the new head coach back in April, after two months as the interim coach.

Leading the team early on has been Courtney Foster. Foster was the key to beating Maine, scoring a goal and an assist.

Morett hopes to answer some questions this weekend, especially with the goalkeeping position. She says she probably will alternate the position, saying the decision will probably depend on how the three competitors perform in warm-ups and in the game.

"Each goalkeeper has something different to offer," senior Julie Sposito said.

But regardless of any unanswered questions, one thing is certain: it's time to play.

"We're working really hard," Kofroth said. "I'm looking forward to the competition."

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Updated 1999-9-3  1:56:06   -4
Requested 2000-8-17  5:55:40   -4