Penn State vs. Northwestern Men’s Soccer Preview
Penn State menʼs soccer is riding its hottest streak of the year, winning seven of their last eight games. The Nittany Lions enter a matchup with Northwestern, ranked eighth in the country and have the opportunity to clinch the Big Ten regular season title. It seems like every game, another Nittany Lion is stepping up and providing the huge play. Virtually every player has contributed this season and the team as a whole has really meshed.
As well as Penn State has played as a team, a couple players have really stood out during this run. Freshman Mark Wadid, junior Jordan Tyler and senior Martin Seiler, are all tied for the team lead with three goals. Not only is Penn State scoring more goals this year, but many have come from combination plays. Freshman Connor Maloney leads the team with five assists. Every time the Nittany Lions score a huge goal towards the end of the game, it seems like Maloney is there to set up Tyler or Wadid. There are five other players who also have contributed two assists for the Nittany Lions, showing that Penn Stateʼs depth of ability.
As much as a surprise and blessing the Penn State offense has been, their true calling is defense and their ability to control possession game. Once the Nittany Lions obtain the lead, their opponents get demoralized. Penn State turns back shot after shot, denying any chance the opposing team might have. It is no coincidence that senior leaders Akil Howard and Seiler lead the defense. Howard has been phenomenal at stopping any run from the opposing team. He is usually the last line of defense and it really seems like he never makes a bad play on the ball. Seiler has also been stellar this year for both the defense and the offense. Seiler seems to command the defense and the placement of the team as a whole. On offense he usually keeps the ball in the opponents side of the field while also having the instinct to attack when needed. On defense Seiler is all over the place, keeping the ball out of the box and sharing a rapport with keeper Andrew Wolverton that can only be gained with years of playing with each other.
This brings us to one of the stars for Penn State, junior keeper Wolverton. The keeper is having one of his best years yet and during this streak, he has three shutouts. Every other game Wolverton has only allowed one goal. The junior keeper has made several fantastic saves to keep Penn State either in the game, or to preserve the game. Diving saves, one-handed saves, it really does not matter the ball is not getting into the net. When a team knows they have such a reliable keeper in the net they can afford to be more aggressive, Penn State is no different. When the Nittany Lions have to press for a goal they know Wolverton will be there if they make any mistakes. It cannot be overstated how important a great goalie is and Wolverton certainly fits the bill.
Penn Stateʼs next game is home at Jeffrey field against #20 Northwestern. The Nittany Lions are coming off a massive road win against the Michigan State Spartans. Tyler had the game winning goal in overtime, while Wolverton had a career-high, nine saves. The Wildcats are a good team that plays like Penn State; playing a possession game while sporting a stingy defense, Northwestern is extremely hard to score on. Joey Calistri is the Wildcatʼs standout offensive player with an unbelievable 10 goals and three assists on the year. However, this is the biggest game of the season for the Nittany Lions. Penn State has a six point lead in the Big Ten standings and just has to win one more game in order to clinch the Big Ten regular season title. You know Penn
State will be fired up to clinch the Big Ten title at home, and despite an improved and talented offense, the game figures to be a defensive struggle.
Tim Alvarez is a junior majoring in broadcast journalism. To contact him, email firstname.lastname@example.org.