Women’s Soccer Downs UNC in Top 10 Clash
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. – North Carolina forward Alessia Russo hung her head down in disappointment after seeing her strike, destined for the top corner of the net, deflected away at the last second by an outstretched Rose Chandler in goal for Penn State.
Russo was not the only frustrated Tar Heel, as the visitors were left asking questions offensively on a very uncharacteristic night.
For two of the most dominating offensive teams in all of college soccer, defense stole the show Thursday night at Jeffrey Field in No. 5 Penn State’s 1-0 win over the No. 6 North Carolina Tar Heels.
North Carolina managed only six shots and two on net, well below their season average of 19 shots.
Most of the woes for the Tar Heels can be attributed to Penn State’s defense, keeping the ball largely out of their own zone and away from potential offensive threats.
“We came in with a good plan, and they bought into it,” Penn State head coach Erica Dambach said. “They bought into it, they believed in it, and they executed it. In our sport, you’ve got two days to put a plan in and they’ve got to be able to execute or else you’re not going to be successful.”
Senior defender Elizabeth Ball thrived on defense, deflecting passes and crosses all night for the Nittany Lions and making Chandler’s job much easier.
“This is a game where Elizabeth Ball is a big star,” Dambach said. “It’s an athletic game, the ball is in the air a ton, this is her wheelhouse. This is the game where she shines and you have to find the right personnel for the right opponent.”
Penn State’s lone goal came just seven minutes into the game off the foot of Frannie Crouse. Crouse’s goal was her second of the season off of a shot into the bottom right corner of the net. The goal was assisted by Charlotte Williams on a precise through ball to leave Crouse one-on-one with Leshnak.
“I’m always kind of shocked that I created that much space, but (Williams’) ball was perfectly placed and the goalie came out and it was just a little tuck into the corner,” Crouse said.
The goal was her 35th as a Nittany Lion, tying her for 11th all-time in scoring in school history.
Laura Friegang had a chance with seven minutes remaining in the game to pad the Penn State lead, but her shot deflected off of Leshnak’s shoulder and trickled just wide of the net.
“Those moments will come back to bite you over the course of the season. If you don’t take those moments, don’t take opportunity on the big chances, they will come back to bite you,” Dambach said.
The win over the Tar Heels was the second of three consecutive top 10 matchups for Penn State, something that hasn’t happened since the 2005 NCAA Tournament. The Nittany Lions fell to then-No. 6 West Virginia earlier this week and will travel to No. 8 UVA on Sunday.
“Not only is it a good opponent in UVA, but it’s a completely different style,” Dambach said. “That’s what’s so cool about our schedule. By the time October and November rolls around, we should be able to deal with a lot of different styles of soccer. We’ve got to change our thought process, but keep the consistency of battling and going after these teams.”
Tom Shively is a junior majoring in broadcast journalism. To contact him, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
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