Heartbreak On Senior Day: Northwestern 2, Penn State 1
On Senior Day, spirits ran high and emotions ran higher. It’s been a tumultuous second half of the season for Penn State despite a strong start, and the heartbreak continued today. The Lions held a 19-5 lead in the shot department, but allowed two late goals within two minutes of each other to lose the lead and ultimately the game. Take a look at how the action unfolded.
How It Happened
Onward State’s own Drew Klingenberg got the start at left back, and gave the Lions a good chance deep in Northwestern territory, carrying the ball inside the box before firing a low cross that was easily intercepted by the Wildcat defense. Riley Grant took another good through ball from Christian Kaschak, but was flagged for offsides.
Penn State was first on the board with a gorgeous strike off the golden boot of star Connor Maloney, who netted his seventh goal of the season off a feeder pass from Grant inside the box 11 minutes in. The goal provided a needed spark for the Penn State attack, who looked confident and poised with each successful drive down the pitch. The vexing Northwestern attack wouldn’t go away, however, keeping constant offensive pressure with repeated drives coming down the right sideline.
Inter-conference match ups are typically physical, and this one kept that notion alive with hard challenges coming with each contested ball. The Lions suffered a pair of injuries early on, with the second forcing junior midfielder Mason Klerks to leave the pitch with an apparent lower body injury after colliding knees with a Northwestern player.
With 20 minutes remaining in the half, the Northwestern made its presence felt with a pair of gorgeous through balls that got the Wildcats within striking distance. Solid defending from the Lions fed Riley Grant on the left side in space, which he used to streak down the pitch and set up a pair of Penn State shots — both of which were blocked by the same Northwestern defender.
The Lions remained relentless, keeping the Northwestern defense on its toes with constant pressure and shots coming from within the box, but the team couldn’t get one to trickle through. Junior goalkeeper Evan Finney, starting in place of usual starter Matt Bersano, made a tough save that preserved the lead off a Northwestern corner kick. The save set up a promising drive for Penn State that ended with two failed shot attempts and a change in possession.
The second half began with momentum regularly changing sides, as neither squad could find a way to remain in the other’s side of the field. Penn State saw its first yellow card after a hard foul from Riley Grant caught the official’s eye. Interestingly enough, the Wildcats sent Brian James to the turf, yet the player in question received a stern talking from the official, nothing more. Klingenberg looked to spark a chance for the Lions, but was fouled hard by Northwestern about 10 feet outside the box. James was the man on the free kick, but his low pass found the Northwestern defense, and was subsequently booted away.
The injury but struck again, this time late, as star Connor Maloney needed medical attention behind the goal, and was taken to the sideline for further attention. The two teams battled away, with Penn State dominating the possession war as it toyed with the Wildcat defense in utilizing a number of nifty passes. The Lions were the aggressor all day long, and that element showed on the scoreboard until Northwestern’s Mike Roberge went bar-down to net the equalizer off a gorgeous one-on-one breakaway. Nathan Dearth put the Wildcats ahead with a rebound off a corner kick header, a crippling blow in a game that was seemingly controlled by Penn State.
The Lions had a few late equalizing chances late, but the shots went to no avail as the final whistle sounded.
Player of the Game
In a contest largely dominated by alternating possessions and fluctuating momentum, Connor Maloney’s lone goal stood true until late in the second half when a two-goal barrage put the Lions behind the count. While the stunning surge from the opposition was commendable, Maloney’s performance stood out in the heartbreaking Senior Day loss.
Next up for Penn State is the Big Ten Tournament, where the team will face an opponent that’s yet to be named on Saturday, November 7.
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