As the final whistle sounded at Jeffrey Field, the Penn State Women’s Soccer team ran through the frigid air towards midfield in celebration.
Some of the statistics were not pretty, but the lit up scoreboard was. After ninety minutes of play, it showed a 1-0 victory for the top seeded Nittany Lions over the third seeded Duke Blue Devils in an entertaining Elite Eight match.
Christine Nairn buried a penalty kick past Blue Devils goalkeeper Tara Campbell in the 13th minute. It proved to be enough as Erin McNulty and the Nittany Lions recorded their second shutout of the NCAA Tournament, keeping a high-powered Duke offense that was averaging 3 goals per game throughout the tournament off the board.
After falling behind early, the Blue Devils turned up the pressure, out-shooting the home team in the first half 8-5. The shots only became more lopsided from there. The visitors spent much of the second half around the Nittany Lions’ goal. They had an 11-2 shot advantage in the final 45 minutes and some good scoring chances including one in the 69th minute that required McNulty to make multiple saves.
The Blue Devils did not go down easy but would not come quite that close again. In the final minute, the Nittany Lions were able to control possession and burn the precious last few seconds as the countdown from the stands began.
Despite the Blue Devils having more shots, more corner kicks, fewer fouls, and playing an arguably more complete game, they will head home whereas the Nittany Lions will head to the College Cup in San Diego, California.
Two victories away from a national title, their next matchup will come a week from yesterday against a talented Florida State team that has only lost three games all season. North Carolina will face Stanford on the other side of the draw after both winning 2-1 games in the Elite Eight. The full bracket can be found here.