Penn State Women’s Soccer Drops Second Straight Contest
Michigan entered Jeffrey Field on Sunday, third in the Big Ten standings, behind the Penn State Nittany Lions. A 1-0 victory for the Wolverines earned the team three valuable points in a tight Big Ten conference and improved their record to 10-2-1. The Nittany Lions fell to 10-3-1, and now sit third in the standings behind the Wolverines.
Missed opportunities for both teams were the story throughout the first half, but the Lions controlled much of the possession. The Wolverines looked to capitalize on lapses in the Penn State defense, but the back line held strong.
Led by junior Whitney Church, the Lions’ defense was able to hold off the Michigan attack headed by senior forward Nkem Ezurike, who leads the team with seven goals.
Church made plays early and often, sweeping the ball away from Ezurike within the Penn State box, with 32 minutes remaining in the half. She came up big again for the Lions with 12 minutes to go making two key back-to-back shot blocks.
Penn State’s defense forced Michigan into many turnovers that allowed the midfielders to get the ball up to their attackers.
Redshirt junior midfielder Emily Hurd led the attack for the Lions from the left side, creating numerous chances inside the Wolverines’ box leading to seven shots on goal.
The first half ended with two clear chances for Michigan to score, but Ezurike sent one shot wide and had another saved by sophomore goalkeeper, Britt Eckerstrom.
“Britt was excellent today,” said head coach Erica Walsh. “She came up with some big saves.”
After halftime, Michigan looked to catch the Lions defense off-guard, creating a quick scoring opportunity within the first six minutes. The Lions answered back with a scoring chance of their own just two minutes later, but neither team was successful.
Both the Lions and the Wolverines looked to their first half spark plugs, Hurd and Ezurike, to get the offenses going. Ezurike sparked a few offensive drives on goal, but it was freshman forward Madisson Lewis who gave the Wolverines their best chance since the first half.
With 33 minutes left in the half, Lewis broke through the Penn State defense and sent a shot past Eckerstrom on the end line that trickled along the goal line, but was cleared out on the left side by the defense.
A wide-open scoring opportunity that was missed, but it wouldn’t take Michigan long to get another.
10 minutes later, Ezurike sent a cross in from the right side edge of the box that was parried away by Eckerstrom, but a rebound gave senior midfielder Tori McCombs the first goal of the game and Michigan took a 1-0 lead with just over 20 minutes remaining in the half.
Michigan turned to their defense to hold the lead, stacking their box with bodies to hold off the Penn State attack. Sophomore forward, Mallory Weber, along with sophomore Raquel Rodriguez, pushed the Lions and created several scoring chances.
Rodriguez got the best opportunity off of a ball played into the box that she met with a forceful header with 11 minutes to go in the half, but freshman Wolverines goalkeeper, Taylor Bucklin, saved the shot with ease.
Senior forward Tani Costa came on as a substitute and immediately made an impact on the game, contributing to the Lions’ assault on the Michigan goal.
“We have so many different attacking personnel on the field that we’re going to get our chances,” Costa said. “It’s just capitalizing them and following everything.”
Despite Penn State’s countless chances as the game clock wound down under 10 minutes, the Michigan defense swarmed to the ball blocking shot after shot. A play in the Michigan box by a Wolverines defender proved to be the most controversial moment of the game.
With six minutes remaining, Tani Costa was seemingly tripped down by a Michigan defender on a scoring opportunity. Some of the team and the entire crowd at Jeffrey Field expected the head referee to point to the penalty spot for a PK, but play continued and the Wolverines successfully cleared the ball.
Following the no-call, Michigan attempted to run the clock down to zero by holding possession in the Penn State half and taking their time on throw ins. Ezurike was issued a yellow card for falling on the ball and not making an effort to keep the play moving forward.
The Nittany Lions kept fighting and pushing up on attack, but failed to register a quality scoring chance. The Wolverines stole the ball with under a minute left and Ezurike had open field to score, but Eckerstrom came out to meet her, clipping her in the process and taking her down to the ground. Eckerstrom received a yellow card for the play.
The Lions regained possession with 30 seconds to go, but could not break through the Michigan defense. Michigan celebrated their win on the field as the Penn State team slowly walked to the sidelines.
Coach Walsh and the team know the importance of their final two home games coming up and are looking to rebound off two straight losses.
“It’s important for obviously the Big Ten but the big picture as well. This team has high aspirations,” Walsh said. “Now we’re in a must win situation, but it’s nothing that this team hasn’t been in all year.”
The Nittany Lions host the Ohio State Buckeyes at Jeffrey Field, on Thursday, October 17th, at 3 p.m.
Garrett Ross is a freshman majoring in journalism. To contact him, email firstname.lastname@example.org.