Purdue’s recent results against Indiana University and University of Wisconsin have boosted confidence levels as the team prepares for the second round of the Big Ten Tournament.
The Boilermakers’ (8-8-3, 3-6-2 Big Ten) defensive success has been consistent, finishing the regular season with nine shutouts.
The goals scored in the last couple of games solidified the chemistry and confidence that the Boilermakers have been cultivating.
“We’ve seen some signs that our attacks were coming together and that the chemistry was improving throughout the last two or three weeks,” head coach Drew Roff said. “But I think it was Hannah Melchiorre’s goal against IU that was just a huge moment for the team, and I think that just gave us a lot of confidence.”
Senior forward Ena Sabanagic, who scored the winning goal in the game against first-seed Wisconsin (14-3-2, 10-0-1) on Sunday, also believes the offensive turnaround has been a long time coming.
“We started off the season so strong with two wins and beginning Big Ten, and it got rough after that,” Sabanagic said. “But I never really thought we gave up, and it showed at the end of the season. We got that win versus IU, and when we found out we made it, I’ve never seen a team become more unified.”
The Boilermakers, riding the high of the last Big Ten win, are now doubling down on preparation for their next game.
Purdue played Penn State (13-6-1, 8-3-0) at home during the regular season, losing 2-1.
“That was one team that scored two goals on us, and that’s a lot of goals to give up for us,” Roff said. “There’s certainly some things that we’ll look at on film, and there’s a couple players that are very fast and can get in behind us, so we’ll have to be prepared against that.”
Roff identified four Penn State players that Purdue’s defense is planning to shut down and nip from the get-go.
“Payton Linnehan and Ally Schlegel (are) up top, and they’re very dangerous, very athletic and very good around the goal,” Roff said. “Sam Coffey and Frankie Tagliaferri are the ones that are usually looking to distribute to those forwards. Those are four players we’ll be aware of at all times.”
Roff expects Purdue’s defensive line to continue performance in the upcoming game and looks to the sophomore defenders Grace Welsh and Skylurr Patrick to make the major defensive plays.
The Boilermakers are confident in their ability to give Penn State’s defense a run for their money on Friday.
“We learned how their defense works. As forwards up top, we’re more prepared for that, and we know all their players,” Sabanagic said. “Now we know what they’re capable of, so I think it will be a much better face-off between the two of us.”
Roff looks to the forwards, freshman Leanna Rebimbas and sophomore Sarah Griffith, to work together and create attacking plays for the Boilers.
“Rebimbas and Griffith are going to be crucial,” Roff said. “I’m really excited to see those two continue to make those connections, and I think those two players can score goals for us in the tournament.”