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PSU Beats 2 Notre Dames

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PSU Beats 2 Notre Dames

It was an interesting weekend for Penn State. The nine-time DI champion hit the road for a double-header, but it was the friendly against the DII team, and not the DI conference game, that proved more challenging.

On Saturday, the Nittany Lions traveled to South Euclid, Ohio, to take on DII Notre Dame College in a friendly. The Falcons have deservedly enjoyed a lot of press this season, and after its 41-17 loss to the best DI team in the country, one should expect more coverage.

“I thought the game went really well,” Notre Dame College coach Mark Andrade said. “Our girls were extremely nervous, but when Hannah [Gauthreaux] scored our first try from a return kick, the team settled them down and slowed down Penn State’s kicking attack.”

But the Nittany Lions aren’t good simply because they have some of the country’s top collegiate athletes; they’re smart, too. The Falcons watched a lot of film in advance of the game, but that only exposed the hosts to a segment of the team’s abilities.

“We knew that they love to kick behind their 40, and we practiced for that,” Andrade said. “Problem is they are too smart of a team and adjusted. We also practiced to defend against their backs and forwards running out wide both left and right of the ruck. They didn't do much of that but did more pick-and-goes and pushing forward. They are a lot bigger team than we are up front. Our girls held their own, but we got called for a lot of offsides due to our eagerness to stop the forwards.”

Having that flexibility and awareness allowed PSU to push its lead out to 36-5 before the hosts staged a late comeback. Penn State captain Elizabeth Cairns recorded a hat trick in the effort, while Kyla Chipman, Taylah Pipkin, Beth Rose and Lauren Shissler also scored tries. The team welcomed back World Cup Eagle Meya Bizer to the field, and the fullback added three conversions to the tally.

It’s been a unique season for Penn State, which has played two competitive games this fall – one against Norwich and Saturday’s game against Notre Dame College.

“We have been fortunate to schedule some more challenging games this fall,” Cairns said. “I believe that these games are essential in our development as a team. Games like these allow the team to recognize its weaknesses and highlight specific areas for improvement. In addition, we are able to continue developing the areas of our game that are working well.”

The Falcons echo that sentiment, as the DII Ohio Valley conference doesn’t offer much competition.

“I think the girls would rather have games like that, week in and week out, even if we lose from time to time as opposed to having blowout games,” Andrade said. “We are looking to move to DI next fall and being able to play against a great team like Penn State is a big help in getting prepared. I am hoping they feel the same about playing us and we can keep the relationship going.”

On Sunday, Penn State played in its first Big Ten conference game against the University of Notre Dame, with which PSU interim coach Kate Daley is very familiar. The game wasn’t nearly as competitive, as the visitors returned home with a 74-10 win. Freshman phenom Tess Feury led the way with 26 points on four tries and three conversions from the wing position. Becky Henn scored two tries, while Cassie Stockhausen, Corey Meanix, Lauren Barber, Rachel Campbell, Fran Schaeffer and Rachel Ehrecke added a try apiece. Corinne Heavner tacked on four conversions.

Saturday’s roster showcased some veteran players with a mix of youngsters peppered in, while Sunday saw some freshmen talent continue its growth in DI competition. But it’s difficult to draw a line between the A and B side players.

“Perhaps one of the biggest, and reoccurring, strengths of our team is its depth,” Cairns reiterated a well known fact. “We like to believe that we do not need to distinguish between A and B side players because we are all working to compete at the same level. Our new players have really stepped up tremendously already. A quality I have seen grow each year [that I’ve been] in the program is the ambition of the players to operate at a higher standard than the previous season.”

In terms of the Big Ten, it appears that Indiana will once again be Penn State’s best competition, and that game will go down Oct. 25. The Redstorm is coming off of a 17-10 squeaker against Ohio State, which has established itself as the third-best in the conference.