Men’s Soccer Eliminated From Big Ten Tournament With Heartbreaking Loss To Ohio State
Penn State men’s soccer started off its Big Ten tournament run by winning an overtime thriller against the Michigan State Spartans. The No. 9 Nittany Lions looked to carry that momentum into Sunday’s game against the No. 1 Ohio State Buckeyes, who played on home turf.
The Nittany Lions’ loss came in heartbreaking fashion, as the lone goal of the game, and game-winner, was scored about halfway through overtime. They played an extremely competitive match, though — here’s a breakdown.
How It Happened
The first half started off in surprising fashion. The Ohio State Buckeyes were immediately thrown off by the strategy and speed of the Nittany Lions. Right off the bat, Penn State maintained the majority of possession time with the ball. The Penn State defense stood tall throughout the first half, playing with strength, speed, and effective tackling form. The Nittany Lions responded well to the ball-handling and speed of the opposition’s attack throughout the first 45 minutes, and limited the Buckeyes to few shots on goal. Of the shots that did contend for a goal, goalkeeper Evan Finney was right there to put the fire out. His hot streak didn’t end in the second half, either.
The second half featured more physical play from the Buckeyes from the onset. The Buckeyes’ attack came out and asserted itself with 14 shots, six more than it had in the first half — but none of these attempts were successful for three reasons. The first reason was the defensive unit as a whole. It played fast, smart, and reacted timely to nearly all Ohio State maneuvers. The second stopper of the Ohio State goals was Evan Finney. He continued to dominate defensively, and played a major role in the score line showing zeroes throughout the first two halves. The third reason no goals were hitting net for the Buckeyes was the post. Three insane sequences of offense for the Buckeyes led to three shots on goal bouncing off of the post. The attack for the Nittany Lions was led by senior Drew Klingenberg, as he paced the team with two shots on goal. The team simply couldn’t put it all together, and the ball never reached the back of the net. The game was intense, fast, and physical, and this style of play led to a regulation draw that threw the team into an overtime showdown that ended shortly after it began, when Kyle Culbertson fired the sudden-death game-winner past Finney.
Player Of The Game
The honor has to go to Evan Finney. The junior has only started six games, and he came out and performed like a veteran senior. He played an excellent game for 90 minutes that shut down a vicious Buckeye attack. No one expected Finney to shut down the Buckeyes like he did, but he played at an extremely high level, and was largely the reason the Nittany Lions took the game into OT.
- The Nittany Lions will come out and compete with any team. The ranking of a team doesn’t intimidate the likes of the Nittany Lions. They will come out and compete physically for 90 minutes no matter who the opponent is, which makes them the perfect recipe for upsets, even though it wasn’t meant to be against the Buckeyes.
- Evan Finney is good. Like, really good. This kid came out nowhere. As a player who played behind a veteran for two years, expectations were high for him, and he came out and delivered. He will now be on teams’ radars as someone who can shut down even the best of attacks.
- Penn State plays like a true team. Smart, physical, disciplined, and fast are attributes that can be coached or physically developed, but there are somethings that can’t be taught by a coach, or gained in a weight room. This team has an edge. With a gritty attitude and a physical toolkit, these guys will come out and give teams hell. That attitude is something the team has developed themselves, and it’s something thousands of teams search for, but only few find.
The team will now wait to hear if its name is called by the NCAA selection committee. If chosen, the team will head to the tournament and will be a sure-fire contender to give any team a game, and maybe even a Cinderella story upset.