Penn State Women’s Soccer Dominates Illinois on Senior Day
On Senior Day at Jeffrey Field, it was the sophomores that stole the show. 2012 Big Ten Freshman of the Year, Raquel Rodriguez, and Mallory Weber combined for three goals and an assist to propel Penn State women’s soccer (12-3-1, 6-2-0 Big Ten) to a 5-0 victory over the Illinois Fighting Illini (8-5-2, 3-3-1 Big Ten).
The Nittany Lions entered Sunday ranked 17th in the nation and just half a game behind Michigan, for first place in the Big Ten. Penn State proved that perhaps they should be ranked higher, with a commanding win over Illinois.
On Sunday, the Nittany Lions may have been looking for retribution after Illinois eliminated them from the Big Ten Tournament semifinals last year 1-0.
Raquel Rodriguez put the Nitanny Lions up early, scoring two goals in the first fifteen minutes, and giving the Lions what would be an insurmountable lead. Rodriguez says that playing on Senior Day inspired everyone to play better.
“I think that was a key factor because feelings come together,” Rodriguez said after the game. “I think that was just one more motivation besides many others to win the game and keep pushing.”
The Illini played Penn State close until the end of the first half when Tani Costa came off the bench and scored to put Penn State ahead 3-0.
After the half, Mallory Weber took over for the Lions. She scored three minutes into the half and then assisted senior Maya Hayes just two minutes later.
Prior to Sunday, the most goals Illinois had given up in a game were four. Penn State was able to exploit one-on-one matchups and use their speed to beat defenders.
It was an emotional game for Penn State as the seniors played their final game at Jeffrey Field. Senior Maya Hayes tried not to think about that as the game progressed.
“To be honest I don’t think its hit me yet and I’m purposely not letting it hit me cause then I’m gonna get all sad and emotional,” Hayes said. “I kinda take as just a really happy day, and happy to be with my team, happy to get a five nothing win, and happier to get a shutout.”
Penn State’s current senior class has anchored their teams for the past four years. They have compiled a 64-21-4 record and extended their NCAA Tournament appearance streak to 18 and Big Ten championship to 15 in a row. Head coach Erica Walsh talked about what losing this group of seniors meant.
“This is the best Senior Day that I’ve ever been a part of,” Walsh said. “Considering it’s this class, every class of seniors is special to you but this class has been game changers for us. With the shutout, I can’t really ask for anything more out of today.”
The Lions dominated time of possession and made it difficult for the Illini to get any semblance of offense started. This was the first shutout Penn State has posted in conference play.
Moving forward Penn State will need to win out and get help if they want to jump Michigan and earn the Big Ten regular season title. Their next game will come Friday at Iowa.
Mike Wargon is a junior majoring in broadcast journalism. To contact him, email firstname.lastname@example.org.