First Half Adjustments Key to Nittany Lion Victory Against Illinois

Story posted September 26, 2011 in Sports, CommRadio by Mike Esse

It wasn’t the prettiest game at Jeffrey Field on Sunday, but the Penn State women’s soccer team (9-3, 2-1 Big Ten) found a way to get it done against 22nd ranked Illinois (6-4-1, 0-2-1 Big Ten) with a 1-0 victory.

With only two shots on goal by Illinois, Nittany Lions head coach Erica Walsh credited the play of the defense and of the team as a whole to the well-needed big ten victory.

“Most the credit goes to the defense considering we had two shots on goal, but I credit it to the 29 kids that are on this team,” said Walsh. “If they were coming of the bench they were giving us energy and that’s a true college team right there.”

The lone Penn State goal was scored by senior midfielder Ali Schaefer late in the first half off of a corner kick and pass from freshman defender Whitney Church. Prior to the goal, there weren’t many offensive opportunities for the Lions.

“Whitney got to the ball first and laid out the perfect ball for me,” Schaefer said. “I just remember looking out and seeing a little window of space and I just hit it right on target. It was a set piece so you never know how you are going to get them.”

Walsh named Schaefer the MVP of the weekend with her three goal performance in the two Big Ten matchups between Northwestern and the Illini. In addition to Schaefer, Walsh also acknowledged the fast adjusting graduate student goal keeper Erin McNulty, who previously played in the ACC at Florida State before coming to Happy Valley this year.

“[McNulty] looked great this weekend,” said Walsh “Right now, as far as I’m concerned, she looks like one of the top goal keepers in the nation.”

McNulty said after the game that the key to the victory against the Illini was their ability to slow down their fast-paced offense and control the game.  She also said that it just took small passes for them to get back on track as a team, which faltered the Illini game plan.

After halfway through the first half, the adjustment McNulty alluded to was very obvious. Ball control shifted from being primarily in the hands of Illinois, to all Penn State leading up to the goal by Schaefer.

“We just had to add another player in the midfield to keep possession of the ball,” said Walsh. “We felt like we were turning it over too often and giving away some chances early on. Different opponents give you different challenges and this one was a tough one to crack.”

The Nittany Lions will look to extend their four-game home winning streak on Thursday against Ohio State, who previously beat Illinois in Big Ten play. The match will be broadcast on ComRadio live from Jeffrey Field at 7 p.m.


Mike Esse is a freshman majoring in broadcast journalism. To contact him, email