Penn State Men’s Soccer Falls in OT to St. Francis
In a long-fought defensive battle, Penn State fell in dramatic fashion to Saint Francis in double overtime 1-0 on Wednesday night.
With eight minutes left in double overtime, Penn State goalkeeper Andrew Wolverton emerged from the cage to cut off a long ball in the goal box, but was tripped up as the ball rolled to his right, straight for Penn State’s goal.
Saint Francis’ Ryan Byers tapped the ball into the net with ease, ending the match, and Penn State’s 11-year winning streak against the in-state rival.
“Everyone else is going to say [Wolverton], [Martin Seiler] and [Akil Howard] made a big mistake for the goal, but I’ll say ‘Every one of you made a big mistake tonight at some point or another,” said head coach Bob Warming. “It just didn’t happen to cost you a goal”
“It happens. Don’t point any fingers at any one person. Everyone makes mistakes.”
Wolverton has allowed just four goals in the last six games, and was in solid form through 100 minutes of play. He defended nine Red Flash corner kicks, and limited them to just two shots-on-goal.
“Everyone was still really positive [going into overtime.] Everyone knew that we could still get a win because we had a lot of chances,” said senior defender Akil Howard. “Everyone had the same mentality to win the game, we didn’t have any doubt about winning the game, it was just a couple mistakes that could cost you at this level that just kind of happened.”
Penn State (6-3-1, 1-0-0 Big Ten) outplayed Saint Francis in virtually every statistical category, Wednesday, outshooting them 17-7, while sending four shot- on-goals to the Red Flash cage.
It was a slow defensive battle between two organized teams, as both capitalized on neutral zone play. For much of the second half the Penn State defense dominated, as neutral zone passes looked more like a game of keep-away, but they struggled in creating offensive opportunity.
Saint Francis (7-2-1, 0-0-0 NEC) goalkeeper Daniel Valcicak kept the Red Flash in the game with two huge saves in the first overtime period. The first came off of a Penn State corner kick with four minutes left. Then just two minutes later, he put his body on the line to dive between two Penn State jerseys to cover the ball deep in the goal box.
Warming has said that NCAA soccer is a game of numbers. Wednesday’s matchup would have proven to be a big boost for the Nittany Lions in the rating percentage index (RPI) because of Saint Francis’ record and opponents.
After winning the regular season conference championship, the 2012 Penn State men’s soccer team (9-5-3 overall) was denied a chance at the NCAA tournament because of a poor RPI.
RPI rankings consist of the team’s winning percentage, the winning percentage of their opponents, as well as their opponent’s opponents. The six degrees of separation play a major part in deciding what teams will compete in the NCAA tournament.
Penn State has not reached the NCAA tournament since 2010. Warming hopes to change that this year.
In the latest RIP ranking released on Monday, Penn State was ranked at No. 15 in the nation, and third in the Big Ten, behind No. 4 Northwestern, and No. 9 Michigan State.
“There is nothing positive about a loss like this. It hurts you in the RPI, there is nothing positive,” Warming said. “But what you can do is look at some of the good things that we did in there. Some of our possession, some of our ball rotation some of our stuff in the box was awesome, it was great.”
However, with Wednesday’s loss coming from non-conference play, the Lions are still in the running for a Big Ten title. Penn State will move on to face Big Ten rival, Indiana, on Sunday.
“It’s something to learn from... You just have to take it and make it a learning experience,” Howard said. “It’s good that it was out of conference because we are still trying to chase a Big Ten title so it’s still in our grasp, I think we can do it.”