No. 11 Penn State Women’s Soccer Wins in Ann Arbor
Less than a week after football lost a depressing game against the Michigan Wolverines, the No. 11 women’s soccer team played a strong 90 minutes and gutted out a 1-0 win over No. 24 Michigan to take sole possession of first place in the Big Ten last night in Ann Arbor.
The Lions and Wolverines were tied for the top spot in the conference heading into the game, and Penn State showed why it’s a National Championship contender. Inside the creatively-named U-M Soccer Stadium, the Lions looked to slow down Michigan’s Nicky Waldeck, who entered the day second in the conference with 10 goals. They succeeded, as Michigan couldn’t net a goal to follow up on a 3-0 win over Indiana.
Freshman forward and Pennsylvania native Megan Schafer scored her fifth goal on the season in the 27th minute, and has risen to must-start status for Penn State. She netted from 14 yards out on a cross delivered Mallory Weber, who’s a Michigan native herself.
The biggest star of the game, though, was goalkeeper Britt Eckerstrom, who had an incredible nine saves, varying from routine to valiant. Penn State successfully deployed a “bend but don’t break” strategy on defense. Michigan had 18 total shots with nine on target, including four shots on goal from Waldeck. But a combination of the goalkeeping and a defense that, despite the numbers, played a very stout game behind Whitney Church, kept the Wolverines at bay. Church is seen as a future cog in the US Women’s National Team, which already employs the services of a Penn State alum in fullback Ali Krieger, and she showed why.
If Penn State can beat Michigan State on Sunday, it’ll find itself firmly in the top 10. With five Top Drawer preseason all-Big Ten members, the Nittany Lions had Michigan beat on pure talent, and showed it in a display that often seemed like a battle of attrition. After a difficult loss against Rutgers last week, the Nittany Lions got it back on track in their march to their first National Championship.