Women’s Soccer Outlasts Illinois in Double Overtime
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - It took two full halves and two full overtime periods before Penn State fans witnessed a goal at Jeffrey Field.
No. 8 Penn State women’s soccer squared off against inter-conference foe Illinois in its second Big Ten game of the season. After shutting out Northwestern, 3-0, on Thursday night, the Nittany Lions entered Sunday’s match looking to improve their 5-2 overall record.
With 42 seconds remaining in the second overtime period of Sunday’s game, Penn State’s sophomore forward Laura Freigang lined a shot past the outstretched arms of Illinois goalkeeper Jaelyn Cunningham for the sudden death goal to win, 1-0.
Freigang settled the ball off her chest with three Illini defenders closing on her, but she reacted quickly and volleyed the ball for a clean turnaround shot.
The goal was going to come at some point, as the Nittany Lions shot the ball 27 total times, while the visitors had two attempts.
The Nittany Lions believed that they could do it and that goal was going to happen. It shows a lot about the team that they were able to push through until the end.
“We all knew we all wanted it,” Freigang said. “I kind of felt it come and we all believed in each other, and that’s really important.”
The Illini came in trying to rebound from a tough loss to the Ohio State Buckeyes, where Illinois saw seven goals posted on the scoreboard in favor of the opponents.
Cunningham was stingy in the goalie box for the Illini, saving over 90 percent of the shots she faced from the Nittany Lions. There was a handful of times when Cunningham was forced to making a diving stop, or jump up high in the air to block a ball from going over her head.
It was an impressive performance to say the least, and Penn State head coach Erica Dambach applauded her for it.
“Jaylen Cunningham was excellent, she was the player of the match as far as I was concerned,” Dambach said. “Their whole team, I thought, played their absolute hearts out. They should hold their heads high from today’s performance.”
Illinois played Penn State down to the wire in what could be describe as one of the hottest games of the season. Fatigue was a major theme of the matchup, but both teams fought through and pushed all the way until the end.
Players agreed that the heat played a factor in the game.
“I think it totally had an effect, but I don’t think it should affect us as much as it probably did today,” redshirt sophomore defender Ellie Jean said.
“I think we should be used to that, but I think everyone that started and came in off the bench put in the effort, and we finally got the results and that’s all that matters.”
The Nittany Lions will have five days to recover from the Sunday’s 110-minute contest before they travel to face off against the Iowa Hawkeyes at their home field.
Zach Seyko is a senior majoring in broadcast journalism. To contact him, email email@example.com.
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