Men’s Soccer Eliminated from Big Ten Tournament by Michigan State
Man, what a bad week for Penn State Futbol.
After the top-seeded women’s team was shocked by Northwestern in the first round of the Big Ten Tournament last Wednesday, there was hope that the fourth-seeded men’s team would avenge the women and continue the form it displayed in Wednesday’s win against Akron. Unfortunately for Penn State, it was never meant to be. The Nittany Lions lost to Michigan State 1-0 in the Big Ten quarterfinals at Jeffery Field on Sunday, continuing its late-season slump.
The first half was mostly uneventful, as the few chances either side allowed were never really threatening. Both teams seemed to be moving around more to keep warm on a cold, windy day at the Jeff than to get into any sort of real attacking space. Mason Klerks and Kyle MacDonald were both given yellow cards (in the 14th and 33rd minute, respectively), but that was the closest we got to fireworks as the first 45 minutes passed goalless.
Nine minutes into the second half, disaster struck for the Nittany Lions. Michigan State’s Adam Montague, who had a solid day, crossed a ball in to the box that was cleared away by Penn State. Unfortunately, that clearance landed directly at the feet of the Spartans’ Tim Kreutz, who ripped a one-timer off the volley that Penn State goalkeeper Andrew Wolverton did not have a prayer of saving.
After that goal, Sparty seemed content to play “prevent” defense for the rest of the game. Penn State would take another seven shots in the half, and had a few good looks throughout, but it is rather difficult to score when there are 11 defenders behind the ball at all times. Though the home team controlled the ball and possession, nothing came of it.
A few ill-fated corners and some missed opportunities spelled doom for the Lions. Klerks put in a beautiful long ball in the 66th minute that found forward Connor Maloney, but Michigan State goalkeeper Zach Bennett was up to the task and pushed it wide. In the 84th, Brandon Savino played a strong ball in from the wing to Maloney that represented the Nittany Lions’ best chance on the day. The header from the diminutive star forward, however, went high, adding to the audible groans from the supporters that provided a constant soundtrack for the afternoon. Savino would have another chance from outside the box, but could not find the net with it either.
The whistle blew for the final time this year at Jeffrey Field with the ball rolling along the left flank and Penn State fighting for — and failing — to get one last opportunity, a rather apt metaphor for the entire afternoon.
The last 15 minutes were a frenetic, urgent display from the Lions, but the team was not able to exorcise its Big Ten Tournament demons. Penn State has not won a match in the competition since 2011, and has now twice in a row been vanquished by Sparty.
The College Cup selection committee will announce the NCAA Tournament field at noon on Nov. 17, and Penn State will be its mercy. No matter their seed, however, the Nittany Lions will be limping into the competition, having lost five of their final seven games after going undefeated from Aug. 29 to Oct. 4.
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