Women’s Soccer Wins First-Ever National Championship
Erica Walsh’s top-seeded Nittany Lions have been absolutely phenomenal on their journey to the College Cup in Cary, N.C. Standing in the way of their first National Championship in program (and Big Ten) history was upstart three-seed Duke, who wasn’t even ranked in the Top 25 heading into the season. The Blue Devils shocked a pair of No. 1 seeds in Stanford, and last year’s reigning champs, Florida State, to reach the final on Sunday afternoon at WakeMed Soccer Park.
The Nittany Lions (22-3-2), fresh off a 2-0 win against Rutgers in the semifinals, waited patiently for their time to strike, and did so beautifully in the 72nd minute as senior Raquel Rodríguez delivered the biggest goal in Penn State women’s soccer history and a 1-0 victory over the Blue Devils in the 2015 NCAA National Championship.
— Onward State (@OnwardState) December 6, 2015
How It Happened
The Nittany Lions, decked out in their crisp all-blue kits, were tested early in the match, as a handful of Duke attacks came close to breaking through the defense. However, Penn State boasts one of the stingiest backlines in women’s college soccer. In fact, the Nittany Lions pulled off a downright incredible feat in successfully managing to keep senior goalkeeper Britt Eckerstrom’s clean sheet intact throughout the duration of the NCAA Tournament, posting an otherworldly 20-0 goals for and against margin. Penn State’s unbelievable shutout streak reached eight matches, spanning 733 minutes and 32 seconds. That’s 12 hours and 22 minutes of playing time without allowing a goal.
Head Coach Robbie Church’s Blue Devils showcased an innate ability to find open lanes and attack Penn State’s underclassmen-led defense one-on-one for the better part of the first half. However, the Nittany Lions stepped up each time Duke slipped past midfield, which became a somewhat common occurrence in the dwindling minutes before the break.
True freshmen Charlotte Williams and Ellie Jean subbed in midway through the first half, adding a visible spark to Penn State’s efforts of running down the Blue Devils, who, thanks to a handful of near misses (three to be exact) from sophomore Imani Dorsey, provided the toughest test Walsh’s squad has seen thus far. On the flip side, Rodríguez showed a deft touch with the ball at her feet, orchestrating quite a few promising opportunities for the Nittany Lions in front of sophomore goalkeeper E.J. Proctor, who finished the first half with a trio of saves.
The second half featured the same level of defensive prowess from both sides for nearly thirty minutes, but in the last match of her career, Rodríguez stepped up in a huge way. The San José, Costa Rica, native controlled a pass from fellow senior Mallory Weber (playing in her 100th Penn State match) in the 72nd minute, put the ball on a string, went behind her back, and finished a fantastic left-footer for the enormous go-ahead goal. The Nittany Lions would successfully hold on to the 1-0 advantage and spill onto the pitch in elation, hoisting the National Championship trophy.
Player Of The Match
Raquel Rodríguez | Midfielder | Senior
Who else would it be? Rodríguez, who also scored the first-ever goal for Costa Rica at the 2015 Women’s World Cup in Canada, played a flawless final match, finishing her career on top of the women’s college soccer world. Be sure to vote Rodríguez for the MAC Hermann Trophy right here.
The Nittany Lions will return home in time for a Rec Hall celebration at 6:45 p.m., so be sure to come out and support the team. Huge congratulations to each and every one of the 27 women who made Penn State history on Sunday afternoon in Cary, N.C. Way to go, ladies.