AS sophomore midfielder Daneen Zug passed the ball to teammate Jessica Longstreth Wednesday against Princeton, a spray of water came up from the field when her stick slid across the surface.
However, it hadn't rained in State College in several days.
The Penn State field hockey team plays on an Astroturf field, which is an artificial or synthetic turf that is water-based. Before every game, and often during halftime, the maintenance crew at AstroTurf Field turns on two giant water hoses to soak down the field before the team competes on it.
Penn State coach Char Morett said watering the field helps athletes with their footing because the surface is spongy, meaning it will give and they won't get stuck in the turf. She also said the water helps prevent the ball from skipping, making all passes possible on the field.
"It sorta gives you the best of both worlds," Morett said. "You can do good, hard passes if that's what you're looking for, or you can pace the ball down the field because it's absorbing a little bit of water. This field allows you to do both because of the water."
The Nittany Lions play on the highest quality of Astroturf available to athletics, a Grade A turf or a regulation water-based turf. This is the only type of surface major field hockey events can be played on, such as the NCAA tournament and international matches.
Since the ball is usually on the ground in field hockey games, a smooth surface is required to keep the ball rolling. On a grass or field turf surface (which contains rubber pellets), the ball will get caught up in divots making the players come over the top of it when they try to make a pass. The smoothness of the turf accelerates the pace of the game as well.
"It's a lot faster," freshman midfielder Longstreth said. "Your stick moves a lot easier meaning you can hit balls quicker."
For the majority of the Penn State team, the first turf field they saw was at the collegiate level. Junior midfielder Amy Bonenberger said unless you played on a club team or your high school team made it to the playoffs, you played on a grass field. She said some fields she played on at the high school level were terrible, sometimes even in pastures full of weeds and dirt.
Morett said another advantage of playing on an Astroturf field is the team sees less injuries than they would playing on a more uneven surface. Since there are no divots, ankle rolls and torn ACLs are rarely seen.
However, the Lions said taking a fall is not as easy on turf as it is on grass. Bonenberger said when she or a teammate gets up from falling, it is not unlikely to find turf burns which are similar to rug burns. She said the burns sometimes sting, and the trainers have a special cream they put on the athletes' wounds before they bandage them up.
"Me and one other player have to wear knee pads on our knees because our turf burns keep reopening," Bonenberger said. "You can't play if you're bleeding, so we have to cover up our burns so we can still play."
The Lions aren't the only ones who are impressed with AstroTurf Field. Bob Hudzik, the Director of Outdoor Facilities, enjoys the little maintenance the field requires.
He said his department only needs to paint the field hockey lines once or twice a year, monitor the irrigation system and sweep off the field with a sweeper device on occasion.
In its fourth year of use, AstroTurf Field is "as true as you get," Morett said. In the future, she hopes to see improvements in the landscaping around the stadium, but she knows that will come with time.
"I am just grateful Penn State gave us the finances to get this high quality of surface to use," Morett said. "I mean, pros come in and they go, 'This is a gorgeous field, this is a great field.' "