Penn State Clinches Big Ten Regular Season Title
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — After clinching a share of the Big Ten title on Thursday in a 4-1 win over Indiana, Penn State returned home for senior day looking to clinch sole possession atop the Big Ten standings.
With the temperature hovering just above freezing on a windy afternoon at Jeffrey Field, the Nittany Lions accomplished what they set out to do, as sophomore Kerry Abello netted two goals while junior goalie Amanda Dennis pitched another shutout, propelling Penn State to its seventh win in a row and 19th Big Ten regular season title.
“Great day on Jeffrey Field,” head coach Erica Dambach said. “It’s an honor to win the Big Ten Championship outright, and I think this group today established themselves as the best team in the conference.”
With the weather affecting play throughout the game, it was Abello who broke the scoreless tie in the 12th minute, ripping a shot with her left foot past Minnesota goalie Maddie Nielsen into the top left corner of the net to put the Nittany Lions up 1-0.
“She’s a beast,” senior Maddie Nolf said about Abello’s two-goal performance. “She stepped up in big moments. When she had the opportunity, she put the ball in the back of the net.”
While Penn State seemed to dominate the possession in the first half, the lone score from Abello, which was a part of six first-half shots, was the only point the Nittany Lion attack was able to muster up going into halftime.
Coming out of the tunnel for the final 45 minutes of the regular season, Penn State had to change the way it played due to the windy conditions. Instead of attacking as they had in the first half, the Nittany Lions played more defensively oriented but were still able to add to their lead.
Following a Minnesota turnover deep in its offensive side of the field, a counter-attack set the ball at Abello’s feet once again in the 68th minute. This time she took a pass from senior Charlotte Williams, made a cut towards the middle of the field, then fired a shot to the left of Nielsen for her second goal of the day and seventh of the season.
“Kerry Abello is as dangerous as it comes in the Big Ten,” Dambach said. “When Kerry’s on, we are so incredibly dangerous in these wide spaces.”
Up two with just over 20 minutes remaining, Penn State turned to the defense once again, this time giving the defenders two goals to work with instead of one.
Ultimately, however, the Nittany Lions didn’t need the extra goal, as they pitched their ninth shutout of the season, with Dennis not even making a save throughout the entire 90 minutes.
“I feel like we’ve gotten stronger as the conference season has gone on,” Dambach said. “We’re playing some of our best soccer right now.”
Ben Jenkins is a sophomore majoring in broadcast journalism and community & commercial recreation. To contact him, email email@example.com.