Women’s Soccer Reaches Elite Eight With 4-0 Hammering Of Ohio State
Top-seeded Penn State women’s soccer took the pitch at Jeffrey Field for a Sweet-Sixteen showdown with familiar Big Ten foe Ohio State Sunday afternoon. Just as the sun finally burst through the clouds toward the end of the first half, the Nittany Lion offense exploded for a trio of goals within 10 minutes of playing time.
Penn State would add another on its way to a stress-free 4-0 victory over the Buckeyes and second-straight berth in the Elite 8. Erica Walsh’s Nittany Lions have now scored more goals (15) than any team in the NCAA Tournament and have yet to give one up during their first three matches.
How It Happened
Both sides spent the better part of the first half locked in a defensive struggle with minimal opportunities on net. However, Penn State started peppering the Buckeyes’ goal with some well-crafted crosses 20 minutes in, only to see the ball sail just wide on multiple occasions.
The Nittany Lions didn’t let the grueling back-and-forth battle faze them as Walsh’s ladies couldn’t have picked a better time to dial up the match’s first strike. True freshman Ellie Jean found Megan Schafer lurking in the box in the 43rd minute, and the sophomore forward connected from close range to give Penn State a crucial 1-0 advantage heading into the break. Despite the low-scoring nature of the first half, the Nittany Lions dominated in the shot department for the entirety of Sunday’s match and would go on to finish with a whopping 24 to Ohio State’s five.
Penn State’s offense wasted little time cracking the Buckeyes’ spirit following the intermission. Senior Raquel Rodríguez finished a beautiful header from sophomore midfielder Emily Ogle to put Penn State up 2-0 less than a minute into the second half. Their supreme attack clearly wasn’t finished, as Ogle took a pass from true freshman Charlotte Williams in the 51st minute and uncorked a rocket on the Ohio State net to make it 3-nil Nittany Lions.
Sophomore midfielder Haleigh Echard joined the fun with a terrific post-in effort of her own in the 75th minute to give Penn State a 4-0 margin. Echard’s two goals on the season have come in back-to-back matches, as the Lebanon, Pa., product also tallied a score in the Nittany Lions’ 6-0 second-round beatdown of Boston University this past Friday.
Penn State’s shutdown defense was again instrumental in the victory, as veteran goalkeeper Britt Eckerstrom pitched her fifth-straight shutout (it’s been 473 minutes and 32 seconds since she last allowed a goal), and the rest of the backline did a fantastic job of tracking down each Buckeye breakaway. Head Coach Lori Walker and Ohio State will head back to Columbus and begin offseason preparations for next year.
The win pushed Penn State’s otherworldly streak of allowing one goal or less to 20 straight matches. The Nittany Lions stretched their incredible home record in NCAA tourney matches to 35-6-1 all-time.
Player Of The Match
Emily Ogle | Midfielder | No. 10
Ogle was sensational for the Nittany Lions, tallying both a goal and an assist in the 4-0 win. The Strongsville, Ohio, native has now found the back of the net six times on the season thanks to four goals in the last four matches.
The top-seeded Nittany Lions (19-3-2) will have the chance to enjoy Thanksgiving before returning to Jeffrey Field on Saturday, Nov. 28 in Elite Eight action against two-seed West Virginia (19-2-1). Penn State traveled to Morgantown on Sept. 4, falling to the Mountaineers 1-0. Match time has yet to be determined.