- The Washington Times - Friday, May 13, 2005

Penn State has played for something more than a postseason berth over the last six weeks of the regular season, a motivation that remains tonight when the Nittany Lions visit third-seeded Maryland in the first round of the NCAA tournament at Byrd Stadium.

The season didn’t begin ideally for the Nittany Lions, who dropped three of five, including a surprising loss at Stony Brook. Then on March26, senior midfielder Mike Jacober’s parents and younger brother died in a plane crash just 10 miles outside State College.

In the wake of the tragedy, the Nittany Lions began to mesh. After falling to 2-5, Penn State ripped off a seven-game winning streak — the program’s first since 1992 — and capped the season with a 13-12 overtime victory at Georgetown that vaulted the Nittany Lions into the postseason.

“We faced a lot of adversity with the injuries at the beginning of the season and then obviously with Mike and his family,” said attackman Nate Whitaker, who scored five goals against Georgetown. “It was great how we could [come] together as a team and win our last seven.”

Added Penn State coach Glenn Thiel: “The kids kind of rallied around him, and then we kind of changed our whole game from being a passive, finesse team and said we have to be physical, we have to get after the ball better, and it just coincided with that time of the season. The kids were just more together. We had a couple games to start feeling good, but then we started beating good teams, too.”

Under the lights

Fourth-seeded Virginia (9-3), which has played only once in the last 27 days, found it a bit difficult to schedule its first-round game. Eight Cavaliers have exams at 2 p.m. today, and a home game tomorrow would be untenable because the Virginia women are scheduled to play Boston U. at Klockner Stadium.

That left tonight’s 8 p.m. start as the team’s best choice, which isn’t entirely bad. The Cavaliers are 15-0 in night games at Klockner, including 3-0 this season.

“I talked to my team about Sunday afternoon and Saturday night, and they were quite vehement about playing at night,” coach Dom Starsia said. “It lends to the atmosphere. The night game under the lights, it looks a little faster. You look like you’re on stage. For everybody involved, fans and participants, it just creates a more exciting setting.”

Hoyas get tested

Sixth-seeded Georgetown also faced a scheduling conundrum thanks to exams, eventually settling on noon tomorrow for its game against Army (11-5).

Yet with all the tests and papers due this week on the Hilltop, the Hoyas (9-4) have endured a common problem for this time of year — depleted practices.

“Each day we have fewer and fewer exams,” Georgetown coach Dave Urick said. “You can tell which guys are done and which guys aren’t. There’s a difference in the hop in their step.”

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