WSOC: Penn State defense propels victory over Wisconsin
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. -- Penn State hung on to defeat No. 21 Rutgers 1-0 in what was a physical, hard-fought battle between two Big Ten women’s soccer heavyweights.
Penn State and Rutgers played a close match in the first half, with the Nittany Lions creating many solid offensive opportunities.
Rutgers had several good chances of their own early, with a shot on goal from midfielder Taylor Aylmer that was off-target.
As the rest of the half played out, however, it was Penn State who brought the offensive pressure. The Lions totaled 13 shots on the match, including a prime chance for forward Kristin Schnurr, who was chased down on a breakaway by a Scarlet Knights defender, resulting in Schnurr only getting off a softly-struck shot.
Forward Frankie Tagliaferri had two dangerous shots of her own in the first half, lifting her first chance wide of the net, and getting blocked on her second attempt.
Penn State drew first blood though, as midfielder Marissa Sheva scored a goal in the 47th minute, receiving a sharp outlet pass from Frankie Tagliaferri to beat Rutgers goalkeeper Meagan McClelland.
“One thing that we emphasized was getting our sevens and elevens to run across the back line, and I found myself in a good position to do that, and Frankie [Tagliaferri] had the amazing slip pass and found my left foot, so props to Frankie for that,” Sheva said.
Tagliaferri had another scoring chance thwarted by McClelland, who made an athletic diving save to deflect a would be goal off Tagliaferri’s foot.
Early in the second half, Rutgers tried to answer back with an offensive flurry, but were stopped in their tracks by Penn State as the Lions blocked five straight shots from the Scarlet Knights.
Penn State had a chance to extend its lead, but failed to capitalize as Schnurr caught the Rutgers defense off guard. She intercepted a pass from McClelland and missed her shot wide right after poorly striking the ball with her left foot.
Rutgers defender Amanda Visco missed a chance to tie the match up in the 84th minute with a shot wide left.
The match proved to be a close, physical battle, with Penn State tallying nine fouls, but Rutgers was whistled 11 times, ultimately conceding additional offensive chances for the Nittany Lions.
While the Nittany Lions’ offense was relentless, the defense showed up in a big way as well. Penn State limited the Scarlet Knights to one shot on goal for the match, and the win stood as the Lions’ third shutout in their past five games.
“I think we’ve done an excellent job [with the defense], and it’s not just the back line, it’s our midfielders, our forwards have all been huge, tracking back and helping us, so it’s been a whole team performance to get those shutouts,” junior defender Kaleigh Riehl said .
Head coach Erica Dambach went so far as to declare that the defense was helping create offensive chances.
“So much of that is coming off of good defense right now, the energy and pressure we’re creating, that’s been a big part of our attack,” Dambach said.
Penn State will close out regular season play against Indiana on the road on Thursday, Oct. 18, and at home against Minnesota on Sunday, Oct. 21.
Jeremy Ganes is a sophomore majoring in Broadcast Journalism. To contact him, email email@example.com.