The home field advantage wasn’t enough for IU as the Nitanny Lions silenced the Hoosier faithful within the first minute of the game when junior forward Brooke Birosick scored to put Penn State up 1-0. The IU defense looked as if it had been caught off guard as Birosick froze freshman goalkeeper Noëlle Rother on the first shot attempt of the game.
“The first goal was a shocker,” junior defender Malia Fujisawa said. “When you get scored on within the first five, ten minutes. We knew that we had to pick it up.”
Penn State controlled the first half and took its 1-0 lead into halftime as they earned seven penalty corners to IU’s four.
The Hoosiers started the second half with more urgency as its offense began to press more to try to dominate the Penn State zone. IU earned four more penalty corners in the second half, and it was only a matter of time before they found themselves on the scoreboard.
“We just needed to continue to do what was working, our outlet, today was actually the best its been all season,” IU Coach Amanda Janney said. “They pressured really quick, and I think that we really handled it well, we were trying to get them to settle down and just take smarter free hits.”
The Nitanny Lions’ defense finally caved with fewer than 10 minutes remaining. The Hoosiers drew up its go-to play off the penalty corner for the eighth time in the game.
Sophomore Maddie Latino inserted the ball, which was settled and dished to senior defender Sydney Supica, who took a straight shot on goal. The ball was deflected in front of the goal and corralled by Latino on the left side of the cage, who flicked it high into the net to knot the game up 1-1.
Unfortunately for IU, Penn State wouldn’t crumble in the final minutes of the game. Just before the five minute mark left in the game, the Nitanny Lions caught the Hoosiers off guard once again with a timely goal of their own.
Birosik was the goal scorer once again as she was able to control a ball that was airborne and swat it into the back of the cage to give Penn State the 2-1 advantage. It was her fifth consecutive goal for the Nitanny Lions after her recording a hat trick in the regular season finale against Northwestern.
The goal forced IU to take a timeout when Janney elected to remove Rother from the cage to gain an extra attacker to try to even the game back up. The decision backfired as Penn State sealed the victory with a goal less than two minutes later, making it 3-1.
“The third goal is on me,” Janney said. “I want to take that risk and not sit back and lose 2-1 ever, the team really fought hard, and the score didn’t reflect how well the team played.”
The Hoosiers close the season after setting a program record for the most conference wins with five this season. The team will likely suffer a bit by graduating four key seniors but will return its top two goal scorers from this year among a plethora of young talent, including Rother, who was a rock for the Hoosiers all season in the cage.
“We all had such a strong belief that we would make it into the finals and take the title of the Big Ten tournament,” Fujisawa said. “The amount of time, care and dedication all of the girls had, including the coaches, was unbelievable. We’re going to start from here and go up next season.”