Penn State Surges Past Wisconsin in Big Ten Quarterfinal
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — No. 13 Penn State (12-2-3) shut out Wisconsin (3-11-4) on Sunday afternoon in the Big Ten quarterfinal by a score of 3-0.
The phrase, “Why not us?” was shouted by multiple players after a resounding victory, as Penn State has won four matches in a row and has the belief that it can take on any team in the Big Ten.
Liam Butts, a freshman forward who pitched in one goal and one assist in the match, said that the team’s mentality has shifted moving into the conference tournament.
“For us right now, it’s lose and go home no matter what,” Butts said. “Having the mindset to win every time is going to be very key for us.”
That mindset powered the Nittany Lions in the second half, as all of their goals came in that frame after a sloppy and scoreless first half. Wisconsin was unable to contain a pressing Penn State attack, as all three of the Nittany Lions’ shots on goal went in.
Senior forward Chrisitian Sload continued his hot play with a goal in three straight matches, as he calmly tapped in a cross from Liam Butts to open up the scoring at the 57:22 mark. Sload has been big for the Nittany Lions, and his goal brought much-needed energy to the team as the offense came alive soon after.
Butts would add a goal of his own just four minutes later as Penn State controlled the possession in Wisconsin’s half. Forward Josh Dabora tacked on his second goal of the season at the 84:16 mark to cap off a strong day for the Nittany Lions offense.
Penn State’s defense limited the Wisconsin attack, as the Badgers had only two shots on goal, sent by sophomore forwards Matthew Comiskey and Andrew Akindele. Freshman goalkeeper Kris Shakes made both saves with ease as he earned his ninth win on the season. Penn State is now 9-0-0 when Shakes starts in net.
Head coach Jeff Cook spoke about how his team managed the pace of the match and how the Nittany Lions were able to break Wisconsin’s line in the second half.
“We have to handle whatever the game brings us,” Cook said. “It's a great credit to this group and their togetherness.”
Cook spoke earlier in the week about how it would be difficult for Penn State to crack down a strong and experienced Wisconsin defense, going as far as saying that Wisconsin’s defense is “robust.” The Nittany Lions’ persistence and the togetherness eventually paid off, as Penn State found its footing and capitalized on its chances to secure another big victory.
The Nittany Lions have their first winning season since 2014, and the increasing pressure to win doesn’t bother Cook, who is just trying to keep his team focused with important matches remaining.
“It’s motivating to be here among so many incredible programs,” Cook said. “It keeps me humble.”
Penn State will take on the winner of Michigan vs. Michigan State in the semifinal on Friday in College Park, Maryland.
Andrew Field is a junior majoring in broadcast journalism. To contact him, email firstname.lastname@example.org.