Penn State women’s soccer shuts out Rutgers in marquee matchup
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. – On a rainy Thursday evening at Jeffrey Field, No. 17 Penn State (6-1-2 overall, 1-0-1 Big Ten) made a big statement, knocking off previously undefeated No. 4 Rutgers (9-1-0 overall, 1-1-0 Big Ten) in a dominating performance.
The Nittany Lions came out firing and got on the board with an early goal. Despite slowing down offensively, Penn State’s defense remained resilient for the rest of the first half before completely taking control in the second half of what turned out to be a 2-0 victory.
“I’m just so proud of our group right now,” redshirt senior forward Ally Schlegel said. “I think that’s probably the first time we felt like, ‘okay, it clicked, we clicked.’ That one was the one that felt like ‘that was Penn State soccer.’”
The Nittany Lions faced a daunting task entering the evening, as Rutgers was one of just two teams in all of Division-I who boasted an undefeated record.
But Penn State struck first, getting three shots on goal in the early minutes. One of those came in the ninth minute, when senior defender Kate Wiesner took a shot which bounced off of Rutgers goalkeeper Meagan McClelland and gave Schlegel a clear path to seal the deal and put Penn State on the board.
“A lot of times my job is to be cleaning up some stuff,” Schlegel said. “I gotta be the one that’s following up shots, and so that was awesome on the first goal.”
But then the momentum started shifting into the favor of the fourth-ranked team in the nation, as they began to mount their first offensive attack. Rutgers had their first shot on goal in the 19th minute, and applied relentless pressure for the rest of the half.
All told, the Scarlet Knights had 10 shots, five on goal, from the 19th minute through the end of the first half, while Penn State had none in either category, save for a last-second desperation shot at the halftime horn.
But a combination of squandered opportunities from Rutgers and outstanding defense and goalkeeping from redshirt senior Katherine Asman preserved the advantage for the Nittany Lions.
“I think a big part is that they had the wind, we were fatiguing, we had made some subs,” Coach Erica Dambach said. “And they got on the front foot, and we bent but we didn’t break.”
The “bend but don’t break” first half approach set the stage for a second half that tipped completely in the direction of the team in blue and white.
After scoring the first goal, Schlegel put her stamp on the game by setting up Penn State’s second goal with a strip at midfield, which then allowed fifth-year forward Penelope Hocking to cash in off the fast break and put Penn State up 2-0 in the 54th minute.
From there, Penn State’s defense put on the clamps, not giving any opportunity for Rutgers to string together good offensive possessions while the Nittany Lions’ own offense shifted into cruise control.
Heavy rain was prevalent throughout the late-first half and early-second half of the match, and the elements may have played into Penn State’s favor.
“You’ve gotta make smart decisions and not take as many risks,” Dambach said about playing in those conditions.
From the players’ perspectives, the key to the game – and finally coming together as a cohesive unit – was simple.
“I think it just really comes down to being focused in every moment and doing our jobs,” Schlegel said.
Penn State women’s soccer will be back in action on Sunday, Sept. 25, as the Nittany Lions will play host to Illinois.
Kasey Kreider is a second-year majoring in broadcast journalism. To contact him, email firstname.lastname@example.org.