Women’s Soccer Crowned B1G Tournament Champs In 2-0 Defeat Of Rutgers
Top-seeded Penn State took the pitch at a sun-soaked Jeffrey Field Sunday afternoon in search of its first Big Ten Tournament title since 2008. Erica Walsh’s Nittany Lions came out strong against third-seeded Rutgers, registering a pair of emphatic first-half goals that provided the difference.
No. 9 Penn State knocked off the seventh-ranked Scarlet Knights 2-0 to capture its sixth B1G postseason championship. The Nittany Lions (16-3-2, 9-2-1 B1G) also recently grabbed a share of the Big Ten regular season crown alongside Wisconsin. It was the 17th time in the past 18 years Penn State has finished atop the standings.
How It Happened
Senior Raquel Rodríguez wasted little time delivering the match’s first goal. Rodríguez cleaned up a loose ball in front of the Rutgers net in the ninth minute to put the Nittany Lions up 1-0 and inject some all-important momentum into the home side.
Penn State continued to push the tempo offensively, maintaining a strong presence in Rutgers territory throughout the first half. Sophomore midfielder Emily Ogle kept the good vibes going just seconds into the 26th minute with a right-footed rocket from just outside the box to make it 2-0. Ogle’s shot was no match for Scarlet Knights goalkeeper Casey Murphy and provided some added breathing room to boot. The steady Strongsville, Ohio native has started all 45 matches of her Penn State career.
While Rutgers picked up the pace offensively midway through the first half, registering a handful of shots on veteran goalie Britt Eckerstrom, Penn State’s dominant defense refused to let up one bit despite the two-goal cushion.
Penn State was charged and ready following the intermission, as the ladies in blue and white continued its attack on the Scarlet Knights’ third of the pitch. Eckerstrom and the rest of the defense were on the same page all afternoon, thwarting each of Rutgers’ attempts on net with some lockdown grit. In fact, Penn State continued its astounding streak of holding opponents to one goal or less for the 17th match in a row.
Rutgers fans were riled up after a late goal in the 87th minute was overturned on an offside call, preserving the shutout. The Nittany Lions weren’t able to rattle off their signature barrage of shots, but they certainly made them count. When the final whistle blew, Penn State had doubled up the Scarlet Knights in the shot department, 10-5, on its way to a 2-0 victory and the 2015 Big Ten Tournament title.
The Nittany Lions celebrated with a rousing rendition of the alma mater before donning their championship t-shirts and hats. Head coach Mike O’Neill and Rutgers (16-3-2, 7-3-2 B1G) will head back to New Brunswick, N.J. to regroup before finding out its opening-round matchup of the NCAA Tournament.
Player Of The Match
Britt Eckerstrom | Goalkeeper | No. 28
Eckerstrom’s stellar play in net continued Sunday as the Germantown, Md. native pitched her second-straight shutout. Eckerstrom was named to the 2015 Big Ten All-Tournament Team, joining Ogle and sophomore forward Frannie Crouse, and was awarded Most Outstanding Defensive Player as well. Crouse also picked up Most Outstanding Player honors thanks to a two-goal tournament.
The ninth-ranked Nittany Lions will enter the first round of NCAA Tournament play with added confidence after rolling to both Big Ten regular and postseason crowns. Penn State’s journey to the College Cup will begin on Friday, Nov. 13. Its opponent is yet to be determined.