Penn State Wins Fourth Game in a Row, Beats Illinois 2-1
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — A cool, crisp and misty breeze filled Jeffrey Field Thursday night as Penn State (10-6-1, 6-3-0) earned its tenth win of the season and its fourth victory in a row against the Illinois Fighting Illini (8-7-0, 2-6-0), winning 2-1.
Coming into the game at fourth place in the Big Ten standings with just two regular season games to go, the Nittany Lions were looking to solidify home-field advantage for the first round of the conference tournament, and they helped their chances with the win.
Tightly contested back-and-forth play kept the game scoreless through the first half, as most of the shots by either team were booted over the net. Only three combined shots were on target. Penn State forced a lot of offensive pressure, but the Illini were able to keep up, intercepting several passes and turning the momentum their way.
The Nittany Lions missed out on an early opportunity to take the lead in the first half as freshman Payton Linnehan put the ball in the net less than five minutes into the match, but the score was taken away on a close offside call.
The pace of the game changed quickly after halftime as the Illini struck first. Less than five minutes into the second half, senior Kelly Maday sent a clean pass from the corner into the middle, setting up junior Hope Breslin for the score and the 1-0 lead.
However, the Nittany Lions were not shaken up, as they answered just a minute later to tie the game when junior Sam Coffey scored on the rebound off a shot from junior Kerry Abello that hit the crossbar.
The pace of play slowed down after the first two scores, but Penn State took the 2-1 lead with 22 minutes left to go when Abello put the ball in the net after receiving a clean pass into the box from redshirt freshman Ally Schlegel. The Nittany Lions were able to hold on for the rest of regulation as they played a good keep away game.
With just two games to go in the regular season, the Nittany Lions have caught fire at the right time. However, they do not control their own fate as to hosting a first-round game in the Big Ten Tournament. If the Rutgers Scarlet Knights win their final three games of the season, they will bump Penn State down to fifth place no matter what the Nittany Lions do in their remaining matches.
But Penn State head coach Erica Dambach is only worried about the output of her players, not the team’s standing.
“This team is not satisfied,” Dambach said. “We know that we’re not performing up to our ability, and so much of that is we can be that much more dangerous, and we can be that much more hard-working.”
The Nittany Lions will play their final home game of the regular season in an emotional Senior Day when they take on Northwestern Sunday afternoon. Seniors playing their last home game include keepers Amanda Dennis and Sarafina Valenti, defenders Kaleigh Riehl, Laura Suero and Ellie Jean, and forward Kristin Schnurr. Penn State will then head to Nebraska to take on the Cornhuskers next Sunday for their final game before the Big Ten Tournament begins in November.
Jack McCune is a sophomore majoring in broadcast journalism. To contact him, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
About the Contributors
Senior / Broadcast Journalism
Jack McCune is a senior majoring in broadcast journalism from Yardley, Pennsylvania, which is outside of Philly and just across the Delaware River from New Jersey. He attended Pennsbury High School in Fairless Hills, Pennsylvania. He’s a huge fan of the Eagles, Phillies, 76ers, Penn State football and Penn State basketball. He’s a sports anchor and multimedia reporter for the Centre County Report. He’s a Football Insider for CommRadio. His talk show, Broad Street Bros, airs Thursday nights at 5:45, as he talks about Philly and Penn State sports. He hopes to some day become a play-by-play announcer for football, basketball and/or baseball, and he is also interested in becoming a bartender.