Men’s Soccer Advances To Sweet 16
The men’s soccer team kept its hopes of winning a national championship alive Sunday, edging tenth-seeded UC Santa Barbara 1-0 thanks to a late second half goal. It was a physical battle, with the two teams collectively amassing 37 fouls and six cards, but Nittany Lions freshman Connor Maloney was the only player to find the back of the net in the game.
“The level of effort and the level of intensity by our team in a pretty hostile place to play was fantastic,” head coach Bob Warming said. “I couldn’t have been more proud of them. Santa Barbara has some wonderful, talented players, some of the best we’ve seen all year, and to get a result against them is something that’s really fantastic.”
After controlling the pace for much of the second half, Penn State was finally able to get one past Gaucho goalkeeper Josh McNeely in the 78th minute. Mike Robinson crossed the ball to Jordan Tyler at the top of the penalty box. Tyler timed a pass perfectly to Maloney on his right as he was in motion. The freshman forward took one touch and launched an 18-yard shot to the left side of the net with just over 12 minutes left to play, giving the Nittany Lions the lead and ultimately the win.
Maloney almost scored one in the first half as well, firing from 20 yards out just five minutes into the match but barely missing to the right. One minute later, UCSB’s starting center midfielder Mason Klerks was handed a red card for scissor tackle on Mason Klerks, giving the Nittany Lions a man advantage.
The Gauchos were able to control the tempo despite playing shorthanded, but that didn’t stop the Nittany Lions as they were able to get the better first half scoring chances. Santa Barbara almost managed to net one though with time expiring in the opening half, as Nittany Lions goalkeeper Andrew Wolverton was forced to make a diving save of a header from Achille Campion.
That was the first and last shot on goal that the Gauchos would send towards Wolverton all night long. Santa Barbara took four shots in the match with Campion’s header being the only one on target. The Nittany Lions had a lot more offense, firing 10 shots in the match and putting three on net as McNeely made two saves.
With the win, the Nittany Lions earned themselves a spot in the third round of the NCAA Tournament with just sixteen teams remaining. Penn State will face seventh-seeded New Mexico on December 1 at 7 p.m. on the road. The Lobos have a 12-5-2 record entering the match.