Championship Game Preview: Penn State Men’s Soccer vs. Indiana
The Penn State Nittany Lions sit just 90 minutes away from capturing their first Big Ten championship since 2005. However, standing in the Nittany Lions way are the Indiana Hoosiers who are looking to capture their third straight title.
The two teams have yet to square off this season as their game on March 7 was canceled due to a positive COVID-19 test.
Historically, the matchup between the two squads is in favor of the Hoosiers as they have a record of 34-14-4 over the Nittany Lions. Indiana also has won the last five games.
After getting eliminated in last year’s semifinals, the Nittany Lions came into this season with the goal of reaching the finals and that is exactly what they did.
However, Jeff Cook’s squad is not content with reaching the finals. They want to win it all.
In their 4-1 victory over the Michigan Wolverines in the semifinals, it was a balanced attack for the Nittany Lions as four different players racked up goals. Those goals were scored by Daniel Bloyou, Peter Mangione, Pierre Reedy, and Liam Butts.
The Nittany Lions have one of the best offenses in the conference as they average 2.1 goals a game, ranking second just behind the Hoosiers.
Leading the way offensively for Penn State is the three-headed monster of Bloyou, Mangione and Reedy. The Nittany Lions have scored 21 goals on the season and the trio has 17 of them.
Bloyou leads the team in scoring with seven goals and two assists for 16 points while both Mangione and Reedy have five goals and three assists for 13 points.
Penn State also has an extremely solid defense as they have only allowed 10 goals all season long. Brandon Hackenberg and Alex Stevenson are the leaders of the defensive core.
The Nittany Lions have one of the best goalkeepers in the nation in Kris Shakes. Shakes has allowed just seven goals all season long and has made 27 saves.
In the championship game, look for the Nittany Lions trio to have a big game if they want to take home the title. Another player to keep an eye on is Butts as last year he scored nine goals and his goal against the Wolverines was just his first of the year. If Butts can play to the level he did last season, Penn State’s offense will be electric.
As for the Hoosiers, they enter this game coming off a 2-0 victory over the Maryland Terrapins with two goals from superstar Victor Bezerra.
Just like Penn State, Indiana has been dominant on offense as they sit atop the Big Ten in goals per game with 2.2.
A big reason for that has been the play of Bezerra as the sophomore has tallied 10 goals and three assists for a total of 23 points. Bezerra can do it all on the pitch and the Nittany Lions have a tough task ahead in stopping him.
Complementing Bezerra is Ryan Wittenbrink and Herbert Endeley. Wittenbrink on the season has registered four goals for eight points. As for Endeley, he has two goals and two assists for six points.
Despite the high-powered offense, the strength of this team is their defense. The Hoosiers have allowed just five goals all season long.
The leaders of the unit are Brett Bebej and Spencer Glass. Bebej on the season has two goals and two assists for six points while Glass tallied five assists.
Indiana forces their opponents to turn the ball over a lot and their great defense translates to offense on the other side of the field.
In goal for the Hoosiers is Roman Celentano who is one of the best keepers in the country.
Celentano has given up just two goals on 32 shots this season. Getting one past Celentano will be a tough task for Penn State.
Alex Rocco is a freshman majoring in broadcast journalism. To contact him, email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.